I, like many other attendees at this year’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) National Conference, was in search for some career advice. The public relations industry is competitive and for most of us, getting our foot in the door can be challenging. However, with a little guidance and proper execution, it can be done. On the second day of the Conference, I listened to Cheryl I. Proctor-Rogers, APR and Raymond L. Kotcher, both PRSA Fellows, share their wisdom to a room full of students. Their tips were so insightful that I wanted to pass it along to my fellow young professionals. I hope this can guide you in your career endeavors.
“Being a life-long learner is important to me,” -Cheryl I. Proctor-Rogers
Consistency is one thing stressed to communication students. Whether it be with writing, branding or social media, consistency is key. The same rule should apply to career development. It’s important to allocate time to be curious and learn new things because new skills are great. Have you been meaning to write a blog post? Get on it. Do you want to learn how to make graphics? Make a Canvas account and watch some tutorials. Curious about the life of an industry professional? Send an email for an informational interview (after proper research, of course). You are developing yourself and your career by consistently doing these small 20-minute tasks.
“Know your words.” – Raymond L. Kotcher
Before approaching anyone you might want to impress, it is a good idea to have a plan of what you want to say to them (ahem, elevator pitch). Firstly, you can start the conversation by sharing a genuine compliment or commonality you share. Hopefully, that will bleed into a fruitful conversation where you have the opportunity to share your passions, skills and goals. When you “know your words” the deliverance of your elevator pitch (if the opportunity presents itself) will be genuine and to the point. So, if you haven’t practiced your elevator pitch, sit down and determine what are the key things you want to share about yourself to professionals. From there, practice your delivery.
One last thing: public relations specialists have to listen well. Ask people questions and get to know those around you. Being an active, engaged listener will serve you well.
“I was always open to change and trying new things.” -Cheryl I. Proctor-Rogers
For those of you graduating within a year or two, you might already be thinking of your post-grad life. Yikes, right? There are so many variables to consider but ultimately, please remember to be open-minded. This rule applies to all parts of life but specifically, be adventurous with your career. Whether it be a new position, new city, new industry, allow yourself the space to explore your interests. As young professionals, failure is inevitable so let’s fail early. There is so much to explore and experience, so if there is something that peaks your interest, go for it. Who knows, you might find your life-long calling.
“It’s not who you know, but what they know about you,” – Cheryl I. Proctor-Rogers
Public relations students know the value of networking. However, building your network goes beyond just providing a business card and hoping for the best. It’s about fostering a genuine relationship with your peers, mentors and role models. Share what you’re passionate about. Be the type of person that not only graciously accepts opportunities but also passes it along to others. To summarize a quote by the late Maya Angelou, people will always remember how you made them feel so leave them with a great impression of you.
“Carry your moral compass with you. For yourself and for the industry. We’re going to count on you.” – Raymond L. Kotcher
Wherever you may end up working after graduation, you should feel welcomed. Company culture and values plays a role in your long-term happiness so join a team that you are a proud of. There is true value in working for a company that you believe in and working with leaders you look up to. Also, just because you are young, does not mean you do not add value. You are more capable than you think so occupy the space you are in and speak your mind. You are the future of PR industry so be true to yourself and let your moral compass guide you throughout your career.
Elsabete Kebede is the vice president at San Jose State University. This year she was one of the recipients of the PRSA Foundation Travel Grant to attend the 2018 PRSSA National Conference in Austin, Texas.