With nearly three months under my belt working as a student intern at Susan Davis International, my hopes for an experience that would push me in new directions have been met and surpassed. I’m living in and navigating a new city, working full time, taking three classes and learning so much every single day. What has really surprised me is how much my collegiate athletics prepared me for the professional world. I’m an equestrian, and I ride for the University of Georgia’s NCAA 6x national champion equestrian team. Since my freshman year, I’ve been told that the skills, responsibilities, and character traits I’m learning as a student-athlete will continue to guide me after graduation, and I’m seeing that play out specifically in my PR experience now. Since starting at SDI, I’ve discovered three truths about my athletic experience that are now helping me understand and manage my professional experience.
- Time Management is a Must
As a college athlete, every minute of my day that isn’t put to good use is wasted. Now, that doesn’t mean that I consider much-needed naps, mental breaks, and frozen yogurt dates with friends “wasted” time, because it certainly is not – those are VERY necessary! The point is, those 24 hours in each day run out very quickly if you don’t plan your time well and use it wisely. It’s easy to waste time, but it’s also possible to manipulate your schedule to make the absolute most of it.
My daily schedule typically involves at least two workouts with our team’s personal trainer where we do strength and conditioning in the gym, two to three hours of practice out at the barn, around three hours in the classroom plus more studying outside of it, and meetings and responsibilities for the extracurricular and non-athletic involvements I have. Factor in three meals a day and a hopeful seven or eight hours of sleep, and it’s clear I couldn’t meet all of these commitments without good time management skills.
While I’m not spending my days running around campus and tacking up horses right now, I feel surprisingly at home with the pace of my new work schedule in public relations. When I sit down at my desk in the morning, I don’t know whether it’ll be a slow day or jam-packed, but more often than not, it’s the latter. And that requires being fully focused and ready to tackle whatever comes my way. There are tasks I have every single day that I can always expect to do, like scanning the internet for our clients in the media. Then, there are others that come unexpectedly like last-minute media advisories, pitching clients’ stories, or assembling twenty boxes of Giant’s new peppermint holiday treats to send to bloggers for reviews. And often, those unexpected tasks seem to come in waves—or avalanches. I’m able to prioritize my tasks and use my time to the best of my ability because of the time management skills I learned on campus as an equestrian.
- You’re a Member of a Team
Until I joined a high school riding association my junior year, I grew up riding by and for myself. Joining the team at Georgia transformed my experience and my perspective, and I’m so grateful for that. I learned to work in a group dynamic, and rather than relying on myself for everything, I benefited from my teammates’ creativity, collaboration and support on difficult days, while contributing all I could at the same time. That’s made a huge difference in my perspective in the office, too, where although my instinct may be to charge ahead, I now realize that collaboration, well managed, is often the better pathway to successful and ahead-of-the-curve PR.
PR is all about creativity and skills and being up to speed with everything related to your client and your industry. One person can’t do it alone! I’ve learned largely through college athletics how to both participate as a team member and a leader, and I try to bring that to the office with me. I work as a team member on the intern team and as a member of the larger SDI team as a whole. As an intern, I have so much more learning to do than leading, but I still try to take initiative wherever I can and be the best leader I can be when the time calls for it. Whether it’s doing a job I see that needs to be done or taking the lead on an intern group project, I try to find the balance between leading and following.
- You Wear a Lot of Hats
Perhaps the most significant similarity between my equestrian experience and working in PR is that in both I learned to love wearing different hats every single day. On campus, some days I’ve got to kick it into student-mode, and others I really have to focus on my sport while still maintaining my grades. I have days where I’m up at 5:00 a.m. for a cardio workout with the team, then immediately switch to student-mode to focus in class for a few hours, then turn and go straight to the barn for practice on a horse that afternoon. After all that, I still need to study at night, so I’m constantly switching back and forth between being an athlete and being a student.
Through my internship with SDI, I’ve applied the same hat-swapping skills on a regular basis. Sometimes I’m helping out our cyber security practice by keeping up-to-date on the happenings in the cyber landscape. Sometimes I’m channeling my inner-salesman, calling journalists and pitching stories about Giant Food’s new store opening. Other times, I’m being creative with Photoshop and refreshing SDI’s website. All of it is fun, and all of it is so different. I love having to constantly shift my focus and being challenged to use different skills every day. The stimulation of changing dynamics keeps me on my toes both in the office and in the stirrups.
Everything I’ve learned in the last four years of being an NCAA equestrian has prepared me for the professional world, specifically in PR, and I see that more and more as I spend my semester here in Washington. It’s incredible how the skills I’ve worked to acquire as an athlete – both tangible and intangible – can be tweaked and applied to almost everything I do here at SDI. I may have swapped my helmet and boots for a blazer and heels, but each day still presents new fences to clear – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
By Morgan Beavers, SDI
Morgan is a senior at the University of Georgia studying public relations and English.
November 5, 2015