Get Out, Get Involved!

By Megan Dutill

Emily Simmons has only been able to call herself a Public Relations professional for a few months, but is already an associate account executive and loving her job with Bliss PR in New York City.

“I get to deal directly with clients, which is pretty cool, because I know that lots of times at entry-level you don’t get to do that,” she said. Simmons has also been given the opportunity to do a wide variety of jobs, including media relations and developing social media plans for clients.

Simmons graduated last May with a Public Relations major, Business and Psychology minors, and plenty of valuable experience and skills that could never be captured on paper.

For starters, she was heavily involved with the Penn State PRSSA and was the Director of Internal Communications for the 2009-2010 school year. She was also a founding member of the student-run Public Relations firm Happy Valley Communications, and served as the Publicity Chair for Volé, the Penn State Ballet Club.

She also participated in the Bateman Competition, a case study competition sponsored by the national PRSSA. With her teammates, Simmons developed an entire public relations campaign for the U.S. National Census – a marketing challenge because it had to target every single adult.

“I got a lot of experience speaking in front of the Centre County and State College governments, and dealing with local businesses and media,” she said. “It was really helpful when I got my position [at Bliss] because I could say that I’ve spoken in front of groups, on TV, and in live interviews. I feel like once you can say something like that it really sets you apart.”

Simmons says the most valuable experience PRSSA has given her is the ability to network.  “It’s intimidating to approach people in the industry,” she admitted. “But having the opportunity [through PRSSA] to talk to professionals and get advice has really helped me [now] in meetings and conferences and given me courage.”

For students who aren’t even sure where to begin networking, Simmons suggests just hanging around the floor after the general meetings to learn and get ideas from what other students are asking the speaker. “Get involved, get yourself out there, and don’t be afraid to talk to the speakers,” she said.

She also advises taking advantage of the regional activities as a time to hand out as many resumes and collect as many business cards as possible. “You never know what opportunities can arise from that,” she said. “I had a couple of internships that just came out of networking.”

Simmons says she really misses Penn State football, and watching it on TV isn’t quite the same as being in Beaver Stadium. But she loves working in New York City, her dream job location. It’s fun and it’s busy, though Simmons warns the living situation doesn’t exactly live up to its glamorous reputation.

“My apartment is half the size [as it was in State College] and I pay twice as much,” she said with a laugh. “But everyone is in the same boat, and I’m fortunate to live in Manhattan.” Her job requires long hours, which means she’s especially grateful to avoid a long commute at the end of the day.

Graduating from Penn State and moving into New York City and the working world was a bit of a shock for Simmons, but it’s also been a great experience. “It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s a learning experience,” she said. “I love it.”

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