Monday, 3 September 2012

You think you've got what it takes?!

Careers, Careers, Careers. What to do? How to choose one?

Let me bring you up to speed by giving you a short update on my thought progression over the last year.

October 2011 - I wanna be a historian!
December 2011 - After this much exposure and real life experience to the life of historians, do I still want to be a historian? Yes I think so.
March 2012 - I've been living apart from Ben for a major part of the last year. I am in Berlin for a month improving my German and checking out archives and sources. I realize just how lonely I am and how much lonelier this is going to get with another month in Berlin scheduled in the summer and anticipating 9-12 month long research plans in Germany for the coming year. Then still another year or two of the PhD. Do I still want to be a historian?
May 2012 - It has been a long, solitary, expensive 8 months. 3 years and 4 months left. I'll be 31 when I graduate and this degree IS NOT fully funded. Then I would slave away and try to get an academic job, no guarantees. If I weren't a historian, what would I be? What would my life look like? I could actually get work/career experience in something and make money, a totally foreign concept to me.
June 2012 - Don't think, just do. You have the most important and only requirement for this year due at the end of the month.
July 2012 - PUBLISHING! If I could get a job in academic publishing then I could keep up the connection to my love of education and intellectual thought. END of July 2012 - Publishing doesn't appear to be the best industry to get into.
What kind of jobs do the people I know do? What kind of jobs do the people I know, who have similar educational backgrounds and personalities to me do? Teachers, Journalists, Business Administrators, Public Relations Execs, Financial Analysts, Human Resources.
August 2012 - Who am I? What am I good at? What do I enjoy? How can these things be best employed in a work environment? What do I believe I need from a job?

How I came up with Public Relations/Communications as a good fit. Let's keep in mind that I'm no expert in Public Relations, obviously, but I have been doing my research and it is ongoing. Here is a condensed list of what I have discovered so far.

What is PR?
Public Relations involves media relations as well as other mediums for exposing a product, person, brand etc to broader audiences. This can include setting up events, educational programs, meetings, speaking engagements and other forms of communication. 

Daily PR
- looking for opportunities to deliver appropriate messages to clients audiences.
- organizing events and or speaking engagements
- pitching ideas to reporters to garner media coverage
- developing strategic communications plans
- connecting with various media outlets

Who does well in PR? People like me! 

-     -strong communication skills
- articulate both written and spoken
- able to understand a variety of people (THIS...SO MUCH)
- confident
- quick studies as it pertains to the client and understanding them
- quick thinking
- persuasive


-     -proven ability to communicate both by speaking and in written form
- understanding of mass media and communications
- understanding of marketing and marketing

      From what I think I know/understand about PR is that it allows for a lot of creative thinking, it is dynamic, can be fast paced and is relatively social. It also offers exposure to various forms of business such as marketing, branding, business plans etc. These are the attributes in a potential career that I am looking for. While it might be difficult to break in, once in there is a lot of room for growth and various directions one can go in. If you're really good, it has the potential to be rather lucrative. 

     I have spent my entire academic career trying to understand people. Examining different societies, societal trends and asking why ? It was then important to use sociological, psychological theories as well as my own intuition and understanding to explain my findings. I can think critically, analytically and creatively. From a young age I've enjoyed public speaking and I've spent years writing hundreds and hundreds of pages. While I don't think my writing skills are anything special they are probably above average. Articulation? Word, I'm down with that. Har har har. There is always room for growth in all areas and I'm always looking to push forward.
     What I learned from my year as a PhD student is that I am an incredibly social person, I work best in a busy atmosphere surrounded by people and I love to make connections and learn who people are.  
     My PhD supervisor and I were speaking one day and he said that the reason he wanted to work with me was because I have "raw talent, guts and extremely good instincts" which would aid me in working in social history. I absolutely agree, but now those qualities can be directed towards something more "present" (if you will) and interactive. 
      Based on what I understand about Public Relations/Communications field and my own skills and personality, I think that Yours Truly and Public Relations have the potential to develop a mutually beneficial relationship. 

      Now can someone turn this into a stellar CV and help me get a foot in the door? Ha! That is a different blog post entirely! 

      So there you have it. Comments, insights and advice all welcome! 

      Happy Careering! 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Change, Growing up and Intuition

What a year. I have been doing a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford for the last year and it has been a ride. Where to start?

It was one of the most amazing, stressful and life changing years of my, thus far, short life. In the beginning it was an adventure that I jumped into with wide eyes and anticipation. I tried to hit the ground running but slowly began to realize that a PhD is a marathon, certainly not a sprint. There were plenty of adjustments to be made. Through it all the only thing that remained constant and ended up being a strange place for me to ground myself was in my thesis idea. That is saying a lot but also not saying much at all. It says that my dedication to the idea of the project is/was immense, but not saying a lot because the first year of the thesis project is highly unstable and uncertain.

Throughout the year there were other developments and realizations that accompanied the academic process. It was academic, intellectual, personal as well as spiritual growth. As the year carried on I began to discover that my goals were shifting. I no longer wanted to become a history lecturer, I no longer wanted to write history. The academic and intellectual challenges were fantastic! Entering into the D.Phil I felt highly unprepared, so the learning curve was steep but I think I rose to the challenge. As the year went on I developed more critical, analytic and creative thinking. My understanding of details and theories changed and I began to understand the importance of WHAT ACTUALLY WAS important. That isn't to say that I didn't possess or employ these qualities previously, but they were refined significantly.

As the year went on and the stress began to mount it was difficult to maintain the level of motivation that is necessary to achieve the task at hand. It slowly became clear to me that the reason for this was that my end goal had shifted dramatically. If I didn't want to write history and I didn't want to become a professor, then why was I continuing on? A PhD is a massive undertaking. It will be your number 1 priority and focus for 3, probably 4 years. It will take all your money, exhaust your creative intelligence and destroy your liver. But the struggle makes you feel alive. Us D.Phils often joked that we must have some sort of dormant self-loathing in order to punish ourselves so severely. So where am I going with this? The point is, if you don't have an end goal that drives is difficult to keep going in this endeavor. So I began thinking about leaving. A HUGE HUGE decision that would change the course of my life and career. In the end I have chosen to leave. I love academia and I love intellectual development, but my life's priorities have shifted dramatically and I can no longer (nor do I want to) continue this pursuit. It is time to shelf my mortarboard and box up my graduate gown and tie until my life can afford me to pursue the PhD as a hobby of sorts that focuses on my own development. The time has come for me move on to the next chapter of my life, because frankly, I am ready.

Throughout the process of this year, I learned to listen to myself, trust myself implicitly and to listen to that inner voice that guides you. I feel incredibly fortunate that my upbringing has encouraged such self-reflection and self-belief. Thanks to my parents, who encouraged such spiritual development, I have the courage to walk away from an opportunity like a PhD at one of the best universities in the world, with arguably the best historian in my field because it truly is not right for me at this time. It wasn't easy and I had to do a lot of soul searching and maintain brutal honesty with myself at my most vulnerable points in order to come to this decision. A truly scary but defining experience, but I had to be sure of what I was doing. Some people will say that I quit, that I couldn't cut it, couldn't hack the intensity and stress. Haters gonna hate y'all. I know that I made the right decision for me. And it took more courage and humility than I had anticipated, having to put aside pride and the ever present stubbornness. What an amazing learning experience.

So what now friends?

A career. I think Public Relations is the way to go for me. Time to gear up that stubbornness and perseverance to head out into the job market. I'm feeling confident and stronger than ever. Let's do this.

p.s. A special shout-out to all my friends and family who encouraged me, challenged me and in so doing, supported me. I needed the critics and skeptics just as much as the advocates.