On February 12th, 2013 I attended the PRSA Student Summit in Birmingham, Alabama. I approached this day with zero expectations alongside my classmates who were soon to be separated from my side when we were placed at assigned tables for the day. However, I soon made friends at the table and we then proceeded to listen to multiple sessions learning on topics ranging from social media to advice from professionals. All information was insightful, yet, it seemed to be information I’ve heard at least once before. Though I know it never hurts to hear it more than once, I left craving a more and wished I had more opportunities to meet professionals and ask them personal questions. However, I was able to leave knowing that I already had signed up for the Atlanta PRSA Real World Conference, and felt hopeful that this day would provide with a little more to take away.
So, though it was not required for class, I decided to attend the Real World PR Conference on February 22, 2013 in hopes that I could make some connections in my hometown. I have not officially made up my mind as to if I want to be in Birmingham or Atlanta, but I was excited to see some of the differences between the two cities and see if my heart was led in a specific direction. Immediately entering Real World, I knew that the day was going to have a lot to offer, seeing as if Atlanta stepped it up a couple of notches compared to Birmingham. Being in a bigger city, I expected this but I had no idea the expertise which I would soon encounter. In addition to the expertise and professionals who attended the conference, I was amazed by the amount of students and recent graduates who were there to share experiences and recommendations. I believe Real World did a great job of preparing interactive seminars which focused on building up our PR skills, but also helping us with personal branding and professional development which could help us land the job. They had a great understanding of the position we are in, and wanted to help build us up in a manner which would celebrate the skills we have but also open us up to what more there is to learn. I personally enjoyed the sessions which helped me to create a story for my life and form a sustainable personal brand for myself. As PR students, we focus on learning about the client’s brand but often overlook our own. I know now, that being confident in my own brand will only lead to greater career satisfaction.
I could probably talk for hours about the take-aways from this conference. I was constantly taking notes and asking questions. This may be due in part to the fact that ‘Real World’ gave us the opportunity to choose our own break-out sessions, therefore allowing us to pick topics which would interest us the most. For example, for my first session I choose “Corporate World, Agency Life, or Nonprofit” instead of learning “Media Relations 101”, since I was interested in hearing the differences between the three fields of PR and learn how to help determine which path is a better fit for my working style. My favorite breakout session was “Secrets from the HR Gatekeepers: Get the Interview. Land A Job” and with all of the information I got from that session, I could write a completely new blog on what I need to do to get a job now.
The rest of the day continued to be insightful as we continued to choose breakout sessions, then sit through a fantastic luncheon with one of the best speakers I’ve heard in a while. Mickey Nall (the National PRSA Chair & CEO and Managing Director of Ogilvy Public Relations in Atlanta) spoke on “Navigating the Multi-Generational Workplace Lessons from the Public Relations Front”. This topic is not one I have thought much about myself, but I know now that it is important to note the diversity of generations in the work place. Mr. Nall was able to give a great perspective on the different values, attitudes, expectations of each of the different generations and how we can work to integrate together for the better of our clients.
After lunch, we broke into resume critiques (which we also did in Birmingham). It is always interesting for me to see how people react to my resume, and it amazes me how much personal preference plays a role. I have now had 3 different experts review my resume, and though some had the same opinion, most had something completely different to say. Yet, I think I know now how to made changes. After the resume critiques, we entered the career fair which was lined with multiple professionals from Atlanta seeking to make connections with students wanting internships and jobs. I was so thankful for this opportunity to network and handoff my calling card and resume. Even if I do not receive a call, I loved making connections and practicing talking with professionals. Networking is something we need to do everyday, but its not often we get the opportunity to do this in such a fast pace, pressured environment. It was exciting and I loved seeing all of the opportunities that Atlanta has to offer.
Overall, I had a great experience in Atlanta. I left with a new perspective on Public Relations and was excited to take the necessary steps to start to find that job. The Student Summit also had its high moments, and I know that in upcoming years, as Birmingham continues to grow, it could eventually be as big as Real World has become. I know in the future though, I would recommend Samford students to make the trip to Atlanta and experience this conference if they have the opportunity. And, if anyone has any questions I would love to answer them. I obviously have a lot to say about what I learned and would love to even share some of the tips I learned with the class.