When I first learned about the True Stories project, I was apprehensive because I thought that it may be difficult to find someone who was willing to take time out of their busy schedule to be interviewed by a college student. This worry proved to be somewhat true when the first person that I was supposed to interview suddenly stopped responding to my emails. At first, I was very upset about this because I was looking forward to interviewing someone in my future career field. However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to connect with Anne Marie Varga, who has inspired my interest in the public relations field. Anne Marie’s experiences as the Communications Manager at the Orange County Government, as well as her experiences prior to obtaining this position, provided me with a unique perspective on the crucial role that public relations professionals play in our society. After speaking with her, I gained a new interest and appreciation for the careful thought and critical listening that is involved in public relations.
My interview with Ann Marie also demonstrated the applicability of the concepts that we have been learning in class to the professional world. First, Ann Marie spoke frequently on the importance of critical listening in her profession. The first thought that I had when she brought up this topic was the SIER model. In crisis communication, she must focus on the content and context of the message, interpret the meaning behind the message, critically assess the meaning of the message, and finally respond to the message in a way that adds value to the situation. Hearing her speak about process behind formulating responses to crises demonstrated how the different concepts that we have learned in class can truly be applied to many real-world situations. The fact that I was able to make these connections was a huge success for me because I believe that my knowledge of listening concepts will allow me to thrive in the professional setting.
As a whole, the interview with Ann Marie was quite successful. However, we did come across some barriers to listening throughout the experience. First, I realized how important the environment is for effective listening. Our interview took place in KeKe’s Breakfast Café, so the interruption of the waitress, the loud conversations of other customers, and the abundance of background noise were quite distracting in the moment. Another barrier to listening was the fact that I had come straight from swimming practice to the interview, so I was fatigued and not in the best state of mind to concentrate. In other words, sometimes I was focused more on my own feelings than the conversation, which was a significant barrier to my effective listening. Nonetheless, despite these barriers, the interview as a whole was a fulfilling and successful experience because I was able to build a connection between what I’ve learned in the classroom and how it applies to the professional realm.