About a month ago, 14 eager University of Alabama students boarded planes to Boston accompanied by suitcases filled with business casual attire, and résumés and business cards fresh off the press. Some of these students were veterans of PRSSA’s National Conference. Others, including myself, had yet to experience anything like this five-day event. However, both groups shared the same excitement, proving that this is truly one of the most unique opportunities open to public relations students across the country. After a whirlwind of presentations, conversations and sight-seeing trips around the city of Boston, I boarded the plane back to Alabama feeling physically exhausted, but (surprisingly) mentally energized. At 40,000 feet, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the weekend. Although I have a notebook filled with inspiring quotes and various notes from the conference, there are five key things that every public relations student can learn from this experience. 1. Business cards are not dead. As a junior in college, I do not want to know how many hours I’ve spent drafting and critiquing my résumé. However, I had yet to even think about designing a business card before attending National Conference. While your résumé is great to bring to a job interview or to a one-on-one meeting, National Conference proved that business cards remain the easiest way to pass your contact information on to someone who you’ve briefly met. 2. Diversity in PR is growing and it is very exciting. Although it may sometimes seem to be a buzzword that is tossed around in conversation, bringing public relations students together from across the country confirms the unique backgrounds and perspectives that our generation offers. Meeting individuals from countless universities with such different experiences opened my eyes to many new ideas and aspirations, which left me so excited about where our generation will take the public relations field. 3. In such a large and diverse industry, you must define your personal brand. Many of these students will be your competition for future jobs and internships. You must figure out what makes you stand out from everyone else. What unique experience can you bring to a job? What values shape your outlook on the industry? Your personal brand is more than a choice in the color scheme or layout of your résumé. It is fundamental to how you present yourself to others in person and on social media. 4. Go into every conversation with a purpose. At any event, you should have an idea of who you want to talk to and what you ultimately want to gain. You’ll likely know some of the attendees beforehand, so spend time developing how you will pitch yourself. Know that no one likes to waste time, which means that you need to do your homework and have a plan for your conversations. You should also have business cards on hand, but do not give them to anyone who does not ask for them. 5. Investing in yourself pays off. Chances are, you’re probably already involved in a club or pre-professional organization. While you are already one step ahead of those who are not involved, I cannot stress enough how important it is to do more than just show up. Seek out opportunities and take full advantage of those that are presented to you. Make an effort to meet new people and to volunteer for events and projects. It takes some sacrifice, but you’ll be thankful in the future when you see how much you’ve grown.
Halle Russo, PRSA Liaison