• Richard Forbes

Dear Future Communicators

Dear Future Communicators,

Welcome to the best career in the world and the worst stress of your life.

My name is Richard Forbes. I am a recent graduate of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications with a degree in Public Relations and a focus in Tourism Communications. Throughout my education, I’ve had the honor of working with both local Gainesville brands and international mega-corporations. Over the course of three years, I’ve cherished these memories and added my accomplishments to my portfolio—knowledge and experiences I hope can help you as you read this.

Get Over Your Social Anxiety

As someone who has gained several opportunities through connections, I can’t tell you how valuable the ability to start and keep conversations are. In fact, I was originally introduced to SparkIt during a study abroad trip where the person seated next to me on the plane asked me to caption an image for Instagram. She turned out to be the Creative Director of SparkIt Creative and recommended I apply for a copywriter position. My story is certainly one of chance, but my ability to keep a conversation and build a relationship opened doors and led me from creative intern to Lead Strategist.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Connections are everything. In the world of communications, having a network of relationships is invaluable. The people you meet and those they are connected with can often be a resource. Maintaining connections takes time and dedication, but it is entirely necessary. Look at those whom you have interacted with in school, extracurricular activities or work experiences. Find a way to compile these contacts for future reference; I find social media to be great for this, especially LinkedIn. Also, take a look at empty positions that you may be able to fill: What professional associations are you part of? For public relations, the Public Relations Society of America is the leading professional association and should certainly be on your radar—there are student chapters at universities across the country.

Beyond the connections you’ve already made, making new ones is even more important. Reaching out to other people has been the most anxiety-inducing experience of my college and professional career. How did I overcome this fear? By expecting the worse: They say no. In my experience, I’ve found that professionals in the communications industry are generally more than willing to help students, so use it to your advantage. With social media connecting us with industry leaders across the globe, take time to contact them and ask questions. Twitter and LinkedIn are two exceptional resources for reaching those who currently are where you would like to be in the future.

Remain Open to New Opportunities

When I first came to the University of Florida, I had an entirely different vision of who I wanted to be. Only by being open to new opportunities did I find public relations and fall in love with what I currently do. Even now, I am pursuing a master’s degree in Tourism Communications, but I work with clients in technology, consumer products and food & beverage industries.

Communication is fluid; it’s not often that I get to choose the industries I work with. This has taught me many valuable skills of adaptability and openness. In these experiences, I’ve been lucky enough to meet several interesting people and brands. Did I ever think I would be able to work with brands like Amazon, Microsoft, or Seagram’s? Absolutely not.

Regardless of the industries you have worked with or the ones you would like to work with, being open to new opportunities can lead to amazing things. Take it from someone who is graduating soon, there are plenty of opportunities out there—you just have to find the right ones.

Produce Work Your Parents Would Hang on the Fridge

I remember the highlight of my preschool experience was when my parents would hang my macaroni art on the fridge for everyone to see. Taking pride in the work you complete tells a lot about you and your work ethic. So, give everything you do your full effort and stand behind your creations. Now, there is a fine line between pride and defensiveness. Own the work you make, flaws and all, but also accept advice from other perspectives.

When creating my portfolio, I was told that it lacked structure or that some work did not belong. And they were right, but that was part of the style. I own the fact that I’m not an expert in one area: a jack of all trades. So, my portfolio contains copywriting, graphic design, media relations, and more. Still, I am exceptionally proud of everything I have done, as you should be, too.

Be Unapologetically You

Lastly, remember to express your most authentic self in everything you do. In public relations, I’ve learned all about brand authenticity and that your personality is a brand in itself. Whether you’re in the workplace or with your friends, the actions and words you say represent who you are. Yes, have a filter, but don’t change parts of you to please one audience.

To all the future communicators reading this, I promise things have a way of working out. Whether you’re stressed about applying for a job or studying for an exam, do your best and be proud of your accomplishments. No two communicators have the same career journey, and that makes the industry experience all the more special. So, despite the highs and lows you will inevitably feel, trust the process, and enjoy the ride.


A Future Communicator

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