The Most Important Lesson I Learned as a Freshman
By: Elise Konerza
I always knew I liked to write. I always knew I loved event planning, social media and connecting people and businesses to create a story, impression or a new partnership. What I didn’t know, was how to break into the media industry, until I interviewed Maureen Cahill, the Executive Director of Smile Network International, for a freshman PR Principles class.
When I asked Cahill for advice as a freshman in the field, she uttered experience. She reiterated it time and time again throughout the interview. So, I thought this might be important and crucial to my development as a professional. Now, as I finish my last few weeks of college, I look back on my time at Minnesota State University, Mankato and realize I’ve gained valuable experience by an eagerness and thrill to jump into any project laid on the table.
Taking to heart Cahill’s advice, I emerged myself in every activity possible in which I expressed curiosity. What better way to satisfy your curiosity than becoming actively involved in projects that interest you. Before I knew it, I was juggling two jobs, being the MSU Reporter News Editor, MSU PRSSA President, and working with the MSU Media Relations office.
It’s important to use your skills in every facet you can. Soon after the two jobs I had, asked if I could write blogs, press releases and collaborate on comprehensive marketing decisions. Of course, ingrained to be actively involved, I took hold of the opportunity to practice and build a portfolio.
Being involved simultaneously in the media relations, public relations and journalism industries I have built an understanding for how communication mediums work and interact with each other. Writing a press release, I remember my experience as a news editor and what captured my attention.
Because public relations is rapidly evolving and moving forward as does technology and society, it’s important to explore the wonderment of curiosity. Research upcoming trends and topics, volunteer for a non-profit, take on leadership roles and stay in tune with your audience so you can stay current with society’s needs. Do all this, and breaking into the industry after graduation won’t seem as far out of reach or daunting as you imagined as a freshman. Employers will be looking at your resume to see that you can not only plan and strategize, but execute projects and analyze their successes and failures.
I highly recommend creating an online profile from the start to document your highlights and achievements throughout your college career. Just so you don’t have to scramble through newspapers, press releases and project files you’ve amassed over four or five years. It’s a great way to tell future employers, “Hey, check out the things I’m working on and have already accomplished!”
It’s never too early to start! Build your network. Attend Minnesota PRSA events or get connected with a mentor via your PRSSA organization. The energy that thrives within people from the public relations field always boosts and excites me to do more. I can’t help but smile after leaving a PRSA or PRSSA event feeling confident in my ability to meet deadlines, and get great work and great things to the finish line on time. I owe it to Maureen Cahill’s experiential advice, PRSSA, PRSA, and many more organizations and mentors along the way that got me to graduation day.
Elise Konerza is a senior at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She serves as President of their Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and is currently a public relations and marketing Intern at Jungle Red Salon in Minneapolis. Follow her on Twitter.