Be You and Ace that Interview
It’s that time of year when LinkedIn and Handshake become your best friends and when all the networking you’ve done at PRSSA events pays off. Internship season is upon us, and that brings interviews, are you ready?
You haven’t had an interview since high school, last year, month, or maybe had a bad experience at one? No worries! We’re going to give you tips & tricks on how to be you and ace that interview. Interviews are like media pitches and research proposals, it’s all about knowing your client (future employer) and the presentation (the interview).
Step one: the first thing to do after receiving an invitation to interview is to research the organization you’d be meeting with. Find the history, dress style, employees, mission statement and projects underway.
If you’ve researched before the interview, the organization will see you’re serious about their company. Show genuine interest and knowledge of the rich history the company has. Be the potential employee that admires where they work and wants to be part of the team.
Step two: search for “common interview questions” and practice in front of a mirror. I’ve had five interviews so far, and four out of five had the same questions from Google.
You’ll be nervous and anxious during the interview, but it's only natural! That’s why looking up questions and practicing responses helps. Rehearsed memory will take over instead of nerves, and you’ll be able to shoot a quick answer without drawing a blank or stuttering something on the spot.
Step three: pick an outfit carefully. The way you present yourself has the power to end the interview for better or for worse. Wear something professional but try to ditch all black or grey. Whether bright pink pumps, sparkling stud earrings or a casual, bright tie, the goal is to stand out. Color will help the interviewer's memory, remember John with the green tie or Sue with the pink dress.
Also, don’t forget to clean your shoes. If you take the time to put yourself together and look great, then make sure your shoes are clean as well. If you don’t have the right wardrobe, shop for a free outfit at KSU’s Career Closet located at the Women's Center, Business Building and Career Exploration & Development Office. Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., there's a wide variety of professional clothing waiting to help you dress to impress.
The final tip to help you ace interviews is to be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Think of it this way. Do you want the internship because you’d like to gain experiences and newfound knowledge, or do you want it just to check a box off your list of credits for college?
Be honest about the good and the bad. Internships aim to help inexperienced students develop skills and learn organically in the field. Be upfront about what you don’t know! They will see the trust you have in the position to help your skills grow.
The worst-case scenario is you don’t get the position. Then, you intern somewhere else that’s a better fit for you.
The bottom line when it comes to interviews is to be prepared and trust yourself, so go and conquer the interview! Apply for any opportunity that wiggles its way into your LinkedIn or Handshake feed this internship season. Best of luck to you!
I took a road trip to Columbus for my first-ever PRSSA conference Feb. 17, and where better to have it than at The Ohio State University’s Fawcett Center? Public relations professionals discussed Wendy’s entrance to the U.K. market, Buckeye’s brand voice and using simple, fun national holidays to help get clients on TV.
However, my goal for the event was not to be entertained and fed incredibly delicious cookies. I wanted to learn valuable tips I could take home to Kent and save for my future career and form meaningful connections with professionals. Although I achieved them, there were things I liked and things I could have done better to achieve them. I suggest these dos and don'ts to any first-timer when attending a PRSSA conference.
Do: wear something bright and different. It can be white, orange or multi-colored. By doing this, you’ll stick out and immediately get noticed by speakers without even trying. When I walked into the venue it was a sea of black. Make sure you don’t drown in it and wear color.
Don’t: forget a notebook. Like I said I wanted to learn things I could take home to Kent. That’s why it was nerve-racking when I’d be learning so much valuable information during presentations only to have nowhere to write it down for later use. Bring a notebook even if you think you’ll remember what they say after the presentation.
Do: think of questions to ask professionals before the conference. I asked questions that helped me form connections with professionals and got me a Wendy’s frosty magnet, but I found my mind drifting because focused too hard on what questions to ask. Think of a couple of questions before the presentation so you can enjoy it and have something ready to say on deck when the time comes.
Don’t: forget to network with other schools’ PRSSA members. A kind girl from OSU’s PRSSA group came over to chat with us and we had a nice conversation introducing ourselves. Later that day she introduced our next speaker who was the girl’s mom.
Don’t be afraid to talk to others. During lunch, a man came over and talked with us about school projects and other PR topics After being honest with him about what I plan to do with my future career, he said he works for OSU’s social media department, and we talked about how we both are interested in corporate social responsibility. They can be just as influential in careers as professional speakers.
Keep these dos and don’ts in mind the next time or the first time you take part in a PRSSA event. By following this recipe you’ll put your name out there and successfully gain and retain the knowledge these opportunities are made for.
Women’s History Month Spotlight with Instructor and Cultural Critic Ile-Ife Okantah
In celebration of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Kent State Alumna and part-time adjunct instructor Ile-Ife Okantah to discuss her journalistic work in the entertainment industry.
Okantah graduated from Kent State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication and a double minor in fashion media and public relations. She then graduated in 2021 with a master's degree in journalism and digital media. During her undergraduate years, Okantah served as co-editor-in-chief of UHURU magazine and presented a TEDx Talk on code-switching in the black community.
While in her master's program, instead of doing a traditional thesis, Okantah did a series of professional projects where she explored what it meant to be a culture writer and to write about black culture.
“I did four essays that would solidify myself as a cultural critic, and then I did a research element that showed how black culture permeates every aspect of our lives and popular culture,” Okantah said.
Specializing as a cultural critic freelancer
Through a freelance newsletter called "Study Hall," that sends freelancers a weekly newsletter with writing opportunities for different magazines, Okantah was able to write for magazines such as Vulture and GQ. She specializes in cultural criticism and the intersection of Black and popular culture.
“Writing for a publication attached to the New York Magazine [Vulture] was so huge to do as one of the first things in my professional writing career,” Okantah said. Vulture needed someone to do a recap of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and Okantah pitched her idea to them.
“They had originally wanted someone to fill in for four weeks, and the woman who normally does the TV show recaps didn’t want to do it anymore, so Vulture gave me the whole season,” Okantah said. Okantah now regularly recaps different Black-centered tv shows for the Vulture. She has recapped The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Rapshit, Atlanta, Abbott Elementary, Kindred, and more. Okantah is currently working on recapping the TV show Snowfall.
“My byline in GQ was big; it was an amazing opportunity,” Okantah said. “I got it because of the work I was doing for the Vulture; GQ reached out to me and asked if I wanted to recap the TV show P-Valley.” When she’s not writing for the Vulture or GQ magazine, she’s teaching Media Power and Culture online at Kent State.
“I enjoy teaching Media Power and Culture because I love interacting with the students,” Okantah said, “I truly believe everything I did in school set me up for success farther than other people in journalism.” Okantah accredits the extracurricular activities she did with how successful she’s been in her career.
“I like that I can show students there are actually careers you can get out of this education besides working for a newspaper or corporate type of work,” Okantah said. “There is the possibility to get out of that, don’t be discouraged from trying other paths that aren’t presented to you at school.” With Okantah teaching Media Power and Culture, she hopes students are inspired by her work and encouraged to try something new than the “black and white” news.
“Don’t get discouraged from no’s; you’ll probably hear them a lot in entertainment work,” Okantah said. “You have to remind yourself that with freelance work; you are putting yourself out there for people to pick up your work or not, and you have to keep up the perseverance.” Okantah wants students to remember not to put their eggs in one basket; they need backup plans in case something doesn’t work out.
“Remind yourself to do your best with what you have,” Okantah said. “You're not superhuman, and it’s okay to pick up another job, and it’s okay for your career not to be the end all be all in the beginning.” Okantah also wants students to know they don’t have to be stuck working for traditional media outlets after graduating with a degree in media, journalism, or even public relations.
“I am a pop culture person,” Okantah said. “I believe there is so much in our society that you can take out of popular culture, entertainment, and things that aren’t just the black-and-white news. It can really help push society forward, and I want to show students that.”
Ramona Hood, CEO and President of FedEx Custom Critical, proved that no feat is ever too large as she told her inspiring and insightful career journey to members of PRSSA Kent.
Hood began as an entry-level employee at FedEx Custom Critical. She wanted a job with consistent hours and reliable employment as a 19-year-old single mother raising her daughter. She began to notice, however, after a few years of employment, that professional growth in this company was possible through hard work.
“A lot of the leaders had taken notice of me because I was a person interested in learning more than what my job was,” she said, “I began to cross-train and support when there was a need for that.”
Hood proved herself in her mentorship and leadership skills throughout the years and eventually took her role as President and CEO at the end of 2019.
Creating lasting relationships and connections can help professionals and students build networking skills. Hood stated that sometimes a small network could be just as powerful as a big one.
“It's about quality, not quantity,” she said. “You don't need to have this large network, but it's really about how you can help that person and how they can help you.”
With networking also comes advocacy, especially for a young professional. Hood spoke about the need to go after what you want, even when times can feel uncomfortable.
“The way that you advocate for yourself is really understanding how to stretch yourself and how to share the talent you have,” she said. “Your ability to have your brand out there requires you to share what you're doing and also what you want to do with others.”
Hood inspired a go-getter attitude in our filled First Energy lecture hall that night and motivated students to realize that no dream is ever too big to accomplish.
Hood sparked the go-getter sensation in our fully filled First Energy lecture hall that night and inspired students that no dream is ever too big to accomplish.
Do you really know Dr. Lambert?
Most of us know the PR faculty at Kent is a tight-knit group, but you may not know that Associate Professor Dr. Cheryl Ann Lambert was approached by Professor Michele Ewing to teach at Kent State.
Lambert grew up in Springfield, IL and throughout her education and career has lived in Philadelphia, Knoxville, Chicago and Boston. Her biggest accomplishment is running a marathon in Chicago.
Me: “Is there something you've dreamed about doing for a long time?”
Lambert: “Yes, I would love to run a marathon but this is with the caveat. I ran the Chicago marathon back in 1998, but it's been so long that I would need to get back into running and training and consistency.”
Outside of Franklin Hall, you can find Dr. Lambert watching movies on a multitude of streaming services. Her favorites are Marvel and horror movies. She’s currently watching The Last of Us, “in spite of herself.”
“I have heard before that if you like scary movies that there are certain kinds of monsters that you do not like. I do not like zombies and yet, The Last of Us is about a sort of a zombie-like outbreak,” Lambert said.
One thing you probably don’t know about Dr. Lambert is that it took her an extra year and a half to get her bachelor’s degree in English because she transferred schools. “I'm sure there's some cool saying about that, you know, just stick to it, stick to it or it doesn't matter how you start as long as you finish,” Lambert said.
Me: “What is your best advice for students?”
Lambert: “I would say to remember your reputation has ripples outward.”
Dr. Lambert connected this back to her love of superheroes with the Spiderman quote “with great power comes great responsibility.” In PR we have great power, but we also have a responsibility to be ethical.
Lambert: “You want to be somebody that is reliable and responsible. So just keep that in mind that you're shaping your reputation all the time. But the great thing is that you can also reshape it. You know, you can slip up, change, make a mistake and then change.”