“Oh, why didn’t you get into a better field, like accounting or engineering? I was an engineer for almost 40 years and now I’m happily retired with two vacation homes and a boat. Wouldn’t you want that?”
– Male. ≈ 60 years old
“Yeah, PR seems like a good choice for a pretty girl. Not a lot of work involved but to supply a face for a company.”
– Male. ≈ Late 20s
“Public relations, huh? What exactly do you plan on doing with that? Are you just going to stay a bartender?”
– Female. ≈ 50 years old
“… Why wouldn’t you just get a certificate from community college and save money?”
– Male. ≈ Late 30s
“I bet your parents weren’t thrilled with that career choice. Hope you don’t waste their money with that degree.”
– Female. ≈ 30 years old
For those of you who don’t know, I work at a high-end restaurant on the waterfront in Boston. As a bartender who thoroughly enjoys my job, I love engaging in conversation to get to know my guests on a personal level to make the experience more memorable. With a majority of our clientele being advanced-degree holding individuals, one of the first questions I tend to get asked by first-time guests is, “Do you go to school?”. And yes, each one of those quotes above is a verbatim response from a person I’ve had sitting at my bar within the past few months. As the first person in my immediate family to attend college, it’s a question that I used to answer proudly. But as I started having this conversation with more and more individuals, I became increasingly aware of the career discrimination trends in their responses.
Now before I continue, let me make this very clear. This is not written to bring down any one or group of majors/careers. This is written to simply bring attention to a trend that I have personally noticed in my life and that I know others have faced as well.
No, I did not go into accounting or engineering. In fact, I did whatever it took to stay away from mathematics all together to be honest with you. Why? Because that’s not how my brain works. I have taken mandatory curriculum math courses in college, I studied my butt off and I managed a good grade, but did I enjoy it? Not at all. So, that’s why I chose a career that requires skills that represent my strengths: reading, writing, designing and building relationships.
I understand that I may never make as much money as Mr. ‘Two Vacation Homes and Boat’, I may never be able to walk around in a Herve Leger dress with a matching Michael Kors wristlet and sleek Christian Louboutin heels like Ms. ‘Are You Just Gonna Stay a Bartender’ but I’ll be working in a career that makes me happy, one that I enjoy.
To compare careers/majors is like comparing sports. Such as you wouldn’t compare an NFL Linebacker’s slap shot with that of an NHL Rightwing, you can’t compare a computer science major to an advertising major. Each have their own challenges and rewards, to say one is harder or more important than the other is simply ignorant. They are dependent on different forms of thinking but neither requires less effort than the other.
It’s true, as PR majors we don’t have three physics labs to write up a week, hundreds of medical term flashcards to memorize or a calculus exam every Friday like some students. We do however write about 15 pages a week in essays and sample press releases, read dozens of textbook chapters a week, study communication styles and techniques, as well as spend hours on end keeping up with current trends and technologies (all while apparently making it look “easy” to everyone around us). When I enter my first career, I won’t have to write programs for top line security systems or crunch numbers until my fingers bleed, but I will have to use every ounce of energy I have to create the best possible public presence for a company. A company that may be funding that engineer’s salary that laughed my response away. According to Public Relations News,
Public relations is the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.
While the public part implies inclusion of things like public affairs, community relations, investor relations, public press conferences, media events, internal communications and crisis communications, it also involves a lot of behind-the-scenes, non-public activity. It could involve simply the writing of a press release, but it could also involve coordinating media contacts for an event or conference, securing credentials, lobbying for article placement and the like.
To the man who is not much older than I, the one who told me that my career is nothing but a pretty face, what happens when suddenly your funding company begins to lose its positive perception to the public and starts to go under? Who’s going to be the one staying late at the office, running off of nothing but caffeine and stress to do anything in their power to handle that disastrous event that ruined the company’s image, submit that one last press release and arrange one more funding event to attempt and keep that reputation afloat? Me.
So, to answer all of their questions:
“I would love that! I guess I’ll just have to work my tail off to be as blessed as you.”
“*Insert laughter* Yup.” (Not worth arguing with someone so pigheaded)
“I plan on becoming successful in my chosen career. If I need to stay here for a bit, so be it. Someone needs to make your Grey Goose martinis, right? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with being a bartender.”
“I decided to get a degree, not a certificate. They are two entirely different things, one not being any better than the other, just simply a different level of expertise in an area.”
“Actually, I pay for college entirely myself. Even if I didn’t, my parents are supportive and beyond proud of me. But thank you for the concern.”
C’mon people, please, just have respect for one another. You’ll never see me shutting down someone’s career choice, no matter what it is, so I ask you to do the same. Don’t put me down just because my mind may not work the same way yours does. Think of society as a machine, each part is dependent on another somehow, without one the other may not be able to function to its full potential.
If you have questions about someone’s career, just ask! If it’s something they are passionate about, chances are they would love to chat. It’s 2016, let’s learn to not hate … just appreciate 🙂