On November 6, myself and hundreds of other public relations students from all over the nation traveled to San Diego, CA for the 2009 PRSSA National Conference. For five days, we attended workshops, seminars, and socials that consisted of lots of networking with students and professionals. However, I quickly learned that most of the networking took place outside of the conference environment.
By attending social gatherings called Tweet-ups, students had the opportunity to speak with professionals in a social setting such as a pizzeria, bar, or night club. Attending the Tweetup hosted by Pitchengine.com and Sarah Evans at Bar Basic allowed me to socialize in a more relaxed environment.
Social media seemed to be the main focus of the conference. Piece of advice: TWEET EVERYTHING! Believe it or not, a lot of the student-to-professional interaction was conducted via Twitter. Utilizing social media to your advantage to network and enhance your education is a must of each student hoping to pursue a career in public relations in the near future.
I would be wrong if I didn’t give a shout-out to the brilliant PR students that I met a conference: (Click on their names to follow them on Twitter)
- Jasmine Brooks, University of Miami PRSSA President
- Kion Sanders, PRSSA National Vice President of Chapter Development
- Christa Keizer, California State Fullerton PRSSA Vice President
Although I wish I would have received a ROI, such as more information and tips from the workshops, or more one-on-one interaction with professionals, the experience was good overall. This year’s conference was very different than the 2008 PRSSA Conference held in Detroit, MI. This was a bittersweet experience due to the fact that this will be my last opportunity to attend a PRSSA conference as an undergraduate student. See you in Washington, DC in October 2010 for the PRSA conference!
Stay tuned, more notes and information from National Conference will be up on my site soon.
Today I visited ChappellRoberts in Ybor City for my PRSSA “Pair with a Professional” session with Katy Parsons and Christine O’Connor Turner. The experience was a wonderful eye-opener. I gained so much insight and advice from these two women that I am still trying to digest it all.
ChappellRoberts is a successful agency that specializes in everything from advertising, marketing, branding, public relations and issues management to new media. They take great pride in creating change for their clients and the community.
During our conversation this morning, Katy Parsons and Christine O’Connor Turner suggested several ways for me to better prepare for a career in public relations. I was a sponge absorbing everything that they had to say. I will share just a few of the suggestions that they made.
1. I need to work my butt off! In order to stand out in this competitive industry, you must be proactive. Both of these women were successful because they didn’t take no for an answer, and they pursued thier dreams with perseverance. Katy shared a brief story about sending out job applications during her Spring Break vacation, while her friends were vacationing and going on cruises. Needless to say, she had a job after graduation while most of them didn’t. She worked her butt off, and so will I.
2. Professors are the perfect networking tools. More times than not, successful PR professionals will turn to professors in order to find the best and brightest students entering the field. Both Katy and Christine landed their internships by working with their professors in some capacity. This taught me to value the relationships that I have with my professors here at USF. In the end, it might land me a job, an internship, or a corporate contact that I may not of gotten otherwise. Not much to my surprise, Katy Parsons referred to Professor Bob Batchelor, a public relations professor at USF who is well-known for helping PR students succeed.
3. Go above and beyond. Practice outside the classroom. If I am serious about pursuing a career in public relations, I must go the extra mile to study outside of the assignments and tasks given by my professors. Katy Parsons suggested that I utlize resources such as Lexis Nexis while I have access to them in college. I should also attend PRSA or AMA professional events, and meet professionals who are currently practicing what I want to pursue. Reading articles or magazines that pertain to the public relations industry provide even more perspective and preparation for the industry. Christine says volunteering for public relations projects or volunteering in an area that you are passionate about will provide you a valuable experience, and quite possibly land you a job.
The take-away that I got from this session today was that I should stop at nothing to get what I want. Both of these ladies are very successful at what they do, and they didn’t get there by chance. It took hard work, dedication and commitment. I am honored that I got a chance to sit down with them and absorb all the advice that they had to offer.
With the economy in such great shape that it’s in, and the job market in a frenzy, my main concern is how will I prepare for a career in public relations. Or better yet, what is “PReparation for PR”?
Is it only internships and industry research? Or is it blogging and freelance writing? At this point, I can only go by what my professors and other professional tell me to do. But throughout my three years as a PR student at USF, I’ve learned a few things on my own that will help anyone start along their way.
ATTEND CONFERENCE! First and foremost, I must say that one of the things that has prepared me the most is attending public relations conferences. Last year, I attended the 2008 PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) National Conference in Detroit. This coming November, I will be traveling to San Diego, California for the 2009 PRSSA National Conference.
It’s a great way to further explore the field of public relations. The workshops and seminars often touch on subjects that your classes and professors tend to skip. My advice is to find the workshops that most interest you, and then attend them and be attentive. Conference is your week to learn more about PR, but also more about yourself, what you love, and what you see yourself doing in the future. It helps that the PRSA (parent organization of PRSSA) conference is going on simultaneously. Therefore, you will also be surrounded with several successful practitioners in addition to several students with your same passion for public relations.
If you want to dive in head first, I suggest you sign up today for this year’s PRSSA National Conference in San Diego, California. I’ll see you there!
“NETWORK YOUR FACE OFF!” A good friend of mine, Sydney Owen, who is also an up and coming young PR professional at Weber Shandwick in Chicago, coined the phrase “network your face off”. I can’t express how important it is to meet people from all aspects of life, and all facets of the industry. Most of the jobs and internships that I have gotten was simply because I literally networked my way there, by meeting people and leaving an impact on them. And don’t be shy, exchange numbers, e-mail, Twitter, etc. Sadly enough, most often in life it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.
For some great information on how to “network your face off”, please read Sydney’s post here.
GET INVOLVED! It’s as simple as that, just get involved in PR every single chance you get. Get involved at your job, in your organizations, at your church, or even at home.
On the job, ask your supervisor what projects and initiatives you can take on that involve enhancing your communication skills. You’d be surprise how much you learn, and how impressed your boss will be.
In your clubs and organizations, run for the position of Public Relations Officer, Marketing Manager, or Director of Internal Communications during election seasons. When I served as the Editor-in-Chief and Newsletter Chair for two organizations, I got the opportunity to enhance my design skills and produce visual materials to be used in my portfolio. Producing two publications for two different clubs is a little much, but I’m sure you get the picture.
At home, take on projects that force you to apply the concepts that you are learning in the classroom. I created a blog for my mother’s entrepreneurial club, designed logos, and drafted newsletters as well. I got to practice what I was learning in my PR courses, and my mom got free services out of it as well. I guess you could say that my mother served as my very first client!
While I’m no expert (yet), I know that these things will help tremendously as you start along your journey as a practitioner. Amongst everything though, one thing is clear–you must be ready for anything that the industry will throw your way. The industry is constantly evolving and changing, so whatever is hot today–may be gone tomorrow; whatever is impressive today–might be medicore in days to come.
Please feel free to comment on this post and share any advice or experiences that you have learned while preparing for a career in public relations. However, I have one rule though–come PRepared!
For as long as I can remember I’ve always been accustomed to routines.
I always caught the school bus at 8 am sharp, went to cheerleading practice at 3:30 pm, waited for mom to pick me up at 5:30 pm, ate dinner around 7 pm, started my homework at 8 pm and went to bed around 10 pm. Always. Day in, and day out. I followed roughly the same routine for about 8 years.
To this day I still follow a strict regime. I go to work around the same time each week, do homework the same days each week, and so on and so forth. I’ve come to realize that I find comfort in routines, structured schedules and habits.
I take great pride in always being two steps ahead of myself, knowing what the next move is that I’m going to make, setting goals and aspirations for the next three to four years, and always planning and preparing.
I am eight months away from graduating from college. Meaning, eight months away from the “real world”. Eight months from moving away from a place I’ve called home for the past four years. Needless to say, it’ll be eight months of uncertainty.
Although I do have goals for myself and my career path, I don’t have any set plans, no idea of where I’ll end up, no idea of what I’ll be doing. All this is extremely frightening for someone who is a slave to structure, organization, and agendas. This is coming from someone who has always relied on plans set far in advance.
The question I get lately is, “What are you doing after college?” “Where are you moving to?” “Who will you be working for?” Questions that even I don’t know the answer to. It makes me wonder…
Will I be in Los Angeles? New York? Orlando? Atlanta?
Will I be practicing non-profit PR? Agency PR? Minority marketing?
I hope to use this personal website/online portfolio to document my journey to “adult life”. Watch closely as I share my fears, goals, aspirations, and poetry. Watch as I share my mistakes, improve my writing skills, and celebrate my successes. By the end of this journey I hope to have grown into a prepared pre-professional.
Lately I’ve found myself visualizing where I see myself next year. Visualizing and believing in my hopes and dreams. Although my exact plans are unclear, I am sure of a few things.
I visualize myself living somewhere that is beneficial for both myself and my career.
I visualize myself practicing public relations, advertising, and/or marketing. (I also visualize myself being very good at it, too!)
And most importantly, I visualize myself being happy.
I’ve learned a few things about myself these past couple months. I’ve learned that it’s OK not to have a master plan for the next couple years. I learned that it’s OK not to know what step to take next. Shoot, it’s even OK not to know anything at all.
I will continue to visualize myself making an impact in my career. It’s true what they say, “what you visualize, you can materialize”. The more I believe, the more likely it is that’ll happen.
Inspirational Quote of the Day: “It’s not necessary to see the entire staircase, as long as you take the first step”- Unknown
I’m excited to see what the future holds for me.