Keep Your Tools Sharp, Even When They Are In the Shed
In 2009, I graduated from ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a bachelor's degree in journalism, public relations emphasis, and took an internship in Australia. After a short period of time, that public relations internship turned into a full-time job. A few months later, I decided to quit the PR job in Australia to return home and back to a job in the service industry I had all through college. (Not the best idea I've ever had.)
In addition to a great experience, my time in Australia came with two great epiphanies: I did not like working in an office and I wanted to travel. These lessons, combined with the income and flexible schedule of my job, brought me to the decision that I was going to take a year off to travel and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Well, as we all know, one year can turn into two very quickly; and, while I was able to get quite a bit of traveling under my belt, I was no closer to deciding where I wanted my life to take me.
So, I did what anyone who has no clear indication of where she wants her future to go would do; I went back to school. I am now studying to get a master's degree in nonprofit studies (MNpS) from the ASU Lodestar Center. The structure and challenge of graduate school has reignited my motivation to find a "real job." Two years out of the game, I decided to brush off my PR boots and see what the world had to offer. I kept telling myself, “It’s just like riding a bike—you never forget.” Well, I certainly did not forget what I had learned, but two years in the social media world is like a century in normal time.
At first, the idea of having outdated knowledge never crossed my mind. I was happy to find a part-time marketing position with the Lodestar Center because of my degree and freelance experience. At this point I was feeling pretty good about my situation. I was back in school, and I had a part-time job that would combine my undergrad and graduate fields of study. Then the moment came where I fully grasped the effects of my absence. On the first week of my new job I was asked which social media dashboard I preferred. I didn't know how to respond. I suddenly felt like I was riding a single speed rusty bike with two flat tires in the Tour de France.
After a brief moment of sheer panic, I realized the theories I had studied in school hadn't changed, but the vehicles for them had. Lucky for me, a few simple Google searches brought the last two years of social media advances to my fingertips. The following week became a whirlwind of social media research and YouTube tutorials. I had to reset the passwords on my Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and Skype accounts because I hadn't logged in for so long. I became a member of Pinterest, subscribed to multiple YouTube channels and RSS feeds. And, yes, I learned about social media dashboards, such as Threadsy, Hoot Suite and Tweet Deck. I learned about Facebook timelines, link shortening and became a fan of Socialbrite. I found the pros and cons of QR codes and NFCs (Near Field Communication). I discovered what Google Plus was, how to check-in using Foursquare and finally had a complete understanding of what Wikis are. I started tweeting, updating, tagging, posting, following and pinning.
This social media crash course I went on could have all been avoided if I had periodically kept myself informed in my time off. I would not change those two years of soul search, if you will, but I do now understand the need to continuously keep yourself updated in your field of choice, because you never know when you are going to have to get back on that bike.
And in case you were wondering, Tweet Deck is the social media dashboard I prefer.
Michelle is a part-time Project Specialist, Marketing & Communications, at the ASU Lodestar Center. She is currently a full-time student in the Master's of Nonprofit Studies program at ASU, planning to graduate in May of 2013.