By: Michelle Turli
So you want to jump into the field of public relations? Then you’ve got to start by stepping into your school’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Once a freshman myself, I learned fast that if I wanted to pursue a career in public relations, PRSSA would be the most important club for me to join. Talk about fitting in fast? Not only did I meet other incoming freshmen, but I met students with common interests and similar career goals. Friendly upperclassmen in the club gave me some first-hand advice about Penn State’s College of Communications (classes to take, professors to avoid, ways to succeed, etc.) You will come to find that there are some things textbooks, professors and advisers just can’t teach you – but other students just like yourself, can. Freshmen year can be intimidating – but it doesn’t have to be if you get involved in the right activities. Joining PRSSA was the perfect way for me to meet other students while getting a head start in my field of interest. What more could I have asked for?
Aside from the three committees PRSSA offers (THON, communications, fundraising and event-planning), the club provides networking opportunities with public relations professionals across the United States. It is extremely important to take advantage of these guest speakers, as you never know where you may end up in the future. Through these guest speakers, I learned everything from the basics of PR to the number of specializing areas within the field. I learned a little bit about myself along the way – where do I stand now? Where do I fit in within this field? Where do I want to be in my future?
The field of public relations offers much room for growth – if you step up to the plate, you will quickly find yourself on different bases within the field. After being a member of PRSSA’s event-planning and communications committees, where I helped market for and execute a fashion show among other events while putting my writing skills to work, I chose to take yet another step. PRSSA gives all active members the opportunity to apply for higher level positions within the club, so you never have to stop moving. I chose to apply for one of the event-planning committee chair positions and was overwhelmed when I was selected for the job. Through this position, I learned the important roles that organization, writing and leadership skills play in the field of communications, specifically, in public relations. Not only did I get to coordinate various events on campus, but I also had the chance to mentor other students just like myself, perhaps, the most rewarding aspect. Upon completion of this job, I chose to take yet another step and am now on the PRSSA Executive Board as the Director of Public Relations for the upcoming school year.
Not only does PRSSA give you the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the field of PR, but it also prepares you for the world ahead—internships, job positions, all the good stuff. Some people may say it is all about your resume – I have to agree that a resume is extremely important, but it is not necessarily just what is listed on it. How were you involved? Did you play a leadership role? Not just how did you benefit from PRSSA, but how did the club benefit from you? Having hands-on experience and things to talk about will help you position yourself better in the future. By getting started early in PRSSA, I quickly learned what the field was all about and was then able to take advantage of other opportunities such as internships. Since joining PRSSA, I have completed four different internships – two on Penn State’s campus, and two off campus. Without the experience in PRSSA, I probably would not have been as qualified of a candidate for any of these positions. How will you stand out against other candidates? Get involved, learn and grow.
Now, entering my senior year, I have a lot more to talk about than my name, hometown and why I chose Penn State. One blog post could never cover all the benefits I have gained from joining PRSSA and with one year ahead of me, I am sure I will have more to share by May. A club should be a fun, educational, social opportunity to take advantage of – For myself, I found that PRSSA exceeded these expectations. While I learned a lot in the classroom, PRSSA filled many gaps that a lecture just never could. There is something real about learning from other students who have walked before you. There is something unique about a student-run organization with such knowledgeable leaders and wide-ranging opportunities to be offered. There is something promising about such a widely-recognized association and something rewarding about becoming a part of it. I learned that Penn State Pride is not just on the football field or in the classroom, but it’s also in organizations such as this one, helping you to learn, grow and succeed in your future.
Want to learn more?
Join us for the PRSSA Meet and Greet in Carnegie Lobby on August 26 from 7-9. The first general meeting will be Tuesday, September 7 – stay posted for time and place!