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Attending PRSSA ICON with a Thirst for Learning

by Elle Waters, Assistant Director

Elle, Kara and Zyna

By far the most exciting experience of the semester was getting to go to the Public Relations Student Society of America conference in Grapevine with Zyna (the leader of Team Blue) and Kara (who is on Bateman Team). We had a great experience overall.

Every single session I attended added value to the experience and left me with much needed insight into the industry that I’m joining.

As a nontraditional student who is a good 10 years older than many of the other students who were in attendance, it was hard not to feel overshadowed and intimidated by people who are so much younger than me who are so excellent in our field. I was expecting this to be difficult, but every interaction I had was positive and left me feeling encouraged.

The first session after we arrived on Friday was for student-run firms. I was fascinated to hear about how other chapters set up their firms, administer them, what kind of leadership structures they have, and how they recruit new student members and clients.

Another thing that was good for me was being able to interact directly with the speakers. Some sessions were discouraging because of an emphasis on the flexibility of young-entry level workers to be able to move frequently and work long hours to get ahead in the industry and set yourself up for a successful career. This is not the position that I find myself in. I’m a single mom supporting two young kids, so I can’t take unpaid internships or jobs that don’t pay a living wage.In connecting with these speakers after their sessions, however, I found that they were very encouraging about the ways that my experience and maturity can be a benefit in the industry even as an entry-level worker.

I left feeling confident that my age and responsibilities don’t preclude me from having a successful, fulfilling career.

This is especially true given that the top two abilities every hiring manager mentioned are strong writing skills and relentless curiosity.

Every organization would prefer to have an entry-level employee who has a thirst for learning and self-improvement than an industry professional who believes that they have made it and isn’t interested in progressing further.

My biggest take away from PRSSA is the importance of relationships in PR. Given that “PR” means “Public Relations” this may seem almost elementary, but it can be easy to gloss over the ways that interpersonal relationships mirror the relationships of our organizations. It’s our responsibility to build two-way, mutually beneficial relationships with other individuals and organizations. In this sense, PR is about community. We look for the ways that we can support those that have compatible goals with ours, knowing that success is most often found in the ways that we can support each other.



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