You might think back to your college orientation and remember an overly peppy experience of ice breakers, inspirational speakers and never-ending information. I can still hear my orientation leader insist, “Get involved with student groups. It’ll make your college experience so much better!” At the time, as a fresh-out-of-high-school 18-year-old, it was easy to want to roll my eyes at what seemed to be completely cliché advice. But over the past four years, I realized…they’re absolutely right. And that applies not only for college, but professional life as well.
As an example in PR, we can look toward the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). I joined PRSSA, the leading organization for students dedicated to advancing their careers in PR, and already I’ve added amazing value to my education. After reflecting on my experience working in the field at Game Changer, I identified three ways PRSSA has prepared me for working here and in PR in general. (Not in public relations yourself? Not to worry, these apply to professional organizations in other industries as well.)
- Real-world perspectives
First and foremost, I had the opportunity to hear from people working in my industry. Our weekly meetings often featured guest speakers from agencies and companies around the metro. By hearing people share their experiences in PR, I could diversify my learning from strictly a classroom setting. Talking with PR professionals about their day-to-day activities was a great way to see how the stuff we’ve been learning is applied in the real world.
- Best practices
As part of attending meetings and hearing guest speakers, I learned valuable techniques that I could bring to my job. When working on projects at Game Changer, I recalled tips offered by both guest speakers and my PRSSA peers. I’ll always apply what the textbook says on crafting media lists and talking to reporters for example, but it sure is nice to remember a conversation with a PR pro on what specific pitching strategy has worked for them.
Of the list, this is probably the most valuable. I’ve made great contacts through PRSSA (both peers and professionals), toured awesome agencies and companies and held had many meaningful conversations. As a result, I have a wide range of connections, experience and knowledge within PR that will help me in the future. I’ll give you a great example. Our first guest speaker of this past spring semester was Game Changer president and founder Jason Sprenger. It was a great chance for me to get to know him and his agency better, which helped lead to my internship today.
While I only have one more semester left with PRSSA, it certainly won’t be the end of my involvement in professional organizations; the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is the next step for many graduating students, myself included. I expect that as a member of PRSA, I’ll experience these three things and many more, all enhancing my career—something that I’m very excited for.
The benefits I’ve seen as a PRSSA member are typical to many other trade organizations. Any industry will have a variety of trade organizations that can help professionals better themselves, and I strongly encourage people looking for an experience similar to mine to join one. I can promise you that you’ll get out more than you put in, learn new paths to success and make valuable connections along the way.