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Professional Development: It’s Not Just for Professionals

Published on October 23, 2017, at 7:26 p.m.
by Hyland Stockton.

It is called “professional” development. So, it must just be for professionals, right?

Ashleigh Kathryn, PRSSA’s vice president of professional development, expressed the importance of professional development for students and said that if you are not challenging yourself to seek every opportunity possible (within your means), you are not growing. Kathryn said, “Professional development separates the top students from everyone else.”

With this in mind, public relations students may wonder how to get involved with professional development.

Here’s how:

Courtesy of Hyland Stockton

PRSSA National Conference

PRSSA is a pre-professional organization for students going into the field of PR. Every year, PRSSA hosts a national conference that brings together students from across the country to grow and learn through different break-out sessions and from a wide range of speakers. In addition, the national conference offers networking events like the career fair where students have the opportunity to meet with possible employers and representatives from graduate schools.

Sarah Dougherty, client staff assistant at Burson-Marsteller, summed up National Conference by calling it a “safe learning experience.” She said you can go to the career fair and not feel intimidated, and you can ask questions at panels without worrying about being graded.

Dougherty added that national conference is a “preview for what’s to come.” It is a way for students to travel and see possible cities they would want to live in. Also, it allows students to explore the different sectors of the industry.

National conference is not just a place for students. PRSA, the professional parent organization of PRSSA, hosts PRSA International Conference at the same time and place as PRSSA’s national conference. Kathryn said this timing allows for a wide range of PRSSA and PRSA speakers for students and professionals. In addition, she said it allows students the opportunity to see what is in the industry right now, giving them a direct view.

Courtesy of Hyland Stockton

How                                                                                          When it comes to investing in your future, it may be important to know some “best practices.” Demi Wolfe, PRSSA’s vice president of career services, offered some tips for students attending PRSSA

National Conference – or any conference for that matter. Her first word of advice was to have an elevator pitch ready. This makes you stand apart when introducing yourself to a professional.

Wolfe also recommended to research beforehand which speakers are attending to help you map out the sections you want to go to – it is impossible to attend every presentation. From there, she advised writing a few facts on professionals’ business cards, for the follow-up. Wolfe said this strategy will help you remember the individual speakers.

Other opportunities
National conference may not be something all PRSSA students are able to attend, but there are other options. Kathryn and Wolfe offered the suggestion that students need to follow all of PRSSA’s social media accounts. They said some sessions were fully live-streamed. But, the sessions that were not had regular updates that shared the key messages of the session.

Dougherty said that regional conferences are an “underrated opportunity” that PRSSA offers. She noted that while the range of speakers at national conference tend to be broader and of higher caliber, regional conferences are still a great professional development opportunity for PR students.

In addition, Kathryn and Dougherty suggest an array of other professional development opportunities, such as engaging in Twitter chats, attending local PRSSA meetings, networking with your local PRSA chapter and participating in webinars.

The benefits, where to go from here
Dougherty suggested patience for the young professionals and all the students out there. Do not rush and worry, she advised.

She explained that she rushed into the work world, as opposed to some of her friends who took their time searching for that “perfect job.” She said the benefit of this strategy is that you do not start your work life as frazzled. You have more summer after you graduate, and you get to really settle into your new home. So, just remember one word: patience.

Like Kathryn said, professional development puts you at the top. Professionals and students alike are always students, always have an opportunity to grow. Whether it is PRSSA National Conference, PRSA conferences or any of the other opportunities out there, follow Kathryn’s advice.

“Always say yes.”

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