By Emma Ingram

 

This post is part of the Conference Series, where 2016 PRSSA National Conference attendees from AU PRSSA reflect on the lessons they learned from the conference’s events and panels. Click here for more conference blogs.

 

On the second day of the PRSSA National Conference, I got the opportunity to attend the second annual Fireside Chat with former PRSA presidents, Cheryl Procter-Rogers (’06) and Reed Bolton Byrum (’03). During this intimate, limited seating session, students were able to ask these former PRSA presidents absolutely anything. After giving an overview of their successful careers, Rogers and Byrum opened the floor up to questions. Below are some of the questions asked as well as their responses to them.

 

“How do we (as students) deal with early competition in our careers? How do we get over mental barriers we may have?”

Start working as soon as possible in college. By doing internships and getting real world experience, you are already getting ahead of others. Internships allow you to start building your network-which is very important in this field. Also, learn how to take in criticisms because doing so will help you learn more about yourself and become a stronger professional. Realize that every step you make will make a difference in your career no matter how big/small, or positive/negative that step is. Don’t care about the competition; instead focus on your values and what attributes make you great in this field. Don’t accept the word “No” either. When told that something can’t be done, ask why it can’t be done. Try and prove people wrong by taking on a project that someone said no to. One quote that really stuck with me from this session was when Mr. Byrum said, “You stand out by speaking up”.

 

“How do you (Carol and Reed) see the PR field changing in the next ten years? How can we (as students) prepare ourselves for that change?”

Recognize that although the baby boomer generation is getting older, they are still going to work-just not as much. Cheryl said, “I really believe that 70 is the new 40 nowadays!” This is an opportunity for our generation to learn how to communicate well across these older generations. We may come across having to work with baby boomers at some point in our careers so knowing how they prefer to work will be important towards building a successful relationship with them. One thing that our generation is really good at is our use of technology. We are going to need to continue to learn for the rest of our lives. This means being flexible as well as adapting to things, such as technology. Recognizing and performing strong leadership skills will also be crucial.

 

“How do we (as students) figure out if we want to work in house or in an agency?”

Focus on the environment that you want to live and work in. The best way to do this is to take on internships in both areas. It may take time to figure out which one is better for you, and that’s okay. Some people go back and forth between agency life and in house work and that is okay as well. It all comes down to knowing what kind of culture you like and prefer to work in.

 

“How do we (as students) find a mentor?”

Finding a mentor should happen as naturally as possible. You should devote twenty minutes every week to researching some PR professionals online and learning as much about their careers as you can. This will open your minds to the types of paths there are in career and may help you discover people with similar interests as you. You also don’t have to stick to people in the PR field. Finding a mentor in another communications field can be just as beneficial as a mentor in the PR field. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people from your internship or work and have coffee with them because this can be the first step in finding a mentor.