PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Investing in Your Career

Back in my freshmen year, I served on our PRSSA Chapter’s committee to host a regional activity. This was the first event (of many) that triggered my passion for the public relations industry. We had some great sessions and I learned a lot. But if I can remember anything, it was Rhoda Weiss’ keynote address to us.

While this regional conference was occurring, Rhoda was serving as Chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. I could go on about her accolades as an industry leader, but suffice it to say that she rocks.

She talked about investing in your career as one of the best things that you can do as a pre-professional. For some of us students, professional development can be expensive. Add up traveling to conferences, membership dues, magazine subscriptions… you can easily drop a couple of grand in a year. I recommend planning out your year and setting aside money with each paycheck to be used for professional development. I don’t want to disclose any details of my sad bank account, but I do have a separate account strictly for professional development things.

Here’s a list of some of the things a pre-professional should be spending their money on:

Professional association membership
If you know me, you’re probably heard me say, “you know, you really should join PRSSA…”At the beginning of the semester, I promised our eager group of students that if you make the most of this organization, you will walk out of MSU with a job. And I mean it. The economy affects the amount of jobs, the changing indsutry affects the amount of jobs, but if you make the most of your student career, you can prove your worth to any company.

After discussions with a couple professionals, there are three general things companies look for: education, professional experience and professional development. You can get good grades in school and have a couple of solid internships, but there will be people who have done the same as you AND been involved in student organizations and associations. Don’t underestimate the power of networking with your peers – after all, you will be working with them when you graduate.

Professional development seminars
Your group or organization that you join will most likely have some kind of conference. Go to it! It makes a world of a difference when you list your group on your resume and being able to answer the question, “so what did you do with _______.” Recruiters will know the difference between an active member and a non-active member.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

For PRSSA, the most common objection I hear is “it’s too expensive.” I’m not made of money. But I do have my conference registration saved up for next year. And the year after. Professional development takes priority in my pre-professional career over a new car or spring break. I’m not saying don’t spend money for fun, I just can’t emphasize enough the importance of saving your money for the right things.

Dress the part
You will be judged if you don’t look your best at interviews. Once you get the job, it’s important to stay on top of your appearance, too. Make the investment in a really good suit or two that will last for a long time. A good friend of mine, Jenni Lewis, pointed out to me that she will buy expensive business clothes because she knows they will last a long time. Also, keep in mind that people look from the bottom up. Give a nice pair of shoes, too.

Industry publications
Making yourself knowledgeable of the current industry news sets you apart from other interns and entry level employees. You never know when you’re going to run in the CEO of your company – it’s best to have something to talk about.

The good thing about industry publications is that most will have student discounts. PRWeek and Advertising Age both do – check them out. Also, pay attention to when these publications are seeking participants for surveys interviews. It’s a nice way to get some ink before you graduate and makes you look pretty cool to potential employers.

There’s a nice supplement to the above list. Please note that I did not say alternative – it’s important to do both. You can do some of these things online! Read blogs and news. For blogs, get started on Alltop.  Check out podcasts – you would be surprised what a quick search of “public relations” or any other industry search shows up on iTunes. Also, follow the right people on Twitter and you will hear about Web seminars and discussions.

What else can you do invest in your career? Is there a way to invest too much in your career? Not enough?

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11 Responses

  1. jennie says:

    another great post, I think investing in your career is so important for students to realize. And I find it amusing that for the most part those students that say they aren’t made of money so they can’t afford PRSSA are the same ones shelling out $$ every weekend at the bar, so they do have teh money they just won’t sacrifice a few black-outs to make it happen

  2. Nick,

    This is a great post. I also believe in investing in your career. What you do now will affect how far (and how quickly you move) in your career.

    As a student paying for college on my own, I know how tough it can be to afford some professional development activities. I’ve had to make some sacrifices, but I truly believe they are all worth it. And it has paid off tremendously so far.

    My suggestion to others is to push yourself to be involved in many different ways. When I found out that the student government had a PR position, I applied (and got it). I also try to find local nonprofits to do pro-bono work for.

    PRSSA is very important, but I think other activities help broaden your horizons and build your network.

    Reading and learning also is a great point. If you can’t afford subscriptions, then browse Web sites, blogs and go to the library.

    And as for surveys…fill them out! That’s how I got quoted in the PR Week Career Guide, which has made a nice piece for my portfolio.

    Great post and I hope to read other people’s suggestions on their investments.

  3. Ari Adler says:

    Good post Nick. When looking to hire folks, I often have taken the immeasurable quality of “confidence” into account. And nothing builds confidence like being able to go into an interview able to say, “Sure, I’ve done that, as well as this, and this, and even some of this.”

    Don’t just tell me you know how to do something — show that you’ve done it, done it well and will work hard to do it even better when you’re hired by me.

  4. I totally agree Nick. This is great advice. It is one thing to join an organization, but it really doesn’t help you in any way unless you get involved and make the most out of it like you said. The worst thing is for a student to put PRSSA on their resume but have nothing to say about their involvement during an interview.

  5. Good point, Angela. I think it’s funny how many people we have that have joined PRSSA…yet I can’t place a face to their name since they are not involved.

  6. nicklucido says:

    @Jennie – sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and get the well drinks, right? 🙂

    Good points, Rachel and Angela. Your resume should be your talking points in an interview. Those who put things on their resume that haven’t done much with their internships and associations show it in an interview, which is what Ari described.

  7. Allie Osmar says:

    The networking opportunities through these organizations are SO important (with both students and professionals). My biggest support group in the first year of my career came from a group who had met through PRSSA (and later Young PRSA).

    I also recommend joining in on any trips or agency visits these groups take.

  8. You are absolutely right, Nick! All things that you say are very important. It’s necessary to investing in career and I tell it to students when they ask me “Why we should join Russian Public Relations Students Society (RASSO)?”

    We have similar problems – it’s expensive too, some members not active, etc. But I always say this is investment in your career, look at me, at first I was Chapter President of UCA RASSO, in three years I became Vice President of RASSO and now I have good experience in PR and interesting work. And it would be much more difficult to achieve it without RASSO and other activities.

  9. nicklucido says:

    @Allie Your story is not an uncommon one. It’s always nice to have a solid base of connections to interact with.

    @Yuri I’ve never heard of that organization, but it sounds a lot like our PRSSA. I share in similar experiences with you, even though you’re on the other side of the world!

  10. yeah, it’s the largest PR students society in Russia as PRSSA, they are very similar. And we even have some contacts with PRSSA members, they sent video message to participants of “Moscow PR Week” conference last year 🙂

    In Russia also there is Russian Public Relations Society (RASO) as PRSA.

  11. Jenni Lewis says:

    Nick,

    Thanks for pointing out my addiction to shopping. 😉 This is a great post though, and if you know me then you know that I always say that it would be to your benefit to join PRSSA.

    You are so insightful!

    Jenni

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