Written by: Blaithe Tarley
“Communication is all about bringing people together,” said Rebecca Shapiro, Google Agency Account Strategist. This statement was proven the weekend of Feb. 3 at The Pennsylvania State University as PRSSA chapters from the local region gathered together to expand their public relations knowledge and put their skills to the test.
The weekend conference flew by as we hustled from one session to another and mingled with fellow media lovers. It kicked off with a Friday night pitch competition and hors d’oeuvres in mixed groups. Each team was given a hypothetical problem based on a popular movie.
The next day, early bird breakfast was served and immediately flowed into the Keynote Speech by Christina Cassotis, CEO of Allegheny County Airport Authority. Afterwards, attendees had two presentation options for two breakout sessions prior to the “Etiquette Luncheon” with proper dining tips and recommendations. We finished the busy day with a final breakout session that also had two speaker options, and a wrap up presentation from Emily Pirt, Regional Conference Director.
Throughout the event, I listened to many successful professionals discuss their perspectives and experiences within the PR world. As I sat in the audience and scribbled notes in my small leather notebook, I found three main tips and recommendations to assist students’ “getting out in the real world” journey:
- Focus on where you DON’T want to go– My first presentation choice for Breakout Session 1 was Rebecca Shapiro. She discussed her nontraditional PR experience Google and making the move to its headquarters across the country. Rebecca explained the struggles and benefits of making such a drastic move. Despite Silicon Valley’s beautiful scenery, challenging experiences and crucial connections, home was pulling at her heart strings. Rebecca couldn’t overcome the overwhelming sadness due to her lack of interaction with loved ones. This was the turning point in her career. Rebecca said “goodbye” to Silicon Valley and “hello” to New York City (a shorter distance from her family). Today, she urges students to not limit themselves to comforts of home, but to draw a radius around the area they would like to stay close to. Don’t be afraid to move and get out of your comfort zone, but ensure that it a realistic distance from connections depending on your personality and experiences. Otherwise you may find yourself missing out on submerging yourself into the office’s environment due to constant longing to be elsewhere.
- Don’t be afraid of opt for an internship– Zach Dogan, Media Relations Director at NYC’s Ketchum, presented during Breakout Session 2. While Zach highlighted many traditional PR tips he also discussed his experience making the transition from college student to working professional post-graduation. Zach eased the stress of many attendees as he shared his struggle to carry the title he has today. After applying to dozens of agencies across the country, he found that the only way to ease his way into the agency limelight would be through a post graduate internship. After mastering the coffee pot, copy machine and assistance tasks (all the while living in a shoebox apartment in New Jersey) he was offered a full time position that got him to where he is today. This goes to show that beggars cannot be choosers post-graduation. It may not be ideal, but intense internships and fellowships are the best ways to plant your foot in the door at an organization, company or agency even after walking across stage to receive that diploma!
- Stop worrying, be confident and get out there– Christina Cassotis, Keynote Speaker, took some time to explain to her journey to success during her speech. She began her higher education without a clue as to what she wanted to do. In turn, she dropped out of college during her sophomore year and landed a bartending job where she worked for 6 years. When she finally made the trek back to campus, she chose to major in English at the University of Massachusetts. One of the key memos that she insisted we engrain in our brains was to not stress. Life will take you in all sorts of directions but present multiple opportunities in the end. It is your duty to decide what fits best. As seniors anxiously wait for calls back from potential employers and wonder if their extensive portfolios and polished resumes will be enough, Christina urges students to recognize their accomplishments and hard work and understand that good things will arise from them. So keep moving forward and enjoy the ride.