BY: KARA NORTH
On the evening of November 10th, PRSSA-UD held their annual “Night with the Pros”. Three Blue Hen alum served as panelists and over twenty eager UD students awaite advice, there was no better place to meet than Main Street’s iconic Klondike Kate’s. Steaming hot coffee, snack-sized horderves, and a normally bustling atmosphere hushed for the evening welcomed our four panelists: Kutztown grad Sara Brace (social media specialist at SEOM Interactive) and UD Alum Joy Diebert (press officer at Philadelphia Museum of Art), Kristen Van Iderstine (communications manager at Philadelphia Soul), and PRSSA-UD’s own Keri Betters (community coordinator at The Archer Group).
The hour and a half long event was packed with pro-tips and advice in working in social media, media relations, public relations and professionalism in general. The following ten best practices were echoed and emphasized by our four panelists:
- Never underestimate the importance of writing. Writing will likely be a daily requirement with any position related to communication. It is essential to create a strong writing portfolio as a student so potential employers can see the work you’ve done. Once employed, it is critical to know your audience and understand that you may need to adjust your voice depending on who you are trying to reach. For example, Kristen’s writing drastically shifts when she is reaching out to those unfamiliar with arena football compared to those who are Soul superfans.
- Understand the vernacular. In addition to strong writing skills, you will need equally strong speaking abilities. Follow companies within the industry you are most interested in on social media so that you can begin to learn their jargon.
- Under-promise, over-deliver. Be a go-getter and make the initiative to jump on new tasks and projects. Similarly, be aware of deadlines and don’t only meet them, but give yourself an earlier mental deadline so your assignment is ready to go should your boss need it sooner than expected.
- Be ready to back up anything you include on your resume. You will be asked about it (even that one small job you included at the bottom of the page) during the interview process.
- Use personal social media accounts to your advantage. We have been told time and time again to clean up personal social media. Take it a step further and use social media as an extension of yourself and strengthen your personal brand. As SEOM Interactive’s Sara says, “social media is a microphone for everyone”. This will allow employers to see a glimpse of your personality and show them that you know how to use each platform effectively.
- Start the job search early and ask for feedback. The more interview experience you get, the better. These professionals can be a great resource for providing feedback and suggestions on improving your resume.
- To seniors: have fun, but remain focused. Make the most of your senior year by making connections and remaining in contact with them after you graduate. Realize that your schedule is going to change once you transition into the professional world and prepare for it.
- Don’t leave the office just because you can. Don’t run out the door as soon as the workday is over. Instead, stay extra hours and ask coworkers and higher ups what you can help with and get started on future projects. Your dedication in the office will not go unnoticed. However, your boss will also notice if you are dragging out projects that should be completed in a shorter amount of time. Find a balance.
- Be authentic and show your true passion for the industry. Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Joy Diebert believes “true passion shines through.”
- Don’t slack off once you’ve secured the internship or job. Succeeding on paper and in the interview are only the first steps. Continue to work hard and reflect the skills you included on your resume throughout your time as an intern and employee. Learn from your coworkers and expand your skill set.
As young professionals in an ever changing, fast paced field, our panelists have undoubtedly faced some challenges. However, they offered some beneficial advice on how to handle such instances. According to former PRSSA-UD Exec Board member Keri, “challenges are not negative”. There is an opportunity to learn and grow with every situation PR professionals face. To combat the occasional creative blocks social media specialist Sara faces as a one-person department, collaboration is key. Although she is solely in charge of her company’s social media presence, she has found that her work is made stronger when combined with public relations and often asks her coworkers for feedback. Working for Philadelphia’s champion arena football team presents a similar challenge for Kristen, who is tasked with maintaining social media engagement throughout the team’s offseason. One way she succeeds in doing so is finding alternative ways to present the content so that it never appears repetitive. In response to any challenge that is likely to arise in the professional world, our panelists agreed that one thing is essential: always have solutions. Never present the problem as an obstacle, rather approach it with a means of resolution.
The night concluded with a discussion on company “fit”. The ideal work environment is different for everyone. Regardless of whether it’s your coworkers, clients, the location, or overall environment that draws you to a company, you must find something that makes you excited to go to work every day. For Keri, The Archer Group’s “work hard, play hard” mantra is what first attracted her to the company. Her advice is to pay attention to where the employee’s desks are set up in the office space during office tours and visits. Are they hidden in cubicles or spread in an open layout? Observe what the employees are doing. Are they keeping to themselves, ears plugged with headphones or speaking to one another? You can also find out about a company’s work environment by asking your interviewer their favorite part of the job. You will be able to tell whether or not they are genuinely excited about it and determine if you will be too. Sometimes, you have to try a position at a new company to really get a feel for whether or not you will love working there.
Night with the Pros left PRSSA-UD’s members feeling more prepared to take on an internship and begin the process of searching for a career after graduation. Thank you to all of our panelists!
Kara North is a junior mass communication major with a minor in writing. She serves on the PRSSA-UD executive board as program director. She is a Social Media Ambassador on her UD-branded Twitter account @BlueHenKara, producer for STN49’s “Hens Sports Night” and videographer and editor for the weekly ISLL Speaker Series “New Connections”. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn!