My Tips for a Dramatic Career Change: A Three-Part Series

What did you want to be when you were in grade school?

As a high schooler, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was a timid student, but my teachers took notice of my voice and tone in my assignments. I read music blogs voraciously. I thought I would become a music journalist after college. Long story short, I didn’t become one. I joined the military. An officer in my squadron persuaded me to go back to school and finish my degree. There were a lot of ups and downs in my working life. Then the pandemic left me at a crossroads. I had to figure out fast what my next move would be. At the end of 2021, I scored the opportunity of a lifetime, a paid position at one of the top public relations firms in the country, working in their advocacy department.

Now that I’m a PR professional, I am excited to share the first three tips I’ve learned during my journey.

Pick Your Target Before anything else, this must be done. If you want to be somewhere else, this is the beacon to guide you there. Knowing precisely what you want and where you’re going will keep you focused and motivated to persevere. Find some free time and create a list of your hobbies, anything you enjoy. Think about what you’re good at. Have you always been excellent at providing customer service or managing money? This is the time to acknowledge it—research what job titles or industries would likely fit the items on your list. For example, if you like gardening, you could be a copywriter at a company that produces plants and seeds or write for a gardening magazine. When I created my list, something that stuck out to me was that I enjoyed helping others. So working for a nonprofit was a no-brainer for me.  

Know Your Story I picked up an excellent tip from the book U-Turn by Ashley Stahl. In a networking chapter, she talked about an encounter where a guest speaker at her college asked her peers who came up to him after class, “What’s your story?” One by one, she noticed how other students stumbled with this question until another student quickly gave her motivations for pursuing a particular career and why. She realized how vital it is to have a story or even a personal mission statement. Find a way to mention your strengths. 

I usually state this:

I was in the Air Force reserves for six years; although I worked as a maintainer, I grew an interest in the work of public affairs personnel on my base. While in school, I worked as a technical writer for two companies. I learned how to deal with fast deadlines but found out the field wasn’t a good fit. The pandemic happened, and I had to reassess what I wanted with my life. I knew I had an interest in helping others, which led me to work for an agency on their public affairs advocacy team. 

How would you introduce yourself at a networking event or to a potential employer? You never know who could help you along the way, so be prepared. 

Become a Volunteer Now that you know what you want to be, you need the opportunities to emulate it. The best way to gain familiarity in your chosen field is to make yourself available. You’d be surprised at the amount of organizations and entrepreneurs out there needing creative or administrative help. I was lucky enough to find an internship with a respected national nonprofit. It did not pay, but it confirmed the industry was for me, and I secured recommendations from my coworkers. Of course, bills come first, but if you can set aside some time for something like that or even a short-term project, It’s well worth it.

Now that we’ve finished talking about where to start, come back next month, when I’ll share with you the meat of the process, gaining the knowledge, and revamping your resume.

About: Mikayla Pryor was born and bred in Charleston, SC. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia working for Berlin Rosen on the New York Public Affairs Advocacy team. She is also the Blog Chair for the PRSA National New Pros Committee. Her hobbies include studying aerial hoop, watching anime, and feeding her beagle mix too many treats.

Three Ways to Get Involved With Your Local PRSA Chapter


Graduation is around the corner and the job search is on! But what happens after you secure your first gig? It is important to stay involved in professional organizations like PRSA even after graduation for continued professional development and networking. Here are three ways that you can get involved in your local PRSA chapter:


A great way to get involved with your local chapter is to join the board. This allows you to plan the best year yet for the local chapter. Whether you want to be the historian or happy hour coordinator (like me), you are in a space where you can contribute ideas on programming and network closely with like-minded individuals.

  1. Be Hands On

If you’re not ready to be a board member yet, volunteering is a great way to start getting involved. There are fundraising events, award ceremonies and networking mixers that need planning and support. Contact your local chapter to see how you can play a part.

  1. Show Up!

Beth Lamb, Chief Marketing Officer at Ronald McDonald House Fort Worth (TX) said “it can be very easy to get involved with your local chapter, and the easiest way is to simply attend chapter programming. Get to know your fellow members and leadership board through the various events. If you are ready to serve the chapter, ask. Boards always love to know who is ready and willing to fill committee chairs. If your schedule does not allow you to do more than attend programs, offer your ideas on luncheon topics or event programming.”

PRSA is a great way to enrich your professional life through networking and career development. “Plus, your involvement, no matter the level, is important to your growth and the growth of your local chapter,” said Lamb. Find your local chapter today at PRSA

By – Jade Fails

Jade Fails is a Baylor University public relations graduate. She is currently the Marketing Administrator at The Shops at Clearfork in Fort Worth, TX. 

Managing Up: What Does That Even Mean?

Stat: 85% of millennial managers worldwide have moved into management in the past five years (Ernst & Young).

Coming from a new professional classified as a millennial, and who recently moved into a management position last year, this is a terrifying daunting statistic.

Making the transition from an early-staged new professional to a mid-level new professional can happen before you even realize. Nonetheless, you still must be prepared as you make this transition to set yourself up for success (and ensure minimal stress-induced sugar binges).

What could this new transition include . . .

Overseeing staff? Say what?

Giving hard feedback instead of only receiving it? You’ve crossed the line, Greg!

Managing up? What does that even mean?

These are all questions we have to face as we produce solid work and move up the professional ladder, whether we’re ready or not. Let’s focus on the last of those three facets of mid-level new professionalism: managing up.

I was fortunate enough to deliver a presentation at 2017’s PRSA International Conference with two of my fellow colleagues (“colleagues” is what you say when you’ve transitioned into mid-level new professionalism, by the way) from the PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee. The topic in which we delivered captivating content to our session attendees? You guessed itmanaging up.

I’ll let you look over the presentation on your own time HERE (there are some pretty interesting stats and tips in there), but I want to pull out two main points:

  1. Managing up, the act of managing upwards to your superiors, is not something that’s often taught outside of real-world experience (and even that’s if you’re lucky).
  2. When done well, managing up takes foresight, strong two-way communication and a grounded perspective.

“But Greg, you say it’s only taught in the real world? I’m in dire need of this skill; where can I learn more?!”

Well, I just happen to know of the perfect event to recommend and it’s coming up next Wed., Jan. 24 from 3 – 4 p.m. EST in the form of a virtual teleseminar!

This session, PRSA New Pros’ first of the year and entitled Maximize Your Career Potential by Learning to Manage Up, will be presented by Scott W. Thornburg, APR.

This session is a crash course on managing up and you’ll end being armed with tangible takeaways! I met Scott last October and I’m so excited to hear what advice he’ll be offering attendees. Needless to say, I’ll be showing up with my Do Not Disturb active on my phone and the door shut to my office (no distractions, you know, as a mid-level new professional you’re now being pulled in 200 different directions both upward and downward).


So register, buckle up and get ready for a worthwhile learning experience to rock your mid-week next Wednesday.

With that kind of hype, how could you not register?



Greg works full-time as the Marketing Manager for the Michigan Association of School Boards, as well as a freelance creative services consultant. With several years of strategic communications experience, he specializes in digital and creative marketing and public relations. His experience spans agency, corporate and nonprofit arenas. He serves as the social media co-chair for both the New Professional and Association/Nonprofit PRSA sections. When he’s procrastinating not working he enjoys pretending he’s Twitter famous @GregRokisky and checking off items on his never-ending Goodreads shelves.

How My Graduate Degree is Advancing My PR Career

Editor’s Note: As part of our month-long topic on continuing education we’ve touched on the APR, Tools for New Pros and other professional development. Today, we’re interviewing members of PRSA’s New Professionals section that have completed some form of higher education or are in midst of earning their graduate degree, with an end goal of advancing their public relations career.

Meet our panelists and their earned or in-progress graduate degree:

Lindsay Moeller
Master of Education in Higher Education (Student Affairs), Iowa State University

Simon Oh
Master of Science in Transportation Management (administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute), San Jose State University

Brian Price
Master’s in Public Administration, Northern Michigan University

Robyn Rudish-Laning
Master of Science in Media Arts & Technology (focus in Creative Media Practices), Duquesne University

Alyssa Stafford
M.A. Journalism and Mass Communication (concentration in Health Media and Communication), University of Georgia

What made you decide to go to graduate school?

LM: First, I love school. Second, I knew I would need to get a graduate degree in order to pursue a career in Student Affairs.

SO: To prepare myself for a greater role in transportation, potentially managing a team, department or an entire organization within the business.

BP: I decided to stay at NMU after graduating with a bachelor’s because I had a graduate assistantship opportunity. I worked as a G.A. in NMU’s communications office both years. I couldn’t turn down the discounted tuition, stipend and relevant work experience (and faculty lot parking pass!) so I’d advise anyone looking at grad school full time to research G.A. opportunities. I thought about an MBA but lacked prerequisites for multiple classes and ultimately decided to build on my communications background by applying it to public administration and policy.

RRL: It was a perfect storm of things. When I finished my undergraduate degree in 2011, jobs were hard to find and I had had some internships, but nothing that turned into a real full-time lead. I didn’t feel like I had a completely firm grasp on what I wanted to do, besides work in PR, (I understand now that no one actually has it all figured out.), but I didn’t want to move back home to figure it out either. I knew that I would have better opportunities to gain experience in Pittsburgh and I had already begun to develop connections out there from my undergraduate work. It just so happened that my alma mater, Duquesne, also offered 25 percent off of graduate degree tuition for particular programs, mine included, to alumni. So in August 2011, I packed everything up and moved back up to Pittsburgh to pick right back up where I left off in May.

AS: My bachelor’s degree is in creative writing, and I ended up in a job where I was doing sales and marketing. When I discovered public relations, I knew I wanted to make the switch, but I had no idea where to start. I decided to get my master’s in PR, thinking a formal education was what I needed to make the transition. It turned out that while my classes got me up to speed academically, the most important thing for me was being exposed to professional development opportunities as a graduate student.

Robyn Rudish-Laning on graduation day.

Robyn Rudish-Laning on graduation day.

How has your degree helped or simply played a role in your PR career?

LM: It helped me to get my first job out of graduate school working in college admissions, which put me on the path to working in the marketing department and eventually PR.

SO: Although the degree is not required, it will almost certainly help me elevate to a position like a PIO or community relations manager for transportation projects down the line.

BP: In the classroom I learned general concepts like how to apply research, how to truly research a topic and honed my ability to read and digest complex issues; it was a unique opportunity to really build up those muscles. Outside of class, I applied that knowledge to executing digital and traditional media for NMU as a G.A. and just spent a lot more time crafting my skills. I was really in that student mindset where you try to read and learn everything while in grad school, which is difficult to maintain in a full-time job.

RRL: I felt like my graduate program was much more hands-on than my undergraduate program, even though they were within the same department at the same school. It also wasn’t entirely PR-focused. Instead, I learned a lot about related skills, like marketing, social media, journalism, advertising, web design, etc., on top of furthering my PR knowledge. The program wasn’t rigid, so I was able to pick and choose classes from a number of disciplines to round out my skill set. I think these things have been most helpful in my career because I was able to really dive into what I was interested in and what I thought would benefit me most. No two people in my program graduated with the same exact experience or degree, no matter what our diplomas said.

AS: I actually switched my concentration from Public Relations to Health Media and Communication, because I wanted to develop expertise in healthcare communications, social marketing. My concentration also emphasized health journalism, which trained me in writing about health topics for a broad public audience. I joined the Association for Healthcare Journalists and attended their annual conferences and reported at the Society for Neuroscience conference. I learned how to shoot and produce videos, worked on my writing craft and came away with a great portfolio of published work.

I also dove into professional development opportunities through UGA’s PRSSA Chapter. I served as the chair of the events committee my first year, and became president my second year. I really put myself out there in ways I hadn’t during undergrad. A big part of this was finding my passion. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in college, so I was much more energized and ambitious during graduate school. I also felt a sense that this was my last chance to make the most out of being a student. I credit PRSSA with helping me land my job at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. I was hired on as a contractor in 2014, an opportunity I had because I met the PR manager at a PRSA/PRSSA networking event.

What is some advice you would give to PR pros wondering if they should go back to school?

LM: Graduate school was such a great practice for me in really learning how to buckle down and apply myself. Even if I didn’t get a degree in public relations, I think that it really helped me to learn how to research, plan and effectively communicate with multiple audiences and the importance of being able to do all of those things. I think it maps really well to PR.

SO: Think about where you stand now and where you want to go in your career. A graduate degree could expand opportunities beyond where you currently stand. Do your research before embarking on any program.

BP: Hard for me to say as I went straight through at NMU for six years. But I would think it’s important to have a vision for how this plays into your larger career goals, because this isn’t a challenge you’re going to want just for fun.

RRL: Only go back if you’re willing to put in all the work necessary and if you’re doing it to better yourself. Don’t go back to delay getting out into the real world or assume it’s going to be easy. The two years I spent working on my master’s were the two hardest years of my life so far. The best advice I can give is to be sure you’re pursuing it because you want to continue to learn.

AS: Even if you get funding through a graduate assistantship, grad school is expensive and time consuming. Think deeply about your goals and spend time asking questions of faculty and staff at your prospective grad school. Make sure that you really need and want a graduate degree before you commit. I usually encourage people to work for a year or more between undergrad and grad school, because it gives you time to establish yourself in the workplace. If you’re like me, you’ll learn a lot about yourself during that time and it will lend a lot of perspective to the decision-making process. Also, you’ll have work experience on your resume that will distinguish you from other graduate students who are job hunting at the same time you are.

Brian Price with his diploma in snowy Northern Michigan.

Brian Price with his diploma in snowy Northern Michigan.

What’s a fun fact or your favorite memory from grad school?

LM: This won’t seem like a fun memory to most, but at the end of my first semester of graduate school I had to write four papers which were due during finals week for a total of over 60 pages. It wasn’t fun at the time, but it was really fun for me once it was over.

SO: Working on a group project about transit-oriented development and, by my suggestion, injecting corgis into nearly every aspect of our presentation. Too bad we couldn’t get corgi ears headbands as part of the bit…or actual corgis.

BP: Teaching. During my final semester I was an adjunct instructor in my undergraduate academic department, teaching Introduction to Public Address to 23 freshmen and sophomores. It’s fun and I learned so much having the chance to teach a class while in grad school.

RRL: As a grad student, I worked for the Duquesne’s student newspaper, The Duke. In addition to helping me fine-tune my writing skills, all of the hours and late nights spent working on it gave me some of the best memories. My favorite was the “awards” ceremony we did after we finished the last issue of the year each year. We’d spend a week coming up with awards or superlatives for each of the editors and our advisor. I use the word “award” loosely because most of them were poking fun at the recipient or an inside joke we were all in on. Some of them were incredibly heartfelt, though, even if they were tinged with a bit of sass. We’d try to get the issue done as early as we could that night and take turns bestowing these awards on our colleagues, before heading to the nearest pizzeria/bar to celebrate. My favorite award? “Most likely to keep the newsroom waters calm as a proverbial tsunami approaches.”

AS: Traveling to the 2015 Association of Healthcare Journalists conference in San Francisco, meeting incredible reporters from around the country who are telling important health stories.

Considering going back to school or have an experience to share? Tweet us at #NPPRSA 

They Are Not Gray Hairs…They Are Experience Highlights

As a 40-something with no career direction and an imminent layoff, I was at a crossroads in life. A friend recommended a life coach where I discovered an important aspect of my personality. The personal motivator for my feeling happy and successful was a need to elicit reactions from people. It was not about needing positive reinforcement or pats on the back from bosses, but simply having people react to something I wrote, designed, organized, or created. Unfortunately, acting was not an option, so I chose the closest field…public relations.

Twenty years in higher education presented opportunities to dabble in parts of PR. Plan an event here, make a presentation there, learn how to update a website, establish a social media presence, craft a new message to alumni. Rejection reasons for not getting PR jobs was due to not possessing the “right” writing skills or a degree in the field. Job offers actually received were entry-level and half the salary. There were moments of feeling I made the jump to this career too late in life.  Possessing the skills but not the job titles appeared to be holding me back and prohibiting any chance for becoming a PR professional.

Not having aspirations of staying unemployed for 26 weeks led to applying for and getting a position with a non-profit organization via LinkedIn. The job title is far from glamorous (Executive Assistant); however, the salary is competitive and matches the duties. Job tasks land in all facets of social media, branding, media relations, strategic planning, and marketing of the organization.

If you are debating making the transition or feel you have made a mistake with your mid-life change over to public relations, understand that it is not too late! Do not limit yourself to looking at corporate positions or competitive firms. As a more seasoned employee, you are what non-profits and small businesses are looking for. They appreciate broad experience and need individuals who are ready to hit the ground running.

If you are debating making the transition or feel you have made a mistake with yourmid-life change over to public relations, understand that it is not too late!

A recent article by Jenny Blake in Real Simple magazine provided strategies to keep in mind when contemplating a new career:

  • Never obsess about what happened in the last job. Those who are over the age of 30 remember the parental lectures of staying loyal to a company. It is not the norm any longer. Take the best parts of your previous positions and move along.
  • Self-Assess. Do the life/career coach thing. Even if you do not want to work with a professional, ask a friend. Take a stab at the StrengthsFinder 2.0 to look at your experience and get some direction.
  • Break up your job search: People, Skills, Opportunities. Jump on that LinkedIn page and schedule some Starbucks time. Register for a class on Coursera. Let Monster do the searching for you with job alerts.
  • Never stop looking. Always look at what else is out there, how you can improve your skills, and who can benefit in the long term. I am always scanning the job sites for the newest titles/duties to develop ideas for skills I may need or want down the road.

Do not lose sight of who you are and the years you have under your belt. Those articles for the company newsletter, Christmas parties planned, and posts on Twitter can transition nicely into a successful public relations career.

MeFiguring she will never have her dream job of writing jokes for Jimmy Fallon, Carrie Mihalko decided to pursue a new career in Public Relations. With over 20 years in higher education and non-profits, she feels like she has seen it all in event planning, fundraising/development, social media, website design, and marketing. Residing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carrie works for the Steel Valley Authority as their in-house communications writer/graphic designer/jack-of-all trades. She also does freelance-work creating publications, websites, and social media plans with small businesses and non-profits. Connect with Carrie on Twitter and LinkedIn.