A 40-year plan may seem preposterous to the 20-year-old. But unless one harnesses imagination, desire, and ambition to a long period, one may find many years wasted in jobs that have not led anywhere. Frustration of real goals and values results.
Know what you want to get from your professional career and from life. You must be frank with yourself to arrive at such a conclusion. What do you want from life-a peaceful home life, profit from the goodwill earned by socially responsible practitioners. The ethical practitioner is often likely to become a victim of sensational writers of fiction or nonfiction who lie and exploit public ignorance for their own pecuniary advantage.
The lack of understanding of the true function of public relations as well as its short history place public relations at a disadvantage compared with the older professions of law and medicine, for instance. But looking at the situation from the historical point of view, medicine, engineering, and other professions went through comparable transitional periods.
Despite all, the status of public relations is improving as more people of good character and education enter the profession. Registration and licensing by the state is bound to put public power over people, fame, doing good for humanity, money? Once you know where you want to go, you can plan intelligently to reach your goal. But only objectivity will make planning worth anything. Pay no attention to those who say self-study leads to egotism and neurosis. Self-knowledge makes it easier to reach your goals. If you understand yourself you will have greater understanding of what the world means to you and what you mean to the world. A well-adjusted person harnesses his or her drives to function and directs them constructively. If you understand them you can use them in every facet of a well-rounded career.
If you are unable to gauge your personality traits, tests are available to measure them. Organizations such as the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation measure intelligence and determine enthusiasms for all kinds of matters: commercial, legal, athletic, academic, social, and so forth. These tests help you to determine where your talents lie.
There is a wide literature on vocational guidance. The following are some current volumes recommended by authorities. Robert Jay Ginn, Jr., director of Harvard Career Services, considers Self-Assessment and Career Development (Prentice-Hall, 1978) and Job Hunters Handbook (Harvard University, 1978) to be the best for general guidance. The Boston Public Library usually suggests to its readers Cyclopedia of Careers (2 vol., J. G. Ferguson Publishers, Chicago) and The Occupational Outlook Handbook (annual, U.S. Department of Labor). Nancy Tobin of Wellesley College recommends to students the Catalyst Series, especially for women, Vocational Guidance Manual, and the various workbooks available in libraries and bookstores which offer direction in job-hunting. She also suggests that pamphlets on specific opportunities are useful.
Public relations offers scope for the most diversified aptitudes and personality traits. Choose that field in which you can use them to the best advantage of yourself and the world you live in. If you ignore your own desires and needs and strive for goals that mean little to you, you will fail in your own eyes and be unhappy besides. If home and family are your final happiness, you will not find it in a public relations activity that keeps you traveling. If you dislike exerting power over people, you should not become a public relations spellbinder. If you hate big cities, don't plan for a career that will keep you in one. To avoid error, know yourself.
The second essential for advancement of a career in public relations is to understand other people. This is more than knowing friends and being sympathetic. As an applied social scientist you will be dealing with people and groups, and you will have to know and understand why and how they behave. You will have come to public relations with an understanding of the social sciences and how to apply them. But since this in itself is a science still in the making, you will continue to study periodicals and current books on the subject.
Increase your knowledge of people through personal contacts with all kinds of people. When you speak with others, encourage them to talk of their own interests. Talk to people beyond the confines of your own social, community, or special-interest group. Get their points of view. When you travel, see the entire town and how it lives.