Friday, February 24, 2012

Intelligent Adult Conversation

I wrote the following for a journal entry for my program, and I thought it was worth sharing:

Last Wednesday, I traveled to Columbia Heights to Chavez Prep Middle School. My boss asked me if I would be able to judge their “We The People” competition that day. I did not know much about it, but I was excited anyway. I was active in speech and debate in high school and often judge debate tournaments when I am in Greenville. I figured this would be similar, and I always enjoy a nice excursion from work, though I did not know exactly what to expect.

I got off the metro and became a bit confused as to where I was going. I decided to ask someone if they knew where the school was. A woman claimed she did but ultimately sent me in the wrong direction. By the time I figured out my mistake and turned around, I was running a bit late. It was a warmer day than I expected, and I regretted bringing my peacoat along. I got there feeling like a mess with sweat under my arms and my hair windblown. I was immediately put into a judge’s training session with many people at least twice my age. I felt flustered and foolish for looking so disheveled. The instructor paired us up, and I was put with a man about the same age as my father, who is in the Coast Guard. I felt awkward and unsure how to act, and I felt he did not know how to treat me either.

I often find myself in this situation around adults whether at work, at school, or in a personal environment. I feel like a kid in comparison, and I sense they are not taking me seriously for exactly that reason. We anxiously engage in small talk about where I go to school and what I am studying. They may tell me what they do or try to give me some advice, but nothing extraordinary happens. The comments are highly predictable and unsurprising. The conversation is out of courtesy, not interest. We both know this and move on quickly once the pleasantries are finished. I am used to this situation and expect no more.

After our judging duties were complete, we returned to the main room with the other judges. We all sat down waiting for instruction and chatting in the meantime. I began conversation with the guy next to me, probably the next youngest in the room at about 26 or 27 years old. I found out he went to Georgia Tech, and he knew a bit about Clemson. He was very nice and well spoken. He asked me more details about how I like my internship and my philosophy on public relations. I was taken out of my comfort zone of rehearsed answers, and while nervous, I was also happy about it. I was genuinely shocked. This adult actually took an interest in my life, took me seriously, and wanted my opinion. This event should not be out of the ordinary, but for me it was.

As I answered his questions, I realized exactly what I’m looking for in an employer. I want to work for an organization that believes in transparency and openness. I want to work for a company who realizes the potential and importance of social media in public relations and marketing, or at least one that is open to me showing them. I want to work with people like this who actually listen, digest what I say, and respect me regardless of my age and experience level. He ensured me that it is possible to find this in a workplace, and he even offered to put me in touch with the media relations person at his company to talk about it. I was floored. A man I met five minutes ago was going out of his way to help me figure out my life. That meant a lot.

I do not know if this will really come to fruition or not. I am not sure I want to work in DC, and I do not know if the media person at this organization will be as helpful as this man. This professional networking experience may not produce any usable results. However, it was beneficial to me regardless. It helped me answer some of my own questions and made me consider things I had not thought of before in my job search. Now I know what to look for in an employer and what questions to ask them in an interview.

It also showed me how I want to act when I am older. I want to remember how hard it could be as an intern and student and be able to give the same helping hand to someone else down the line. I want to take a few minutes of my time to help others whenever I can. Though I do not want to be a teacher, I want to give guidance to any students that ask me for help. I do not want to become some jaded professional who takes people for granted or has too big of an ego to actually listen to others ideas and beliefs. I want to be open and have intelligent, adult conversations.

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