This is a post on behalf of the PRSA New Professionals Section’s monthly series for PRSSA titled “Day in the Life Of.” The series journeys through various new public relations professionals’ daily lives, experiences and advice.
You were actively involved in your PRSSA Chapter and student-run firm at Ohio University. How do you feel your PRSSA experience prepped you for past internships and your job today?
My experience was invaluable — I don’t think there was a connection I made or an opportunity I had that didn’t come from being a part of PRSSA. PRSSA helped me build relationships with professionals and my peers and develop my personal brand. ImPRessions, our student-run firm, gave me hands-on experience and helped me understand agency structure. These organizations were a wonderful complement to each other and helped prep me with the knowledge of the industry and agency structure.
As you served as the communications director for your student-run firm, what advice can you give to growing student-run firms or schools that want to start a firm?
My first suggestion — don’t get hung up on the amount of members or big brand clients your firm has. The year I served as director, we had more than 100 members and there were definitely some growing pains being that large. I think that as a smaller firm, you have the opportunity to truly make the experience valuable for the members and clients, and sometimes that gets lost by growing too large, too fast. For clients, I’d suggest thinking outside the box. Yes, it was awesome that we had a Fortune 500 client from Columbus, but I think most of our success was with our local, smaller clients.
Secondly, make sure your firm is heading in the same direction as the industry. ImPRessions added a creative director my senior year, which really helped us think holistically about what we could provide our clients outside of just public relations. Currently, the firm is also working on partnering with the advertising club on campus to collaborate on projects. I’d encourage you to think broader as the industry heads toward integration.
You went straight from graduation to being an associate at Fahlgren Mortine. How were internships different from having a full-time job?
I was fortunate that at Fahlgren they treat their interns just like associates, so it wasn’t as huge of a jump becoming a full-time employee. I did make a big adjustment when it came to taking my own initiative. As an intern, you’re assigned projects and accounts from your supervisor most of the time. As an associate, my peers looked to me to bring new ideas and projects to the table, which was challenging, yet exciting.
Another area I didn’t have much exposure to as an intern but was thrown into as an associate was account management — simple things like client emails, billing, agency processes, etc. were areas that I wasn’t responsible for as an intern. These aren’t the most glamorous and exciting parts of an agency, but definitely important.
Did you have to overcome any challenges when transitioning from intern to full-time associate?
Yes, but I was the one who truly put the challenge on myself. As an intern, one of my regrets was not speaking up more in meetings or proposing new ideas for my accounts. Coming back as a full-time associate, I wanted to prove I could provide above and beyond value on my accounts. I feel that by providing strategic ideas and throwing out ideas constantly across all my accounts, I was able to show that I was “Ashleigh the Associate” and not “Ashleigh the Intern.”
What’s the best advice you can give interns who are transitioning to a full-time job with the same company?
Don’t ever stop learning. You’re at an advantage coming back to the same company after interning, but being a full-time associate is a whole different ballpark. Never stop asking questions and reaching out for educational opportunities. I still set up coffee dates with associates from different departments and attend luncheons, webinars and programs when offered. Sure, the “new kid” feeling may wear off after a while, but don’t ever stop challenging yourself to take in everything you can.
Ashleigh Mavros graduated from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University with a Bachelor of Science in journalism. She works as an account associate at Fahlgren Mortine, an integrated communications and marketing agency in Columbus,Ohio, and serves as the PRSA National New Professionals blog co-chair. Connect with Ashleigh on LinkedIn and Twitter.