Through personal experience, a reality I have quickly come to realize as a public relations major is that many people have a wrong understanding of what public relations is or just simply do know what it is at all. At least that is the case within my own circle of family and friends.
When asked at extended family gatherings or by friends I haven’t seen in a long time what my major is, I am often greeted with faces of confusion, assumptions of what public relations is, or questions wondering what it is. The responses I receive come in a wide variety of forms. Each of these responses are real responses I have received to being a public relations major.
“Please don’t say you’re going to be working in politics!” was the response I got from a very opinionated aunt of mine when I told her I was majoring in public relations. I quickly told her that while politics can be an aspect of public relations, it is not its sole focus. She proceeded to tell me to avoid politics at all costs because it was not worth it.
My friends all have no clue what public relations is. Their responses to my major usually come in the form of “oh, that’s cool!” or “I’ve never heard of that before.”. At social gatherings, the future doctors, engineers, physical therapists, accountants, and teachers can share anything about their education because everyone understands. I have to talk about areas within public relations they might know about or discuss PR topics they see every day. It is pretty safe to assume they all think I am going to be a social media influencer or a news reporter once I graduate.
The funniest response I receive when telling others I am a PR major is when people assume it is just a fancy name for another business field. One time when I was at my friend’s house, her dad asked me what I was majoring in. After I told him public relations he responded, “so, human resources?”. While human resources is close to public relations, they have major differences. This incident was not the only time someone I know has assumed public relations is something that it’s not.
When I first told my parents I was going to major in public relations their response was full of support knowing I would be working in a field that emphasized both my personal and working strengths. That response has now shifted to annoyance when I am complaining about my group members in my latest group project, concerned that I hardly ever have tests and frustration that I have so much free time on my hands.
While these responses have left me realizing that no one close to me knows what I am doing with my life, it’s made me realize that public relations is unique. In the end, I would rather have a unique major I get to explain to everyone over a major everyone already knows about.