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Three Things I Learned in College

Blakely Gibeaut

As I approach graduation and reflect on my time in PRSSA, I would like to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. The following lessons have helped me navigate internships, build resiliency and make the most of my college experience:

1. Find your why.

Simon Sinek once gave a powerful Ted Talk about the power of why. It’s meant for businesses, but I’ve used it in my personal life as well. He starts by drawing a circle, and in that circle are three rings. The outermost layer is “what,” the middle is “how” and the center of the circle is “why.” Sinek argues that the great leaders and organizations of this world operate from the inside out, starting with the why. Yet most of us start with what.

Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’

As aspiring public relations professionals, we all know what we do – we write press releases, craft media lists, work with clients, develop campaigns. We also know how to do that – through research, collaboration, brainstorming and more. But what about our why?

Whether it’s work-related or personal life, operating from the inside-out allows for purpose and inspiration. When you start with a belief, those around you become inspired.

2. Red lights always turn green.

Alright, alright, alright. A defining moment during my college experience was reading Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights.

I read it because it was easy, I like Matthew McConaughey and there was an audiobook version. I never thought it would send me down a path of reading one book per month, actually writing my own book and changing my perspective toward failure. The book is a memoir, but it encaptures McConaughey’s belief that life is full of red and yellow lights – the moments that challenge us or stop us in our tracks – but that each one eventually turns green. I use this concept in my everyday life, especially when it comes to job recruitment.

I have a journal of all my notes from every job interview I’ve had over the past year or so. It helps me to reflect on what I’ve learned and how far I’ve come. I counted how many entries I had the other day, and it totaled to almost 100. Only a few resulted in a job offer.

The journal I keep my notes in, titled ‘Greenlights’ because of the Matthew McConaughey book.

Every time I didn’t get the job, it felt like a failure – a redlight. But each of those entries prepared me for what was to come. It left me with invaluable advice, resiliency and growth.

The red lights always turn green.

3. Learn to learn.

When I first started my college career, I thought I knew what would happen: I would get an impressive internship by the end of sophomore year that would help me gain experience before junior year. Junior year, I would find an internship that would lead to a job after graduation. Senior year, I wouldn’t have to worry about much because I’d already have my plans figured out. Oh, and of course I would study abroad.

None of it happened.

I never thought I would switch my major, apply to almost 100 internships or spend half a college in a pandemic. When I first came to IU, I thought I knew how it would all play out. I’ve since found that having a closed-minded mentality — the I-know-everything perspective — limits new ideas.

College taught me to keep an open mind to the opportunities in front of me, accept the ones that don’t work out and understand that I always have room to grow.


Blakely Gibeaut is president of IU PRSSA chapter for the 2021-2022 school year. She will graduate in May with a degree in public relations and a double minor in marketing and Spanish. Outside of school, you can find her indulging in the latest self-help book, watching anything by Anthony Bourdain or training for an upcoming half marathon.

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