A Word from the Wise… Tegan Zimmerman

First off, I hope you are all doing well! I have been attending PRSA Young Professional events here in Chicago and I miss all of you in PRSSA!

What I’ve Learned Along the Way: Do’s and Dont’s

The road to success in any career is always difficult and filled with twists and turns. Here is what I’ve learned along the way.

1. Do love PRSSA
PRSSA is the window to the public relations world. Especially at Iowa where a public relations degree isn’t possible, PRSSA can help you learn more about the field and achieve the skills necessary to succeed. Run for exec, attend the National and Regional conference, participate in the various committees and attend the socials. Embrace PRSSA, the University of Iowa chapter is full of amazing leadership and I could not be where I am today without the lesson learned at meetings in AJB!

2. Do be ready to bring it
It is going to be hard so be ready to work hard. The public relations industry is competitive and times are tough.  If you want to succeed you have to be willing to work for it. You will probably find yourself doing something outside of your comfort zone. It may be networking at the National Conference or speaking in front of a class. Mine was moving to New York City to intern at a public relations agency. It was scary at first but I took the leap and forced myself out of my comfort zone. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Don’t be afraid to try something new, strike up a conversation with a stranger and put yourself out of your comfort zone. These small tests will help you learn more about yourself and foster a spirit of success.

3. Don’t limit your reading to Perezhilton.com
Stay up to date on news and happenings. As a public relations professional, it is important to know what is going on around the country and the world. Invest in knowledge. Read.

4. Do dive headfirst and immerse yourself in social media
Twitter is a great tool for young professionals. Embrace tweeting! Conversations and connections made on Twitter are worthwhile. I have learned so much about the field through interacting on Twitter.  Create an online portfolio and start your own blog. Weebly is a great service for hosting web sites. Networking is key. Make yourself stand out in the social media world. It is worth it.

5. Do learn everything you can about the field.
Subscribe to the following: Bulldog Reporter, PR Week, ADAge, and SmartBrief. A forever changing industry, you can never know too much.

6. Don’t limit your internships to summertime
Internships are not reserved for summer anymore.  Look for opportunities during the school year to enhance you skill set and your resume. Head to the Pomerantz Career Center and search Jobnet for opportunities on campus. You will need more than one internship so plan ahead and strive to hold multiple internships over the course of your college career.

7. Do start early and set goals.
When I was a junior, I asked the past PRSSA president, Jen Ferm, when I should start applying for jobs. Her advice stuck with me. Start early and give yourself time to pull your portfolio together. Seniors, Thanksgiving break is your cue. Get your resume looking beautiful and start applying for jobs during December. Plan to head to the Pomerantz Career Center by Thanksgiving break and have your resume reviewed. Meet with a Career Advisor. The Pomerantz Career Center is full of wonderful people who want to help you succeed. Call in and make an appointment, they can’t place you in a job but they can help you along the way. Set goals for yourself and don’t shy away from them. If you want to send out five resumes by December do it. If your goal is to run for PRSSA exec board, do it.

8. Do find a mentor
Everyone needs someone to look up to. Find that person who is willing to take you under his or her wing. I have had many throughout my time at Iowa and the relationships I have developed with my mentors have made a lasting impression on my growth and attitude as a young professional. My mentors have included past bosses, older PRSSA members and professionals I have met along the way.

9. Do enjoy college while it lasts
Trust me, you will miss Hawkeye game days. Cherish your time a the University of Iowa. It is truly an amazing place to learn and live.

10. Don’t give up
It is a tough time and the public relations field is extremely competitive.  I’ve had my share of setbacks but it is important to keep your goals in mind. Hard work always pay off in the end. If you find yourself feeling down, get inspired by this quote from the wonderful Don Draper (Mad Men) “I have a life. And it only goes in one direction. Forward.” Ask yourself what you can do to keep your career moving forward. Don’t let setbacks get you down and leave you at a standstill.

I hope you find these tips helpful, feel free to contact me at anytime at teganmariezimmerman@gmail.com. I would love to connect with all of you and provide all the help/advice I can.  Good luck with your job search, first semester, classes and your journey into the world of public relations! It truly is a great profession filled with great people.

Written by Tegan Zimmerman

Former Chapter President

A Word from the Wise…Diana Kelter

Hello PRSSA members of 2009,

My name is Diana Kelter and I am a PRSSA alum who graduated from Iowa last May.  As a recent graduate I want to give all of you advice that you have not heard a million times. However, before I do I want to say the one thing that can never be said enough, ENJOY EVERY ASPECT OF COLLEGE FROM START TO FINISH.  I spent so much time during my last year of college anticipating graduation or worrying about my future when I could of spent that time soaking up every moment of a time I will never get back. Live up every experience you can because you will miss it when it is done.

The first piece of advice I want to give all of you is to not let your major define you, but your interests and passions. I was an interesting case for PRSSA because I was the only History/ Political Science major.  While most people assumed I would go into law or teaching, I looked past the direct path and found my own.  I didn’t figure out until I was a junior in college that being a lawyer was never my true passion and playing catch up has been difficult. It may take me a little longer to find my place in PR because of that, but I feel in the end the reward will be greater.

My second piece of advice is the most important. Experience is the most important thing in Public Relations.  I don’t want to tell you  not to care about your grades, but gaining experience in the field is even more important. All of you are already a step ahead by being in PRSSA, so use that experience to the fullest potential.  Second, if you cannot find an internship don’t be afraid to create a version of your own. This summer I worked for a catering company and I told them I would be willing to do unpaid writing and public relations work to gain experience and they have given me a ton of great opportunities. So don’t be afraid to ask because it could turn into a great experience.

PRSSA was a great experience for me and it truly helped me understand the field of public relations while providing great opportunities along the way. I am sure the new executive team will continue to push PRSSA to new lengths and find even more success. I wish all of you the best of luck this year and know you will do great things.

A word from the wise… Caroline Jones

No matter where you are at now towards finishing your degree, there is still plenty you could be doing in your spare time between classes, work and PRSSA.  When I sat down to write this post, several tidbits came to my mind that have been helpful to me during college and my job search and others I wish I would have known about earlier.

Start by thinking about where you are now in terms of your skill set and what you want to accomplish by the time you graduate.  It helps if you first make a list of your long term goals.  What do you want to be doing professionally when you are 25? 30? 40? Make a list.  Next, make a list of your goals you want to complete by the end of college and a list of goals you want to complete by the end of the school year.  You know how good it feels to cross off something on your to-do list?  Make your goals happen by finding out what you know and what you need to know.  You need to be a sponge and absorb as much information you can.

The following are merely suggestions, everyone has to take their own path.  You won’t get land an awesome internship or job after college by being the same as everyone else.

Start early!
When you are a freshman or sophomore, join student organizations that align with your interests and sign up to join committees.  Try to be as active as you can.  You are still learning how to manage your time and live on your own and with roommates.  You want to learn early on what you like doing and what you don’t, especially if you still are unsure what you want to do after college.  Chances are if you are new to a group you won’t get to work on the most exciting projects right away, but you will fill some space on your resume that may help you land your first internship experience.  Find things that motivate you to do your best work and explore them to their fullest.

When I was a freshman, I was told you need at least one internship to get a job when you graduate.  Economic factors aside, this is no longer the case.  You need as much experience as you can get your hands on and you need to be able to demonstrate on your resume and in the interview that you made the world a better place because of what you did.  Visit the Career Center and the lovely peer advisers will assist you with this.  Send your resume to someone you look up to and ask them for input.  Some people may give you conflicting advice, but you have to make it work for you.  Find as many mentors as you can.

There are a number of resources outside of the university that will help you.  I recommend referring to the national PRSSA resources, Careerealism, Entry Level Careers Examiner, Come Recommended, and setting up a Twitter account if you don’t already have one to follow career experts and recruiters at companies you are interested in learning more about.  It’s easy to keep track of a lot of information in one central place and it’s always evolving to include more features that will make tracking information more efficient.

By the time you are a junior or senior you should have at least one or two internships under your belt and have substantial information on your resume from your experience with PRSSA or with another organization.  Some people may think it’s too much to handle working a job or internship during the school year, but I will tell you this:  the semesters in which I took the heaviest class load and worked part time jobs and internships while being active in PRSSA were my most productive semesters and I earned the best grades I’ve had throughout college.  There is always more you could be doing with your time and when you feel ready to take on more challenges, don’t sell yourself short by going the easy and comfortable route.  Nothing worth having is easy to come by.

When applying for jobs and internships, the time you spent tirelessly researching the company by reading their blogs, following their Google alerts and following their company Twitter feed, you will have a wealth of knowledge about their business practices.  Stay on the company’s radar by reaching out to recruiters and HR people along the way.  Demonstrate your active interest and engage them by asking questions about their recent media campaigns. Show them why you care so much about their company and why you would be a good fit there.  When it comes time to write the cover letter and update your resume, borrow language from their company web site.  Should you get a job with them, you will be expected to adhere to their writing style, so your cover letter and resume should be the first indicator to them that you will be able to handle that.

Searching for a job is a full time job in itself.  Always keep your eye out for opportunities on the horizon, and be prepared for any that may come your way unexpectedly.  Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

Written by Caroline Jones

Former Firm Director and Social Media and Web Editor