New Pros Week 2017

Think of your career like a garden. You’ll want to plant it in a fertile area with plenty of room to grow and access to the things it needs to thrive: sunshine and water; opportunities and professional development. You’ll need to spend some time on it, deciding what to cultivate, weeding out the unnecessary and giving it the care and attention it needs. You’ll need to fill your toolshed. Finally, consulting the experts is never a bad idea.

It sounded a bit outlandish before, right? Comparing your career to a backyard garden? But when you think about it, the fruitful, successful ones are the product of a great deal of love, sweat, time and attention. Without effort, they wither away.

This year we’ve decided to give New Pros Week a theme of its own – “Careers in Bloom: Creating a plan for career success.”

Join us August 6 through 12, 2017 as we focus on all the tools and tips you need to continue to grow your career well past your New Pro years and celebrate the things that set us apart. We’ll talk about what tools you need in your PR toolbox, discuss the importance of mentorship to build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships, and connect members from across the country as we explore the ins and outs of being a New Pro.

New Pros Week 2017’s schedule includes:

  • “Planting the seed for career-long growth” TwiChat chat – Monday, August 7 at 8 p.m.
  • “Fill Your Garden: Mentorship & making lasting connections” webinar – Wednesday, August 9 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • “Build Your Bouquet: Follow fellow New Pros” Follow Friday on Twitter – Friday, August 11
  • Social conversation around our favorite things about being a New Pro and advice from experienced pros on what they wish they knew as New Pros
  • Blog posts on topics such as:
    • “Grow where you’re planted: How to build a successful career in a new place”
    • “What’s in your toolshed: Essential tools and techniques for New Pros”
    • …and more!

Links to these programs and events will be shared across our social media channels very soon so keep an eye out and mark your calendars!

In addition to national events, New Pros Week is a great time for Chapters and Districts to celebrate their own New Pros by hosting happy hours or networking events, showcase members in blog and social media content and just generally engaging with their youngest members to highlight the great things we add to the PR field and to help us further grow and advance the profession.

Don’t forget to follow along on our social media channels and join in the conversation on Twitter using #NPPRSA and #NewProsWeek.

If you have any questions or want to get involved, please reach out to us!

Robyn & Veronica
@robyn_rl | @veronica_min |

PRSA’s New Professionals Section 2017 programming chairs

The New Pros Bucket List

Whether it’s your first day or your second year on the job, there are several ways to get the most out of your first few years after graduating. Being a new professional is exciting, eye-opening and sometimes a little intimidating. Not sure how to set yourself up for success? We’ve got a few ideas that will make a good start. Welcome to the new professionals bucket list.

1. Find Your Passions and Dig In – This is the perfect time in your career to try everything and discover what you love…and what you don’t. Raise your hand for any opportunity that comes up in the office, even if it seems like something you’d never enjoy. Ask to help the digital guru. Sit in on a brainstorm. Learn a new research software. As you experience all the avenues of our industry, you’ll discover what you’re good at and be able to passionately hone those skills. Plus, you’ll be more of an asset to the company because you’re well-rounded.

2. Sit on a Junior Board – This is something both of us are extremely passionate about – and we think you should be too! Most nonprofits are always in the market for a little pro-bono help, especially when it comes to communications. Find a charity or nonprofit that really resonates with you and see if you can volunteer, or even better, join their junior board. This is a great way to give back to your community and to meet other young professionals. If you’re not sure where to start, some cities have junior board search engines, or you can visit to find an organization perfect for you.

3. Find a Mentor – Finding a mentor in your professional life can be intimidating. Remember, acquiring a mentor may not be as daunting as you’re making it! If any of you are fans of Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” (and if you’re not, we suggest hitting up Amazon right now), you’ll remember her entire chapter on mentors. She reminds us not to “ask anyone to be your mentor,” but instead, ask people both senior and junior to you for specific advice. This could be as simple as “Can we grab coffee sometime and discuss how I can make my press releases more engaging?” By doing so, you begin fostering an organic mentor/mentee relationship.

4. Become a Mentor – Practice the flip side of No. 3. Both of us were lucky enough to have a plethora of supportive mentors while we were students, and I’m sure you did too. So, you’re a young professional now – it’s time to pay it forward! As we’ve said before, mentoring is so important to the success of your career, but so is being a mentor. You can start by reaching out to your own college or university. Do they have a mentoring program? If not, can you help start one? But, if you’re like us and moved far away from home, you can also reach out to the schools, or PRSSA Chapters, in your area.

5. Try Getting Down and Dirty – Be willing to get down and dirty and pour all your effort into your tasks. Sometimes you’ll be tasked with seemingly monotonous or menial assignments, but they’re actually the backbone of a much larger project. So, raise your hand and get excited! You’ll gain firsthand knowledge of all the small details that go into a successful project or campaign, which will make you a better leader down the road.

6. Grab Coffee with your PR Idol – Is there someone in the industry that you’ve always looked up to, but never approached? What better time than now! Senior-level people in the public relations world are almost always willing to grab coffee with a curious up and coming professional. Whether your idol is in your city or not, there is no time better than when you’re a new professional. If they are not in your city, try scheduling a time with them while you’re on vacation or a work trip. Or do the old-fashioned thing and set up a call! You will learn so much in those thirty minutes, and who knows, maybe your PR idol will turn into your PR mentor!

7. Expand Your Experience – Try a different sector of PR! This is a great way to discover what you’re passionate about and where you can learn the most. You’ll also be more qualified for serving clients from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, try working in different practice areas, even if it’s in the same office. Think you love the consumer practice? Volunteer to help with healthcare or crisis communication needs. You never know where you are most equipped!

8. Join a Speciality Networking Group – While PRSA is a great way to learn about our field, your personal education, and professional development, shouldn’t stop there. Like PR, most industries have networking groups specific to their concentration. Do you work in-house at a technology company? Join a professional tech organization. Are you in a corporate responsibility sector of a PR firm? Join a CSR networking event. These groups are a great way to dive deeper into your projects. Then you won’t only be the go-to person when it comes to communications, but you’ll also be all-knowing of your industry!

9. Attend a PRSA Event – Making the transition from college, and PRSSA, to the workforce, and PRSA, can be very intimidating at first. But, you have to take the plunge! The best way to network with other PR Young Professionals is to attend a PRSA event. Find a friend at work and ask them to attend with you. PRSA will not only make you smarter when it comes to industry trends, but it will also give you a strong network of people just like you.

10. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone – Perhaps most importantly, decide from the beginning of your career that you’re committed to growing professionally and personally. Do what scares you, whether that means moving to a new city or asking someone to lunch. You’ll never grow until you expand your viewpoint and embrace new perspectives. There isn’t just one right path in our industry, which makes the opportunities endless and the future exciting! Choose to seek those opportunities and discover what you love.

You’re only a new professional until the newness wears off. This is your chance to be the rookie, make mistakes and impress your co-workers with your fresh insight. Adding these 10 items to your bucket list (and probably a few more) will set a pattern for continued success and development throughout your career. So get going — your career is waiting.

Lindsey Young headshotLindsey Young is a May graduate of The University of Alabama, finishing her term as UA PRSSA president. During her time in PRSSA, she participated in two Bateman Case Study Competitions, attended seven nationwide PRSSA related conferences and hosted a regional conference. Along with PRSSA, she worked for her student-run firm, Capstone Agency, as a media relations specialist for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Lindsey is currently working in Chicago as the New Business Development intern for Burson Marsteller’s U.S. team.
You can usually find her looking for the best place to cheer on the Crimson Tide or catching up on Saturday Night Live. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter!

taylor-shelnuttTaylor Shelnutt graduated from The University of Alabama in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Information Sciences (Public Relations) and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. She served as the firm director of the PRSSA nationally affiliated student-run integrated communications firm, Capstone Agency, and worked directly with The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Taylor spent the past two months as a Summer Fellow at Ketchum Chicago and has loved learning the ins and outs of agency life! Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter!

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Every story is different; you can’t compare yourself to everyone else.”

This is a phrase I have heard more times than I can count over the past 15 months — a phrase that is 100 percent true.

When I graduated from college on May 1, 2015, I was feeling the way many of you might be feeling today. Or maybe you are one of those who graduated from college with the security of knowing what your next step was. If that’s you, congratulations! If that’s not you, trust me, every story and path to success is different. Here’s my story and advice for those new graduates looking for their first job:

The End of the Beginning

I remember my senior year like it was yesterday; the late nights and early mornings in Reese Phifer Hall, The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences building — my home for four years.

Perhaps you were heavily involved in extracurricular activities such as student organizations, clubs, sports, or represented your school through ambassador programs; whatever the case, you knew that you were gaining experience throughout your college years that would set you apart post-graduation.

Well, that was me. I served as vice president of PRSSA at Alabama. I had an internship at a local (Tuscaloosa, Alabama) strategic communications agency, which became a part-time job during my senior year. I was padding my resume with all of this experience, and I knew I’d have no trouble landing that first full-time job. I knew I would soon be on my way to a meaningful and successful career.

Don’t get me wrong – being involved in student organizations and having internships are two of the best ways to set yourself apart from others when searching for a job. But that’s only the first step.

Fast forward to post-graduation and what I know now: Your resume alone will not land you a job. Your resume and the impressive experience you have under your belt may only be enough to secure an interview. When you’re in the interview, you need to prove your worth and why you’re the perfect match for the job.

The Uncertainty of Post-Graduate Life

Here’s where it gets tough. Here’s where each day without a solid lead or connection for a new job induces anxiety, stress and panic.

The days started rolling by, and I still wasn’t anywhere close to landing a full-time job. I woke up each day not knowing if I’d hear good news or if I would go to bed that night with the same pessimistic mindset that I would never get out of this slump. My friends were all getting jobs, and I was batting .000, striking out with every at-bat. I’d start to doubt my abilities and worthiness and wonder why I hadn’t found a job like everyone else I graduated with. It even seemed like younger students were walking into internships with the door held open for them, and every door seemed to be shut in my face.

This is where it gets tough, but remember, every story is different.

What I know now: With every step in the right direction, you will eventually make it to your destination. My parents used to always tell me that everything would work out in the end if I stayed positive and kept working toward my goals. They were right, everything worked out. It always works out in the end.

Not Where You Want To Be

Like I said, every story is different. Fortunately, I was able to keep a post-grad, part-time job at the aforementioned strategic communications agency, but I had bigger plans. I had plans to leave the Southern comfort and hospitality that I grew up in and find my way in a city full of driven and hungry professionals.  While in Tuscaloosa, I was fortunate enough to have a boss that motivated and encouraged me to chase my dreams.

The problem: I couldn’t find any opportunity that would open doors. The solution: I had to create those opportunities.

What I know now: Creating opportunities is key. For me, it meant networking and meeting professionals who were willing to share their own advice with me. However, I met so many people during my job search that it began to seem pointless… until I met someone willing to mentor me, encourage me and support me along the way. Thanks, Patrick!

What You Need to Know Now

If someone had told me that it would take over a year after graduation to find my first job, I would have been shocked, only because we’re told early on in college that if we get involved and be proactive about gaining experience then we will be fine.

My story is different. I had to fly to different cities and schedule informational interviews. I had to make networking my full-time job. I had to knock on as many doors as possible to finally have one open. For some reason, my work experience just wasn’t getting me anywhere.

After a long year of getting my hopes up, getting rejected and getting discouraged, I am proud to finally say that I am working in sports and entertainment PR with some of the industry’s brightest and most passionate people.

So, to each and every new college graduate reading this, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Most job opportunities won’t work out — that’s fine. Don’t be discouraged with 100 rejections; it only takes one offer to outweigh all the rejections.
  2. Get out there and meet people who will share their experience and advice with you. You just might meet someone willing to mentor you and guide you along the way like I did.
  3. Never give up on your dreams — reaching your goals will never be a smooth, straight road, just keep moving forward. I finally landed the job I had been dreaming about – the journey to my job now is worth every up and down along the way.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone’s story is different, and that’s what makes it so great. So what if your classmates already have a job? Your time will come…just keep pushing forward.
  5. Enjoy 1 – 4. My friends can tell you I spent most of my job search stressed out and worried. Remember, it will work out in the end so enjoy the ride.

Today I find myself at Ketchum, more specifically, Ketchum Sports & Entertainment (KSE). Looking back, I can say that I wish I had known then what I know now — that it always works out in the end. Sometimes you just have to make it happen for yourself. So when it seems like everyone else around you is moving on, starting their careers and establishing themselves, just remember: every story is different; you can’t compare yourself to everyone else.



Doug is currently an account coordinator at Ketchum, specifically Ketchum Sports & Entertainment (KSE). He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Information Sciences, Public Relations from the University of Alabama. Connect with Doug on Twitter and LinkedIn.

New Pros Week Q&A with Pat Ford of Burson-Marsteller

Editor’s note: as part of PRSA New Professionals week, The Edge sat down with Pat Ford, Vice Chair, Burson-Marsteller for inspiration and advice.

How did you get started in PR? 

I got my start with a small public affairs firm in Washington, DC, for which I had already been doing freelance writing assignments as a side job when I was still a newspaper reporter.  I didn’t know much about PR then – and in those days (early 1980) – I didn’t ever see the kinds of amazing resources we have today for students and young professionals, such as PRSSA and the PRSA New Professionals program.  Once I joined the profession, I loved it and my enthusiasm has only grown stronger over the past 36 years!

What was your biggest challenge when you were a new professional?

The first priority was to learn all I could about how to be an effective communications professional.  Because I worked in a small firm and simply didn’t know about PRSA or other organizations from which I could have received training and met with role models/mentors, I really had to drive that process myself.  

I immersed myself in anything I could read about PR, and gained a lot from several books on PR.  One that sticks in my mind even today is a work by Edward Bernays, one of the most important pioneers in the PR profession, called Crystallizing Public Opinion.  It was written in 1923 but still resonated in the 1980s and is still worth a read today.  The other key priority was to find and enlist the help of great mentors.  I’m so grateful as I think back now about a number of individuals who invested time in my professional development and generously shared the benefits for their vast experience and insight on PR, on public policy, which was the focus of my early days in this business, and of journalism, so I could learn far beyond the limited experience I had.  

I’ll never forget those mentors and I feel a sincere responsibility to honor their selfless dedication to me and other young professionals.  That’s why I am committed to make that same kind of investment in emerging talent today – and every day of my professional life.  

What makes a new professional stand out and advance in the PR industry/to senior leaders?

Your professional persona is, in essence, your brand.  So how do we grow brand strength?  The most important factors in growing any brand are differentiation and relevance: if someone has made it through our screening process, we expect they will have had good grades in school and be smart; we assume a certain standard of writing ability; we expect they will strive to complete a task when they get an assignment; we expect they are or should be voracious consumers of news and media content from the wide range of channels available to all of us today.  Those are table stakes – everyone has to be able to demonstrate those core skills.  

What differentiates you as a young professional are the ways in which you go beyond the expected to the exceptional.  You do this by learning all you can about how business works and how your company’s (and client companies’) business works.  You do it by being proactive and looking for ways to do even the most routine task in an exceptional way, including through flawless execution.  You do it by continually enhancing and improving your writing ability and adapting it to each specific business situation.  And you do it by asking smart questions that show a keen insightful thought process.  And you do it by demonstrating passion for the mission – don’t just say you are passionate or dedicated; show it!

How can new professionals find a mentor?

If you ask them, most will come!  

To paraphrase a lyric from one of the best songs in the musical Hamilton: “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive (in PR) right now!”

  • Look around in your own office – not just your bosses, but colleagues at every level.
  • Look around in other professional settings like the PRSA, or the Plank Center for Leadership, or The LAGRANT Foundation.
  • Look around and seek out people who seem exceptional at some aspects of the business (or, if you’re lucky, all aspects of the business).  I can’t think of one who ever declined to be helpful.  Some are better than others, but all or most really want to help.  These are priceless opportunities for young professionals, but you need to make them happen.

As a whole, what areas do young professionals come in with the least amount of experience or understanding and how can they make up that ground?

Business acumen and exceptional writing ability.  I can’t emphasize these points enough. I wish I could connect with every future PR professional while they are still in their early college years and convince them to build more business and economics courses into their course loads.  They should also be reading the top business books/publications/sites to build a strong working knowledge of business trends.  It will give you an immense advantage.

Even in our new social media world that is heavily driven by video and 140-character messages, you gain a huge, differentiated advantage if you are an exceptionally talented writer.  Like any special skill, that requires a passion for excellence, a rigorous devotion to honing your skills, and practice, practice, practice.  

What is your top piece of advice for new professionals?

You have NOT reached your destination: this is the beginning of a journey that will have its biggest opportunities and benefits down the road.  These early years of your career are incredibly important for establishing a strong foundation for that journey, so think of them that way: soak up as much knowledge and experience; keep asking the right questions; look for ways to differentiate your personal brand; constantly broaden your horizons with the profession and in business generally.

FordPatrick Ford is Burson-Marsteller’s vice chairman and chief client officer. Over 27 years at B-M, he has held numerous positions including North American CEO and Asia-Pacific Chairman. Pat is a trustee of three leading PR organizations: the Institute for Public Relations; The LAGRANT Foundation; and the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. He was recognized in 2014 with the Plank Center’s prestigious Milestones in Mentoring Legacy Award. Follow Pat on Twitter @fordpat.

We <3 Being New Pros

New Pro (n)  /n(y)o͞o – prō/

  1. A public relations practitioner with five years of professional experience or less, possibly a student, aspiring PR pro or one who has recently made a career transition to public relations;
  2. A member of PRSA’s New Professionals Section;
  3. A cause for celebration!

Being new pro is an adventure in itself; full of new experiences, people and opportunities. Being a part of PRSA’s New Professionals Section amplifies all of those experiences by giving members a community in which to share their experiences, connect with other like-members and learn from each other. To kick off New Pros Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite things about being a new pro.

“Being a part of the PRSA New Professionals section has provided a network of like-minded professionals right out of college that not only allow me to tap into when I am seeking advice and best practices, but also allows me to share efforts from my local community that might save other new pros from having to recreate the wheel. In addition, this group has also provided friends that I would have otherwise never had the opportunity of meeting. The best of both worlds!” – Greg Rokisky

“The New Professionals Section has given me a sense of belonging within the PRSA organization. My favorite benefit is the opportunity I have to build relationships and to work with other professionals from diverse backgrounds, many of whom I can call friends.” – Henry Cervera Nique

“I love being part of PRSA New Pros Section for the networking and mentorship opportunities I receive. Two years into the working world, I’m still learning tons more about my specific work each day. I rely on several experienced mentors from my PRSA network who help me apply past experiences to new projects, set goals and understand the larger landscape around communications and marketing.”  – Brian Price

“After you get past the initial excitement of not having homework, I think the best part about being a new pro is going through the journey of your young 20’s. While it can be challenging, being fully independent for the first time is also very exciting. And the post-college social life is great. Happy hour to catch up with fellow new pros after a long day of hard work is the best!” – Heather Harder

“Two things to love about being a new pro: Connecting with fellow professionals across the country to learn about how to strengthen my career and taking advantage of all sorts of resources to help achieve my professional goals.” – Simon Oh

“I love being a member of PRSA New Professionals! For me, the best benefit is the spirit of mentorship within the section. We not only have the opportunity to connect with accomplished, established mentors, but we benefit from the collaborative leadership of our fellow members. Our members bring fresh perspectives to the practice of PR and communications.  We ask questions, we share our ideas, and we combine forces to advance our individual careers and the shape of PR as it evolves as a profession.” – Alyssa Stafford

“Being a part of the New Pros section has helped to make me feel like I belong within the larger PRSA organization and given me the confidence to take on a larger role in my job, in my chapter and in the section itself. Being new at something or somewhere is uncertain enough and being a part of the New Pros section helps to ease the transition from graduating, moving and changing jobs by knowing that there are other people experiencing the same things.” – Robyn Rudish-Laning

“My favorite thing about being a PRSA new pro is having a larger society full of senior, mid-level and junior professionals who are all open to connecting and giving you advice as a new professional. As I’ve progressed in my career it’s also been really rewarding to stay connected with PRSSA through the society!” – Jessica Noonan

“Getting involved in PRSA’s New Professionals section has allowed me to connect with PR pros in other industries and across the country. My favorite part about being a member is bouncing ideas off other PR pros at the same level I am (otherwise difficult if your workplace or city is small), mentorship from seasoned pros who value my involvement with PRSA, and a community that shares my passion for public relations.” – Hanna Porterfield

“I love being a new professional because I feel I have more time to truly figure out what I want to do before I settle in more. I have a lot of new opportunities with new teams and groups, and have been able to branch out more. Being a part of PRSA New Pros has allowed me to continue and strengthen the friendships and connections I made while in PRSSA.” – Lauren Gray

“When you’re just starting out in your first job, your team doesn’t know you. They don’t know your work ethic, your leadership style, etc. So naturally, they aren’t going to give you a whole lot of leadership roles until they know they can trust you. This is true no matter if you’re an intern or an entry-level employee. But for a lot of people who were active leaders in college, (shout out to PRSSA!) this can be disappointing, maybe even frustrating. You’re so ready to make your mark and show them what you’ve got! Being a member of New Pros has provided me with opportunities to lead outside of my office. I’ve been able to further my leadership development through the section so that now, when I have the trust of my co-workers, I can be a better leader in the office and take on those leadership roles I aspire to.” – Jenna Mosley

“PRSA New Pros provides a strong support system when challenges arise. I’m grateful to be a member of this group because I know I can rely on experienced professionals for guidance in tough situations.” – Seth Kingdon

“My favorite part of being a new pro is the ability to experiment, to take risks, to explore, to discover new things. As new pros—as young people—we have that ability to change what we’re doing very rapidly without much consequence. To take a new career path, to try a different industry, to try corporate and then agency, followed by you name it.” – Ben Butler