How I found my niche (after several years in college)
Nearly every high school senior feels the pressure when choosing a major. You barely know how to make your own bed, and every application you fill out asks you to decide a major. You want me to do what? Decide now what I will do for the remainder of my life? How am I supposed to know that? If you weren’t lucky enough to know exactly what you wanted out of life at the age of 17, like me, don’t worry—it’ll work out. All I knew was this: I could write. I told myself “Start off with what you’re good at, major in Journalism, and then take your core classes–if something changes or if something sparks, change it.”
Fast forward to junior year of college, the toughest semester of my life, I lost my big brother 10 days before his 28th birthday. To keep my sanity through many low moments, I’d volunteer locally, in and around Atlanta. I quickly developed a love for helping others and a new appreciation for humanitarianism. Just four months after his passing, and only one more year left until graduation, I received an email from Colleen Perry, GSU’s Director of Career Services. The email said that CARE USA Atlanta headquarters were looking for a PR/Communications Intern, and that they were located right around the corner from campus.
I immediately began to do research on the CARE organization. Almost instantly, I fell in love. They were a very unique NGO. When you think of nonprofits that focus on global aid, you typically just think of care packages being dropped from helicopters, the helicopters fly away, then, eventually, the contents of that package runs out and the people need help again. CARE grabbed my attention because they dispelled that stereotype for me. CARE doesn’t give their recipients/beneficiaries a handout; they give them a hand-up—BIG difference. CARE provides lasting change by providing communities with not only tools, but knowledge on how to sustain their wellbeing even when CARE isn’t around. For example, to combat gender-based violence, CARE doesn’t merely council battered women; they hold workshops for men in communities where GBV is very prevalent and teach those men values that they were probably never taught before. Ultimately, CARE’s goal is to be out of business one day. I loved this idea. I loved this concept. So I immediately applied for the internship. On that day, my best friend was 10 minutes away from the library, on her way to pick me up for lunch. I stalled her and wrote the fastest, but most heartfelt cover letter I’ve ever written in my life. I quickly revised my resume, and sent my package off to Nicole Harris. My goal was to be the very first applicant, and I’m almost 100% sure I achieved that.
A few weeks later, I received an email from Nicole—I was elated. She asked when I would be graduating and I informed her that I would be graduating in December at the end of the year. After that, she asked if I would be available to come in for an interview, and I immediately responded “Yes!” I chose the first available day she had and showed up to the interview 15 minutes early.
The moment I walked into CARE, I knew that it was where I belonged. The lobby was filled with heart-wrenching pictures and for a visual person like me—that’s all it took. I sat down in the interview with Nicole, I immediately felt comfortable because she was a fellow New Yorker. I was very transparent. I told her my strengths, my weaknesses, I told her about hard times and good times. I walked out of the interview feeling good to have talked to such a warm person, I didn’t know if I had gotten the internship or not, but I just knew I was happy to even be in CARE’s building.
About a week later I was taking a nap in between classes and my phone began to ring. I didn’t recognize the number but I answered anyway—still sleeping a little bit. “Hello? It’s Nicole from CARE. I was just calling to let you know we’re going to offer you the internship.” Oh, needless to say, I was wide awake by then! I was so excited! After being in college for so long, I finally felt like I would get the real experience I needed to jumpstart my career, and to top it off, at CARE!
I remember when I first told Nicole why I wanted to work there, she worried that I would get bored, because I would be doing media measurement, and not field-work. Honestly, I worried a little bit too, and in the beginning, it was a little hard to come into work and measure media, but something happened after a couple of months at CARE. I began to obsess over metrics and media measurement. I began to realize how vital it was for a PR/Communications department. I could now talk the media measurement language, and even knew why PR people need to stay away from counting impressions, LOL.
When I was a junior in college, I made a goal to read the news more, and my internship indirectly helped me fulfill this goal. Now I read dozens of news stories a day. It’s my last semester of college, and I’ve learned more at CARE in 8 months than I have learned about Journalism/Communications in 6 years. All my teachers tell students in my class to come to me with any media measurement/metrics questions. I’ve even dubbed myself the “Princess of Metrics” (Queen was taken), and take pride in my knowledge of this sector of PR. And guess what? Media analytics as a career, is a newborn baby in PR and I can actually be a pioneer.
My professor told me that I’m the first student she’s ever met that has been interested (obsessed) with this part of PR. To think we thought I’d be bored. I have Nicole and CARE to thanks for helping me find what I was looking for on that very day, all those years ago, when I was a 17 year old girl with no answers, just trying to make it through my college applications.
Because of CARE I have become an advocate for data-driven decision-making, and now I am constantly saying nerdy things like, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure!” Because of Nicole, I know how to search for journalists and pitch stories to them…I can even write a press release! She has taught me all of these things a semester early, so now I’m breezing through my last semester of college. When my internship is over, I will confidently enter the job market, because I found my niche. I love it. I’m nurturing it. I say all this to say, don’t be nervous. Pick what you’re good at, and something will spark—trust me!
About the Author
Chrystine Fox is a Brand and Communications Intern at CARE–one of the world’s leading international humanitarian agencies. She recently graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a focus in PR. Aside from her obsession with PR and media metrics, Chrystine enjoys hanging out with her daughter Bailey Sky, singing, and shopping! You can follow her on twitter @Cfox12 or check out her website at www.chrystinefoxpr.com.