After the big event, the executive board is reflecting on their favorite parts of PRSSA’s #PluggedIntoPR Regional Conference. Below, each attendee describes a part of the weekend that they particularly enjoyed (it was hard to select just one moment)!
Amelia Friedrichs & Crystal Remick
Did you know in some cultures it can be considered offensive for you not to clear your plate and the opposite in others? Or that putting salt and pepper on your food before you taste it could potentially lead an interviewer to assume that you don’t enough time before you make decisions? How about that adding more than 2 creamers or sugars to your coffee could give off that you’re overindulgent? Neither did I, until I had the pleasure of having lunch with Tammy Miller. The etiquette luncheon at Plugged Into PR was one the highlights of my weekend. There are so many things that we do while eating that I never put much thought into, especially in a more formal setting. It may not matter to you which way you pass the butter or if you use the right fork for your salad, but it does to others, including potential employers. The fact of the matter is there is a proper way to go about it all, and people notice whether you’re aware of it or not. It could make for an awkward start to dinner if you drink your interviewer’s water glass instead of your own. To avoid this: bring your pointer finger and thumb together to form a circle on each hand. Put your remaining three fingers up. You will see a lowercase “b” on your left hand (for the bread plate) and a lowercase “d” on the right (for your drink). One crucial tip she shared: if you’re ever unsure of what to do, wait for someone else to act first before you and mimic them. With these and the many more tips and tricks I learned, I definitely feel more prepared as a young professional.
I thought the networking hour was one of the most rewarding aspects of Penn State’s Regional Conference. Most of the speakers were able to hang around and speak with interested students. All the speakers were really informative, whether it was career advice or opportunities at their respective companies. The networking hour last an hour, which was just long enough to speak with everyone. We also had delicious cookies and brownies available to us after a long day of break out sessions. I had the opportunity to establish some great professional contacts. No matter what you’re interests were, there was a speaker there for you that you could personally connect with based off interests. Whether it was tech, corporate, crisis, or even Google, each speaker was knowledgeable!
Lauren Tilstra, Internal Communications Manager at Verizon Wireless, spoke with passion about not just the communications field but following a path that is right for you. A few important messages from Lauren that stood out the most to me were “never underestimate the importance of being nice in your career” and “Don’t sit and wait. Go after what you want.” In a field full of competition, it is important to recognize that you should never let kindness get overshadowed. Being kind and nice will certainly get your farther then you may think. Additionally, Lauren’s career path was certainly not cookie cutter. She joined Ogilvy shortly after graduating Penn State and then quit a month in. It may have seemed like a bold move at the time, but Lauren knew it was the right decision for her. When it comes to making career decisions, always go with your gut. If it feels right, let’s face it-it probably is. Lauren has continued to pursue her dreams at various companies. Her experience and knowledge is unmatched. Her words of wisdom were definitely valued by all attendees who had the opportunity to hear her speak. As many Penn Staters in communications continue the internship or job search it is important to keep in mind that we should all follow our own goals and dreams, not someone else’s.
Penn State Alumnus Cait Gossert was one of the first round speakers. Gossert, an active member of PRSSA and Happy Valley Communications while at Penn State, currently works at Shodogg, a tech start up company. Gossert spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of working at a start up. She highlighted that it is a much more personal experience and you have the opportunity to be very creative and make the company what you think it should be. However, Gossert said a lot of times there isn’t much structure in place and there is financial risks to start ups as well. “You need technical skills and endless hustle,” Gossert advised students interested in pursing a career in start-ups. “But you need endless hustle to be successful in any aspect of PR. When entering the PR industry, you should never stop learning,” Gossert said. Her speech was enlightening and it was refreshing to hear about a topic in a different aspect of the industry.
Devon Conley, Senior Human Resources Manager for Ketchum Inc., shared her insight into how to make yourself stand out in the professional world. With clients like Chase, FedEx, and Kodak, Ketchum is a desirable company that receives many applications for employment each year. Devon reviewed the essentials of resumes, pointing out to “keep it simple, but stand out”. She stressed the importance of making sure your objective matches the specific position that you are applying for. She also suggested applying to a maximum of two positions within a company, as applying to more than that shows desperation. As far as the cover letter, Devon prefers a short and concise letter of about three paragraphs. The most important thing it to explain how you would benefit the specific company, without reiterating your resume. It is also okay to use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom it May Concern” to address the recruiter if you are unsure of his or her name. Lastly, Devon discussed the importance of networking and keeping in touch. While LinkedIn is a great tool to portray yourself professionally, it is important to be conscious of your other social media platforms, since some employers are likely to view them. It is also a good idea to keep in touch with companies you are applying to by sending follow-up emails every couple of weeks. Devon’s advice from first-hand experience was very informative, especially to those interested in Ketchum’s Summer Fellows Program.
There are few things more rewarding than knowing you made an impact. That’s how I felt about the THON/Philanthropy team building activity, Friday night of the conference. Not only was it successful overall, it was also a success to see all participants so invested in the activity. Each team around the room put so much thought and consideration into the creation of the logo and further, into their accompanying PR pitches. I know that the judges (special thanks to Jon Lorenzini, Brittany Lorenz, Jordan Paquet) were all impressed, as was I and everyone involved in planning the event. However, I can say that no one was more impressed than Tom Whitehead, the father of our chapter’s THON child, who participated as a judge and shared his daughter Emily’s story with all in attendance. The takeaway for him was so huge, and he shared afterward that what a room full of PR students could come up with in only 20 minutes left him touched and inspired.
Regional Conference had a lot to offer its attendances this year, every member not only gained valuable advice but also got some great take away gifts as well. One of the most valuable takeaways of the weekend was the opportunity to get a professional headshot taken. Although this may seem like a simple thing, a powerful headshot is essential to selling yourself to employers. It’s well known not to use your party pics for head shots or your LinkedIn page, however your headshot sometimes is the first time a future employer is seeing how you present yourself. After you submit an application, many companies do research on you and look at your LinkedIn, if your website doesn’t use a professional headshot the company can assume you don’t take yourself seriously. Your headshot is suppose to represent you, and more importantly how you present yourself. For those who attended Regional Conference, they now have a professional headshot that can help sell them to future employers.
Jon Lorenzi’s keynote speech set the tone for the beginning of the conference. As a recent grad he shared some post-grad tips that I thought were well received by the conference attendees. One major take away was his advice on reaching out to Penn State alums who are working for a company that current Penn Staters would like to work for. He said that during his job search he would email his prospects asking for an informational interview and emphasized that students should be strategic with the emails they send. He made it a point to not be a pest when trying to find a job. As many student attendees came to the conference to network and possibly land an internship, Lorenzi gave them sound advice to get started with their careers.
Regional Conference was filled with great advice and opportunities to get a glimpse of what happens in the PR world. One of my favorite presentations was Brittany Lorenz speaking about her position as an Associate Catalyst for Golin. She explained how the company recently rebranded and its new slogan is “Go All In.” The company’s mission is to inspire and create change. Golin is now made up of four different types of people: strategists, creators, connectors and catalysts. Lorenz described her experience from being a part of PRSSA at Penn State and how it lead her to her current position. At Golin, Lorenz has worked on campaigns for Stoli vodka and Purina ONE cat food. She helped to create events, such as the Cat Cafe in New York City, which helped spark conversation among cat owners about cat health and wellbeing. Lorenz gave advice about networking and using connections as an important tool after graduation. After hearing her story, I am excited to see where a career in public relations will take me in the future.