In my hometown of Red Bank, New Jersey, there is mainly one industry that will hire you at the age of 16, and that is the restaurant industry. Each day, hundreds of high school students from my town would leave right after their last period class to go to their restaurant job as a host or a busser, which started promptly at 4 p.m. I was one of them. I vividly remember having to change from my school clothes into my work clothes in the restroom of the steakhouse I worked in minutes before my shift started.
Although the industry is tough, especially the aspect of dealing with angry guests, it taught me a lot about the real world, customer service, and public relations.
I remember applying to college in my senior year of high school, while I still worked at the restaurant. I, like many others, would get stuck when the school application would ask for my major. Admittedly, I had no idea what I wanted to study. My advisers and family members insisted that I should choose to major in something I was good at or something that I was passionate about, but nothing on that list of majors spoke to me. Eventually, I decided to take a career profiling test to see if that would give me any clues as to what I would be good at. This test just so happened to produce a result indicating that I should be a public relations major.
I was intrigued by this result, though I truthfully had no idea what PR was at the time.
Without doing much research, I simply decided to mark “undecided” major when applying to colleges.
After brief stints as a Marketing, Finance, and Political Science major throughout my first year and a half of undergraduate studies, I decided to do some research into possible majors. I went back to that original career profiling test, retook it, and got the same result: public relations. I realized that PR was not too far off from the experience I had already gained through my part-time job at the restaurant, which at this point I was still working over the summer. Of course, there are some obvious differences at a restaurant, such as not dealing with the media, not working in an office setting, and not being paid a salary. Despite this, the similarities were striking to me: I was the liaison between the public (the guests) and the organization (the restaurant). Whether I was hosting, bussing tables, or eventually serving, I was the point of interaction between the people I was serving and the restaurant chain. This job was something I was good at.
I decided to trust it the career profiling assessment results. Worst comes to worst, I could always change my major again, I thought. Thankfully, I am enjoying my classes within the College of Communication, and I am excited to continue pursuing PR as a degree.
I believe that all customer service representatives are PR professionals at heart. Whether it is in a restaurant, a retail store, or elsewhere, your job is to make the organization you work for “look good.” I’ve had internship experiences with companies I believed in and with companies I did not believe in — which is the tricky part of PR. However, this is not dissimilar to the thoughts I’ve had on my variety of part-time jobs throughout my life. At the end of the day, interacting face-to-face with patrons of your business is one of the best lifelong skills someone can get. I am immensely grateful to the restaurant I worked in for four years since it provided me with valuable skills that I can take into my future PR career.
Todd is a Junior at Boston University studying public relations with a minor in political science. He is a member of BU PRSSA’s Digital Media & Blog Team.