"What Are You Planning On Doing With That?"

You’ve survived Thanksgiving and now you’re in the home stretch for the holidays. As any typical college student, you look forward to the breaks as they are safe havens from exams and endless assignments. However, the holidays also entail reconnecting with old faces. A lot of them.

Unfortunately, these people aren’t the lovely friends you’ve met at college. They’re the vaguely familiar relatives that you see once a year. Apart from cool uncle John, most of them are out of touch with your life, and that one conversation you have each year never varies. 

If you’re studying public relations, then there’s a rare chance that anybody remembered what your major is. Every conversation you gently remind them, and after an acknowledged nod follows an all-too-expected, “So what are you planning to do with that?” For some reason, no one assumes that PR is the intended career. 

Public relations is a relatively new academic field, so the plan of practicing PR isn’t obvious to many. It’s moments like these where I wish I could tell people I’m going to be a doctor or a lawyer, the degrees that come with instant understanding and appreciation. Why is it that majors outside of STEM or business undermined?

Society seems to have a skewed view on the value of certain careers. Expertise in fields like history, art, and linguistics are undervalued because the direct results aren’t obvious. Unlike a doctor who can physically stitch up a wound, it takes years for a linguist to uncover ancient language roots. The stitched wound is immediate, which is why it’s easy for us to understand its usefulness. A linguist's work will contribute valuable knowledge that will construct history we can’t yet see nor use, but it doesn’t make it any less important. 

The issue lies in our perception of the word useful, which is why STEM careers are easily acknowledged in today’s world. Jobs that work behind the scenes have a subtle, yet great effect on society. An average English teacher is responsible for fostering the communication of hundreds of students. The job is underpaid, but these individuals spend years investing their energy into students who in turn use the knowledge in the future. This lack of appreciation is harmful because all jobs have a role in society. For example, there is so much technology that facilitates communication, but it’s useless if we are unable to have a conversation.  

As future PR practitioners, it’s going to be our job to have those conversations with our public, and unfortunately, it’ll be on us to prove the worth of our work. Unlike doctors and lawyers, our results aren’t always obvious, just as our careers aren’t obvious. To legitimize our communicative work in a world that increasingly demands it, we will have to purposefully act to prove results.

So, what am I planning to do with my major? I’m planning to use my earned degree to work for an agency or a company that I’m passionate about. I’m planning to work in public relations so that I can engage in honest, positive and meaningful messages.

Written by Victoria Goncharova