by Jenn Shafer | PRSSA National Vice President of Regional Conferences
Before I was in public relations, I wanted to do journalism. Not that this is revolutionary, as many PR people start as journalists. I wrote for the school news magazine throughout high school, and decided the summer before my senior year to attend a journalism workshop for a few days. After that little conference, there was one thing I knew: I did not want to go into journalism.
The conference showed me what I did not want, and sometimes that can be just as valuable. The important thing is to get yourself out there, and find out.
Now in college, I realize public relations is absolutely the career I wanted to pursue, and of course PRSSA was a huge part of that decision. One light-bulb moment came when I attended the 2013 PRSSA National Conference in Philadelphia. Unlike my previous workshop experience, I left that conference knowing I was on the right career path.
Attending any National PRSSA event is an experience in itself, but National Conference is on a level all its own. There are hundreds of PR students from across the country - and the world - that flock to this event to learn more about the industry. Students are placed in a professional setting with the opportunity to learn about different areas of public relations from top-notch experts, with topics ranging from crisis communication, media relations and public policy to fashion and food PR. This is the time to learn about new trends and the fast-paced, ever-changing nature of our field. Not to mention the opportunities students are provided with, like the career fair with companies just waiting to hire PRSSA students for internships and jobs. Oh, and the PRSA International Conference, which is always in the same city, so students are rubbing elbows with potential connections left and right.
Exploring a new city is also a perk of attending National Conference. My love for travel may cause bias, but being able to see a new city and experience different cultures is invaluable. People learn where they fit in and the type of environment they want to work in after graduation. Just the exposure to different people and ideas is eye opening.
And finally, and honestly the most important to me, is the people you will meet at these events. To be in a room with so many driven, successful people that are so similar to you, yet so different because everyone brings something unique with them, is nothing short of amazing. The passion everyone has for this industry is contagious, and the energy (or is it the caffeine?) is electrifying. Networking with professionals is important, but don’t forget the students who attend this conference; they are going places. Plus, odds are they will be your coworkers in the real world, so make friends now. The PR world is surprisingly small!
Maybe you will go to this conference and fall in love like I did, or maybe it will be like my journalism workshop and you will walk away with a scheduled appointment with your advisor ready to switch majors. I hope that’s not the case, but at least you will know after leaving if you are in the right place. Either way, attending a PRSSA National Conference is beneficial to your professional and personal growth, plus, I can guarantee you will get at least 50 new followers on each social media site, a stack of business cards and a much higher Klout score.
Philadelphia and Washington D.C. were unforgettable conferences, and I’m sure Atlanta will be the best yet! Hope to see you there.
Follow Jenn on Twitter @_jennshafer.