As I wrote earlier this year, I wrote a check to PRSSA back in 2005 for my first year of dues, not knowing that decision would ultimately impact the city I live in, the job I go to every day and even the woman I’m going to marry. And who says a college student doesn’t have responsibilities?
Being a part of PRSSA and particularly its National Committee provided me with countless opportunities to learn from some of the sharpest talent entering the field. I remember feeling comforted knowing I wasn’t the only student who didn’t have all the answers, but at the same time, there was always someone in the organization who could offer counsel for a handful of subjects. Collectively, we were a dangerous group destined to do great things in this thing we call PR.
After hanging up my ribboned name tag, I leveraged my National Committee background to create this footprints platform as a way to give back to the Society and its members. Through my blog, I’ve had terrific opportunities to stay involved in PRSSA, notably as a regular FORUM contributor, local Chapter adviser (go 49ers!) and mentor to those who request it. I’ve also continued relationships with subsequent National Committees, which is what brings us here today.
I was chewing on this idea over Thanksgiving break, along with a seasoned turkey leg, to bring together past and present PRSSA National Committee members for semi-regular posts. The goal is to offer my readers different perspectives on major topics out there, as the group of us range in industry practice and years of experience. Hope you enjoy.
1. Applying for a Job/Internship — What is the best advice you’ve taken to improve your chances of landing a job or internship?
I tailored each resume for every position applied, also ensuring that my LinkedIn was updated and any other professionally driven tools (blog, bus. cards, website, etc.) The other recommendation I have is for the face to face interview: wear a black suit, bring copies of your resume, prepared questions, a pen, mints (not chewing gum). Clean up if you have facial hair, take out any gauges or facial piercings that are not standard earrings and smile during the interview!
-JR Rochester, Digital Copywriter at Lowe’s Home Improvement
2011-12 VP of Advocacy
The best thing I’ve done to land a job and internship was to attend a local PRSA event, meet a lot of professionals, network, pass out my resume and follow up for opportunities. That’s how I landed my current internship, and they offered me a job after it was completed. During the interview, they appreciated that I had a sense of humor and I wasn’t 100 percent serious and boring. We talked about a lot of different things when I asked about the office culture and it helped me understand the company more.
-Lauren Gray, National President at PRSSA
2011-12 VP of Public Relations
The best advice I was given about landing an internship is to not be shy! This means getting on the phone and calling agencies/corporate employers for informational interviews, having the courage to make conversations with PR pros when you have the chance (along with following up through email) and tapping into your network to help prepare yourself and your resume. Just remember to balance your eagerness and enthusiasm with respect for the time of others.
-Brian Price, National Vice President of Chapter Development at PRSSA
More something that I’ve told friends, including one I’m helping with her job search now — let the potential employer reject you; don’t reject yourself. When applying for jobs and internships, it’s easy to see where you fall short of a job description, missing all the good qualities and experience you can bring to the table. Be positive and give it your best shot.
-Rebecca Timms, PR Coordinator at Philadelphia 76ers
2010-11 Immediate Past President
2009-10 National President
2008-09 VP of Member Services
2. Education — What would you have done differently with your college experience knowing what you do today?
I would have taken it more seriously from day one! If I had known how easy it was to knock out the basics, I would have spent more time and money investing in the fun classes that I could use to beef up my portfolio and skill sets. Instead, I spent my last semester rushing to fulfill degree needs with “available” classes while balancing a workload of two jobs and the “big girl” job hunt. Overall, I think general Communication Studies was the right choice for me; I was able to take what I’ve learned in the classroom (and even more so PRSSA) and apply it through hard work in internships, so in the end I’ve created the complete package.
-Kendall Schmidt, Intern at Edelman
2011-12 VP of Chapter Development
3. Networking — Describe how networking has advanced your career.
When I was in school, I started networking when I was a freshman to build connections and learn more about the industry. By the time it was time for me to start looking for a job, I didn’t have to start from scratch; there were even people reaching out to me to see how they could help. Now that I have a full-time position, networking goes in the opposite direction, and I help others find a full-time position. I try to live by an important rule and never turn someone away who is trying to network with me just like so many people never turned me away. It is because of others’ willingness to help me and network that I am where I am today and was able to get a job before graduation.
-Rachel Sprung, Brand & Buzz Coordinator at HubSpot
2010-11 VP of Regional Activities
Every professional opportunity that has come my way stems from networking. I was able to meet some great professionals at PRSSA networking events. By nurturing those relationships, I was provided with professional opportunities that have led me to where I am today.
-Joe Clarkson, Account Coordinator at Taylor
2011-12 VP of Internships/Job Services
Networking has enabled me to meet many seasoned and new public relations professionals. With the multiple networking opportunities PRSSA/PRSA provides, I have received internships, volunteer opportunities and job leads because of it. Not to mention, some outstanding new friends! Networking doesn’t have to be a chore; it’s the most efficient way to advance your career!
-Hilary Jurinak, National Vice President of Internships/Job Services at PRSSA
Networking has advanced my career by allowing me to make genuine connections with not only professionals, but building a network of peers to engage with and receive support. Knowing that there is a group of people in the same circumstances helps you grow. One connection leads to another, and it’s inspiring how the gaps of separation diminish and the amount of people willing to help you expand.
-Lauren Rosenbaum, National Vice President of Public Relations at PRSSA
4. First Year on the Job — What piece of advice do you give entry-level practitioners to help advance their careers?
Industry executives these days have job descriptions a mile long. So long are the days that a company can simply fax n’ phone their way to public relations success. Now we have to consider the new age of media relations, social interaction, event staffing, spokesperson message training, crisis preparation, strategic planning, measurement, management and a bunch of other catchy buzzwords. In the first year, we don’t expect our entry-level executives to be masters of any of this stuff, but we expect you to gradually learn concepts to the point that you can eventually teach (proficiently) the next wave of hires. The learning part is obvious — you’ve spent your entire life learning concepts, but it’s the teaching that will help you advance your career. Just think, until the person below you is capable of taking over your duties, how are you going to find the time to take responsibilities off the person in front of you?
-Ryan McShane, Senior Account Executive at Taylor
2007-08 FORUM Editor-in-Chief
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Say when you don’t understand and ask for clarification. Learn when to speak up and when to follow someone’s lead. Always make friends with the office manager or desk receptionist; they always know what’s going on.
-Dwayne Waite Jr., Principal at The Charlotte Agency
2007-08 VP of Professional Development
5. Personal Branding — Name something you have done to differentiate yourself from your peers.
Since I want to develop a career in B2B, I have tried to set myself apart by consistently staying focused on content marketing. I am always looking for ways to incorporate content strategy in any type of business-to-business program. Looking up to thought leaders like Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley and Amanda Maksymiw has really helped me to understand and leverage this kind of marketing.
-Kate Ryan, National Vice President of Member Services at PRSSA
photo courtesy of DeviantArt user stockproject1