The 3 Best Nuggets of Wisdom from Graduation

DID YOU KNOW (1)It’s graduation season again, which for many of us new PR pros, brings back nostalgic memories of communication classes, senior year internships and fun weekends with college friends. While it’s easy to get caught up in our busy list of client deliverables and hectic calendar, it’s important to take a step back from the grind to gain perspective from those who are more accomplished and seasoned.

The following graduation speeches resonate with me, even as a young professional, and include many nuggets of wisdom applicable to PR pros.

1. Maria Shriver, University of Southern California’s Annenberg School, Commencement Ceremony 2012

“I hope if you learn anything from me today…you remember the power of the pause. Pausing today and throughout your entire life allows you to take a breath…to take a beat…to be in the moment. As everybody else is running around out there like a lunatic, I dare you to do the opposite.”

This speech is fantastic, and tailored specifically to communication professionals-to-be. Shriver talks about our world’s obsession with the next thing, and failure to enjoy the present. PR pros are by nature, fast-moving, outcome-driven individuals.

While ambition and a forward-thinking mindset set you up for success, mindfulness is so important in both our personal and professional lives. If you don’t pause to enjoy the present, you will burn out, and run through your life and career in a daze. It’s important to structure your time to create room for pausing.

Stop obsessing about your next project, client, or promotion, and just enjoy where you are at the moment. There’s a quote that I love, “Wherever you are, be all there” (Jim Elliot). Put down your phone, turn off email for the night, log out of social media – and enjoy your present.

2. Sutton Foster, Ball State University Commencement, 2012

“No job should be too small for you. Say yes. Get coffee for people, run errands, make an impression as a hard worker, someone who is willing…and when the opportunity arises for you to show people what you got, show ‘em. Who knows what can happen.”

Great advice for new PR pros. Entry-level PR work isn’t always the most glamorous or fun, despite what non-PR pros believe. Within your first year at a PR job, you will likely need to act as a photographer’s assistant at an event, jotting down names. You will spend hours researching media lists, and completing basic research in general. You may even need to wear a client mascot costume at a media event.

By volunteering to do the grunt work that no one else wants to do, and stepping in as a team player, your coworkers will appreciate you, and it will ultimately advance you more quickly. Working hard and being kind does make a difference, and it’s easy enough to put into practice at work.

3. Judy Smith – Boston University College of Communication Convocation 

I’m a bit biased here – this was my College of Communication graduation speech. It’s not the most polished speech, but it spoke to me two years ago as a fresh college grad, and speaks to me today as a PR new pro.

Smith’s first piece of advice is, “Be prepared…you don’t really know when opportunity is going to appear.” Simple, but so true. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I would be where I am today. Almost all of my friends would say the same for their careers. Seizing opportunity and readjusting plans accordingly is such an important skill.

Smith also advises, “You’re going to make mistakes. Learn from them; don’t feel like you have to know it all.” New PR pros are motivated and hardworking, but have a lot to learn. I hate making mistakes, and take great care to avoid them. But I’ve grown the most professionally from the few mistakes I have made in my career. Own up to your mistakes, and grow from them. Hopefully, like me, you are in a work environment that embraces this mentality and supports you as you grow professionally.

If you’re looking for more grad speech inspiration, NPR has curated the best commencement speeches here – you can search by themes, speaker name, school or year.

Do you have a favorite grad speech, or applicable words of wisdom? Comment below!

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 11.23.51 PMLauren Leger graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in communication, concentrating in public relations. She started her career while still in college at Boston-based PR firm, Zazil Media Group. Lauren relocated to Dallas, Texas in fall of 2014 and began working at The Power Group as a PR account executive. She recently took on a new role as Power’s manager of digital strategy, where she brings her PR expertise to the digital realm of the business. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

4 Tips for Building a Strong Professional Portfolio

Preparing for job interviews can be more than a little intimidating, and it’s probably no surprise to you that one of the major intimidation factors can be getting your portfolio together.

4 Tips for Building a Strong Professional PortfolioIf you don’t have a portfolio yet, you’re going to need one. Portfolios are the best way to show that you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Gathering the work you’re most proud of showcases your abilities and skills for future employers to assess.

Strong portfolios can come in a variety of types and sizes, and it’s up to you to decide what you think is best. If you’re just getting started or looking to revamp your portfolio, first decide what kind of portfolio you want:

Online vs. In Print

Online portfolios are great tools to impress future employers and get your foot in the door. There are plenty of free portfolio sites and website building resources like Weebly or WordPress that can make the creation process simple and maybe even fun.

An online portfolio can even add some personality to your name based on your site’s style and content. If they like what they see, it could be the reason you get called in for an interview. Or, they could just like the fact that you put the time and effort into creating a website.

A physical portfolio could also be the perfect tool for you. Your employers or clients may not want a marketing plan or social media report featured on your website for the world to see. That’s when a print portfolio can be handy as it will stay between you and the interviewer. Personally, I found it useful to have samples in front of me to share during the interview.

For example, when asked about my media relations experience, I can pull out a copy of my best newspaper or online placement. Bringing a physical portfolio is ensuring that the interviewer will see it because they may not have taken the time to check your online portfolio.

Quantity vs. Quality

Some professionals would say gather all of your work into a huge portfolio, but many others would say that you should just bring your top pieces of work. And again, it’s up to you.

Fresh out of college, I wanted to be prepared for any job responsibility they could ask me about, whether it be social media, writing, marketing plans or media relations. Therefore, I gathered all of my materials into a large portfolio binder separated into categories by tabs. I would easily navigate through my portfolio during the interview to pull out examples relevant to their questions and the job responsibilities. Organization is key with this approach.

A large portfolio can be overwhelming and intimidating, which is why some of you may prefer a smaller portfolio. Some interviewers even prefer it and may just ask to just see your top three to five pieces. In this case, it is easier to focus on the quality of your work as opposed to the variety.

Now that you have your options laid out, here are some tips for creating and using a strong portfolio:

  1. Think of anything and everything. To begin, gather all of your great work into one place. If you made it, wrote it or thought of it, put it in. Then choose your best pieces. You can always take it out later if you change your mind. Just make sure you have the portfolio essentials.
  2. If you’re going to do it, do it well. Don’t take shortcuts. After putting effort into it, you do not want to ruin all of your hard work because you got lazy. A little typo could tell a future employer that you aren’t careful or detail-oriented. This is especially true for websites. If you can’t put together a visually appealing website, it may not be worth doing at all.
  3. Don’t be shy about it. Not every interviewer is going to ask to see your portfolio or even samples of work. After putting effort into making it, be sure to show it off when you can. Try to work examples into your answers. For online portfolios, add a link to the bottom of your resume, email signature or Twitter profile.
  4. Leave behind some examples. If you’re showing off something long and detailed like a writing sample, the interviewer likely won’t read through the whole thing during the interview. Consider printing a few extra copies of your favorite pieces that seem most relevant to the position to leave something behind. I usually put two pieces and an extra copy of my resume into a folder or clear slip and hand it to them at the end of my interview for them to keep. It’s a great way to make sure your work gets their attention.

There’s always more than one right way to do things, and your portfolio is no different. It’s just one of the many ways you can stay competitive in your job hunt. Decide what works best for your work and preferences, commit to it and dive right in.

Christine Kappesser Christine Kappesser is an assistant account executive at Wordsworth Communications, a public relations agency in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Strategic Communications and minors in Marketing and Design. Connect with Christine on Twitter (@ChristineMaeK).

5 Ways to Build a Network and Apply For Jobs in a New City

When my boyfriend got a new job in Connecticut and we decided to journey to CT together, I had never been to CT until the night I moved in. I moved all the way from Atlanta, GA, to Stamford, CT, and knew no one in the area.

5 Ways to Build a Network and Apply For Jobs in a New CityI had a little less than a month’s notice until we were moving, but I started to apply to jobs right away. Here are my best tips for networking and applying for jobs in a brand new city:

1. Research companies in the area you’re moving and apply for entry-level jobs with up to five years of experience.

In Stamford, GE, Philips, Conair, Reuters, NBC and many more companies have large presences. Although I didn’t get a job at one of those places, I applied to all of them and even interviewed with one. It helped me get a feel for the area.

The job I did end up getting listed 1-3 years of experience and I’ve recently found that I’m eligible for jobs that say up to 5 years of experience and companies are often flexible with that part of the job posting.

2. Research and inquire about local groups that fall within your passions and interests.

For me, I was really excited to find a local young democrats group and meet new people. I inquired about their meetings and went to one of their meetings shortly after I arrived.

There are so many different local groups for running, intramurals, religion, animal rescue and much more you can find and join. It helps to network and make friends with people you share interests with when you move to a new city.

3. While you’re in the process of moving, take time to apply to jobs and interview for them.

Although I wasn’t in the area, I offered to Skype in for interviews or interview in-person once I arrived. Sometimes it can take many weeks to find a job and it helps to get ahead of the application process before you move since moving itself takes up a lot of time.

I also found the interviewers really appreciated my openness and flexibility with doing Skype interviews or waiting until I arrived.

4. Find and join your local PRSA Chapter.

I knew that I was probably going to get a job in New York City and immediately joined the PRSA New York Chapter as well. I got involved with the new professionals committee within the Chapter and met a lot of new people through networking events in the city.

Use the PRSA website to find and join your local PRSA Chapter and inquire about any upcoming new professionals activities.

5. Make friends with co-workers and others who work close to your office.

Some of the best friends I’ve made worked in offices pretty close to mine and I do hang out with co-workers outside of work sometimes. I know opinion varies on making friends with co-workers, but that decision is up to you and co-workers can be great friends especially if you’re new to the area.

If you’re at the local coffee shop and see the same person or people every day, say hi and find out what they do and where they work!

So while moving to a new city can seem a little intimidating, it’s also full of opportunity and provides an extraordinary amount of growth for you personally and professionally.

Have any other tips to share? Please post them below!

Lauren GrayLauren Gray is currently a Project Director with local creative agency The Visual Brand in Stamford, CT. She also serves as a PRSSA Liaison co-chair on the PRSA New Professionals Section executive committee. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn

Staying Competitive During the Job Hunt

Did You KnowThe process of applying for jobs can be overwhelming whether you’re a recent college graduate or a professional transitioning to a new role in an entirely different industry. As a college senior, it was very easy to feel defeated after applying to a number of jobs and not receiving positive feedback from the other end.

Juggling work as a full-time student, intern and hunting for a post-grad job was stressful. However, I eventually saw the light at the end of the tunnel when I received my job offer, and realized that my motivation stemmed from a deep understanding of my goals and maintaining my drive. Although applying for jobs can be a dreaded task, there are several strategies you can keep yourself competitive and motivated during the search:

1. Continue Gaining Experience. If you’re not employed while seeking a new position, it can be difficult for employers and recruiters to gain a serious interest in you. As frustrating as it sounds, you oftentimes need experience to gain experience. In order to practice the skills required for your dream job and continuing to build your resume, think about volunteering or interning while applying to jobs.

Volunteering for a non-profit whose cause you are genuinely passionate about is a great starting point to apply your skills. Interning for a startup or small consulting group in addition to guest blogging on relevant topics can also provide relevant experience.

2. Learn New Skills. For some candidates, transitioning to a completely different industry presents a challenge of proving to a recruiter or hiring manager that you have the right skill set to meet their needs. To overcome this, take advantage of workshops, seminars and boot camps that provide immersive crash courses in your field of interest. Check out free resources such as blogs, LinkedIn publications and online journals as well.

For more technical skill building, it’s helpful to watch videos either on YouTube or other subscription-based services. By showing that you’re committed to immersing yourself in a new industry, hiring managers will have a better chance of seeing you as a competitive candidate.

3. Stay Inspired. Like millions of people out there in the world, I have a list of ten dream companies that I hope to work for in my lifetime. From this list, I search for the roles I’m interested in at each company, and then do a bit of research on LinkedIn regarding the people who are in that particular department and the experience and skills needed for the position.

This effort truly motivates me to continue working towards my ultimate “dream job”. This could also potentially develop great leads and introductions via LinkedIn with people you would like to have informational interviews with to discuss your interests.

4. Network and Make New Contacts. Using referrals and connections is a great way to get your foot in the door of a company and get a chance at landing an interview. If you don’t have a wide network of contacts or are trying to gain contacts in a new industry, you can utilize LinkedIn, personal relationships and networking events to start building your connections.

On LinkedIn, you’re able to showcase your achievements and experience and reach out to the recruiters and directors of the department at the company you’re interested in. Here, you have the chance to introduce yourself and also ask for advice on how someone got to where they are now. Don’t forget to take it offline, though. Networking events, informational interviews and career fairs are great resources to make a personal connection with recruiters.

5. Set Measurable Goals. Project management can definitely apply to the process of applying for jobs. Organization, prioritization and time management are key to staying sane in this process. These elements all aid in the tracking of applications and interviews you have lined up.

With other tasks outside of only applying for jobs, it is important to set measurable goals. For example, it can be a very realistic goal to apply to three to five jobs a week depending on your other priorities, while dedicating the rest of your free time to attending networking events and learning new skills. Setting these reachable goals also prevent you from getting burnt out. Rather than doing too much to the point that you get discouraged, it’s beneficial to pace yourself especially in a stressful time like finding a new job.

What else have you done when applying for a new job? 

Jenelle YeeJenelle Yee graduated from the University of Nevada with a bachelor’s degree in finance. Upon completing her degree, she relocated to Austin, Texas for a role in internal audit at a technology company. She has written pieces for Intern Queen Inc. and Lauren Berger Inc., providing career and internship advice to young professionals.

Eight Ways to Transition to the “Real” World

IN TO THEFor many soon-to-be young professionals, the most highly anticipated (and somewhat dreaded) day of their scholastic career is quickly approaching. The weeks leading up to graduation are a blur. Between finals, awards ceremonies and saying, “goodbyes,” to friends, there is hardly any time to fully process what is going on.

Whether you plan on continuing your education, traveling or entering the workforce after graduation, the so-called “real” world is no longer a distant rumor. So, how do you move on from the cram sessions and grow accustomed to this new chapter?

I reached out to some fellow recent graduates, and we put our heads together to identify the best ways to ease the transformation from being a college student to a young professional.

1. Embrace Your Free Time. One of the greatest things about graduating is that you no longer have homework. Suddenly, you have more free time than you know what to do with. Use it wisely. Revisit old hobbies. Take on new hobbies. Get a Netflix account.

2. Everyone Transitions Differently. Keep in mind that goals take time, and everyone lands in a different place after graduation (Click to Tweet!).Avoid comparing yourself to what your friends are doing or where you think you should be by now.

3. Shake it off. You will make mistakes. It’s the only way to learn. Own it. Tell your supervisor. Find a solution, and move on. Chances are you won’t make that mistake again.

4. Get Involved. After college, I started coaching a softball team. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I wanted to do something to immerse myself in the community. I have learned more about myself as a leader, and I am having so much fun in the process. Enjoying activities outside of work also helps you to live a more balanced life.

5. Take Advantage of Opportunities. Many employers offer great programs and benefits to help you develop as a professional and grow with the company. I’ve found mentorship programs, in particular, to be invaluable.

6. Be an Expert at Something. As you become more comfortable with your work as a public relations professional, start thinking about what interests you the most. Then, make it your mission to get really good at it.

7. Join an Industry Organization and Stick With It. Organizations like the Public Relations Society of America allow you to meet leaders in your field and learn from them. They give you a chance to practice your craft outside of work. Industry groups are also a great way to start building your professional network.

8. Hang Onto Your Inner College Kid. The college lifestyle doesn’t necessarily have to end when college does. When nostalgia sinks in, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a bowl of ramen and catching up with your buddies from school.

It’s not easy to adjust to an entirely new lifestyle after college, but these pointers have helped me transition to the “real” world. Do you have additional tips and tricks for recent grads this spring? Leave them in the comments section!

Callie TurgeonCallie Turgeon graduated from Gonzaga University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations, with a concentration in promotions and entrepreneurial leadership. She is currently an account associate at MSLGROUP, where she works mostly with commodity food accounts. Connect with her on LinkedIn.