Editor’s note: This is part of our monthly #ThrowbackThursday series, which features a prominent, successful PR pro taking a look back and sharing tips from his/her days as a new pro.
Miss Universe President Paula Shugart has made her way from San Diego, to Athens, Ohio, to Los Angeles and eventually found her way to New York City. How does one build a successful career and a solid group of connections while hopping coast to coast?
We dug into some of the best advice from Paula for new professionals looking to make a splash and build their network:
Question 1: What was the best piece of advice you received from a mentor as a young professional?
The one thing that has always always stuck in my head was from a woman producer that hired me in 1986 for her show. She was great to work with, so I wanted her advice. She told me, “you can’t do anything for me, but always pay it forward. There’s going to be an opportunity in your life when you’re going to be able to help others. When that opportunity comes up, you’ve got to pay it forward.” That piece of advice has really stuck with me and it’s why I started the internship program with Miss Universe.
Question 2: When moving across country or to a new city, how did you build relationships in an unknown environment?
I moved around so much as a kid since my father was in the Navy that I think it was in my DNA of having to get used to a new place and meet new people. When I went back to LA after attending school at Ohio University, I really just had to suck it up and be fearless. I was panicked moving back since I was so focused on getting a job, but I reached out to my few connections I had from Ohio University. When it came down to it though, I was going door-to-door at the studio lots and just trying to get in and meet people – even though I was scared to death!
I made it a point to put myself out there to meet people and that’s how I got my first job. I took a receptionist position working with Kevin Bright just to get my foot in the door – little did I know he would go on to produce “Friends”! This was a starting point, and from there I started making more connections through friends of friends and building my network within the entertainment industry.
Question 3: What are some of the best methods of keeping in touch with connections?
There’s a lot of people I lost contact with over the years, but I’ve tried to keep in touch via social media, especially friends who are my age on Facebook! I can think of one friend who I started out in the industry with 30 years ago and hadn’t seen since then, but we re-connected on Facebook and it was just like the 30 years had never gone by!
Since I work closely with the intern program at Miss Universe, I love hearing from our past interns. It could be as simple as an email saying hello and sharing what’s going on in their life. I can think of one of our first interns who reached out to me about moving to LA and looking for work. She was about living the same experience I did in the early eighties, and I was able to make some connections for her in the city. It all goes back to the woman 30 years ago telling me to pay it forward.
Question 4: What advice would you give to today’s young professionals?
Really be fearless. Take the risk or take the challenge – what’s the worst that’s going to happen? Step outside your comfort zone and really push yourself; I could not have been more uncomfortable stepping into this position with Miss Universe. You’re never going to regret the things you attempted or the things you did, but you will regret an opportunity you didn’t take.
More about Paula:
With more than 30 years of experience in the television industry, Paula M. Shugart has been a driving force in entertainment television production for domestic and international audiences. As president of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO), and producer of the MISS UNIVERSE®, MISS USA®, and MISS TEEN USA® pageants, Paula oversees all business transactions and is responsible for the production of the live, worldwide telecasts each year. She is also a mentor and role model to the company’s three title holders as they travel the globe as spokeswomen for several charitable alliances on behalf of MUO.