Gemrick’s Guide: Investing in relationships

In the industry I want to go in, I’ll be interacting with people on a daily basis. These people will range from coworkers to clients, higher to middle management, and the media to the public. Through various efforts in volunteering, getting involved with campus leadership and networking, I’ve been exposed to a multitude of different people.

I have to thank all those professors who insisted that group projects are necessary in a college environment because I’ll be working with people of all personalities. Group projects didn’t ruin me for life, but now I have a clearer understanding that not every group works well together.

But there’s still a job to do and a goal to accomplish. I consider myself fortunate because most of my experiences with group projects were considerably pleasant. It’s not always the case for everyone, and that experience is still valuable because you’ll know which personality traits you like and dislike.

Relationship tips

According to Business Insider, the path to fixing a negative work relationship is to apologize, now matter the situation. A problem should be solved before it escalates further. Secondly, listen to what is being said. By communicating the needs of the people you work with, a solution will come to fruition sooner.

The public relations community in Houston is small, so everybody knows everybody else — but this is applicable for all majors. That’s one of the reasons professors and mentors teach us not to burn any bridges. The connection that was severed might be the connection needed to get from one step to the next. Never slam a previous employer, because word will get back to them.

Take advantage of being a student

Attending the monthly luncheons hosted by the Houston Chapter of Public Relations Society of America toward the end of my junior year opened many opportunities to volunteer and network. I was mortified at the first one I went to because in my head all I could think of was, “I’m just some student and I’m surrounded by all these professionals with real jobs.”

It was intimidating and lucky for me that my mentor was gracious enough to introduce me to a few PRSA members.

“They’re all adults,” I think to myself, forgetting that I’m also an adult. And as soon as I tell a professional that I’m a UH student, their face lights up.

Surprisingly, professionals are usually more than eager to help students. I think they find it refreshing and praise the initiative.

There’s more perks to being a student than a 15 percent discount at J.CREW; professional development events are discounted too. Once students graduate, these advantages disappear. Take the time to go to these free and discounted opportunities.

Pay it forward

Don’t volunteer just for the sake of volunteering. The best experiences happen when a person volunteers for a cause they care for or have an interest in.

Volunteering to be on the PRSA Houston New Professionals committee has been one of the smartest decisions I’ve made in the past year. Even though I’m a student, making time to give back, provide skills and services to the professional organization is valuable.

The transition to the professional organization from the student organization is going to be seamless. By getting involved with the parent chapter, I’ve been familiarized with people I would have had to introduce myself to otherwise.

These may even be the same people who help me find a job after graduation. There’s no doubt that they would be more than willing to connect me with someone who has leads because I’ve fostered these relationships and put value in these connections.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected].

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