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Advice from Living Legends

At the beginning of October, PR professionals and students from around the country gathered together for a weekend of growth and networking. The 2018 PRSSA National Conference took place in the live music capital of the world — Austin, Texas.

Day three kicked-off with a Living Legends panel sponsored by The Plank Center, headed by Ray Kotcher and Cheryl Procter-Rogers, APR, and moderated by our very own Maret Montanari.

Kotcher and Procter-Rogers offered many snippets of advice. Attendees walked away with knowledge of how to stand out, advice for their first year in the industry and book suggestions to expand their thinking.

How to stand-out

As students, the first question on all of our minds is how we can stand out and make our résumé be at the top of the stack. Kotcher gave seven tips on crafting an exceptional résumé and presenting yourself as an asset to companies. I have combined the tips into key takeaways below.

Differentiate yourself

Your degree is important; it is an accomplishment to complete college. But, Kotcher says your degree will not differentiate you from the competition. What will? Highlight your courses and underlying competencies. For example, if you took business or accounting classes, show employers your can read a balance sheet.

Talking about relative life experiences is a great way to showcase your personality and help interviewers begin thinking of you differently than just words on paper. For example, I sit at the front desk of a residence hall on campus. While it doesn’t seem like something I’d want to talk about in an interview, I could discuss how it has helped me communicate with people and navigate crisis situations. Kotcher said in the panel discuss to emphasize your soft skills, because “they are more important than ever.”

Be a continuous learner

In our industry it is vital to continue your education. It doesn’t necessarily need to be formally; there are ample opportunities to stay up to date that are informal and convenient. Kotcher promoted edX, a website where you can enroll in courses and develop your skill set. Kotcher urged students to enroll in courses, add them to your résumé and cover letter, and then discuss this professional development in interviews. Doing this shows that you’re in continuous learning mode, which is an important quality to have.

Your first year — be intentional

All too often, we get so caught up with landing our dream job with our dream company or agency that we walk in the first day without knowing what we are getting ourselves into. Procter-Rogers shared insights on navigating the first year on the job.

She encouraged students to be intentional with their relationships and actions. Invest in the people around you, because peer mentors are as equally important as professional mentors. You can confide in your peer mentors about things you may not discuss with your professional mentor; plus they are going to be the people who are executives with you later in life. On the topic of mentors, Procter-Rogers advised to use your professional mentor to help craft your approach to your first couple years on the job.

Book recommendations

There’s nothing like curling up with a good book, especially one that will expand your thinking and help you become the best version of yourself. Ray recommended the book There is Life After College by Jeffrey J. Selingo. This book offers advice on the journey from high school graduation to landing a job after college graduation. Ray said it will give a framework on how to succeed in the new world of work.

Procter-Rogers had two suggestions: Knock ’Em Dead by Martin Yate and The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins.

Knock ’Em Dead was recommended because it will teach you how to give an impressive elevator pitch, negotiate when accepting jobs and other important skills to have. An added bonus? Procter-Rogers said the book is updated every year. The First 90 Days focuses a lot on soft skills and how to be present in your career.

Listening to seasoned professionals every opportunity we have will provide us with the necessary knowledge to navigate the postgraduate life. At the Living Legends Panel, Ray and Procter-Rogers offered brilliant advice. I encourage you to listen to them and invest in yourself and those around you.

By Olivia Lake, PRSA Liaison


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