By: Graciella Regua
It had been a long week filled with the usual problems a senior in college faces: assignments, deadlines, meetings and more than one phone call to my mom asking her to remind me why I work so hard for what can feel like so few results.
The last thing I wanted to do was give the majority of my weekend to anything but my bed, but that was exactly what I signed up for. So on a Saturday morning, I left the comfort of my sheets and rubbed sleep out of my eyes as I hurried to Hotel del Coronado to volunteer at the Arthur W. Page Society Annual Conference.
Here’s how what felt like a huge sacrifice turned into the reminder I desperately needed:
I basked in the glow of PR royalty. Before the event, I knew about the Arthur W. Page Society and how the Page Principles serve as the gold standard for public relations practitioners. However, it wasn’t until I looked closer at the attendees list that I realized that the Arthur W. Page Society membership is made up of the absolute best in our profession. From CCOs of Fortune 500 companies and CEOs of global PR firms to distinguished faculty who teach at top communications and business schools, you’d be hard pressed to find a group of more accomplished individuals in PR. (And if you’re wondering, SDSU is represented in this elite membership by School of Journalism and Media Studies Director Dr. Bey-Ling Sha. So yes, JMS is as awesome as you think.)
As a student, the opportunity to interact with these thought leaders, and lightly stalk them on LinkedIn, was nothing short of inspirational. In college, it can be easy to forget why you’re there and why it matters. Shaking hands with someone who was once just like me, and has since found incredible success, helped me understand that every step of my journey is important — no matter how difficult and never-ending it seems.
I had thoughtful conversations. In my day-to-day life, I don’t have nearly enough good discussions. I talk with people, but the conversations are usually surface level, with the focus being on achieving something rather than engaging in ideas. For me, it always seems easier to talk to someone over a shared task, and there’s no better place to do so than when you’re volunteering. Whether it was putting together binders for the conference staff or manning the registration desk, I found myself able to speak more candidly with my peers than I would in a normal scenario. Each conversation seamlessly accompanied the work we were put to.
I even had the opportunity to speak with a Page Society staff member, who told me about her college years as a PR student and how she discovered her passion for event planning through her current job. She was so forthcoming with her story and her advice to a young pre-professional, but I would have never felt comfortable asking her questions if we hadn’t built rapport over our tasks throughout the day. Sometimes as a volunteer, your responsibilities can be tedious, but using the simple work to start conversations led me to an eye-opening discussion and food for thought when I got home.
I left with passion and drive. As hard as it is to give up my free time, I have never gone to a professional event and left disappointed. This experience was no exception. It always feels good to volunteer your time and contribute to something you care about. That feeling grows even stronger when you leave feeling reaffirmed in who you are and who you aspire to be. At the end of the weekend, I drove home still as physically tired as I was when I arrived, but my mental energy was restored. I realized that there are always going to be periods of my life where my victories feel few and far between, but that doesn’t mean I’m not making progress.
It’s important to put your experiences — both positive and negative — into perspective and understand how they fall into your bigger picture. I’m at a point in my life where I feel incredibly uneasy and indecisive about my future, but I know that I want to continue improving by supporting the PR and communications profession in any way I can. For that reason — and for the aforementioned experiences discussed — I am thankful I volunteered my time at the Arthur W. Page Society Annual Conference.
How has volunteering reignited your passions? Let us know in the comments below!