Tips for Students during COVID-19

Students around the region: We hear you. There is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in the communications industry right now, and it can be daunting to think of your next steps in the midst of the current crisis. But one of the key characteristics of a good public relations professional is being nimble and pivoting to maximize any opportunity. Below, the PPRA Board shares some tips for building the foundation of your career during this time. We encourage you to reach out, connect with us and get engaged – now is as good a time as ever to start forging the professional relationships that will serve you well throughout your career!

We’re so #PPRAProud of you all, and we look forward to welcoming you to our community. To learn more about PPRA and how it supports students, reach out to the Co-Chairs of the College Relations Committee: Ryan Wall and Thomas Logue.

“Take note of examples of organizations that are really practicing stellar public relations at this moment. Then reach out to the people behind those organizations, introduce yourself as someone who is entering the field, and let them know what you noticed about their good work. Ask if they’d mind having a Zoom coffee meeting as an informational interview. I’m doing this too and making new connections as a result.” – Adam Dvorin, Media Relations Director, Winning Strategies; Adjunct Professor, Temple University adamdvorinppra@gmail.com

“Remember that nearly every industry is struggling, so try not to take it too personally. Use this time to hone your skills, relax and reconnect with loved ones. The rest of your life will be spent in the rat race anyway! :)” – Alexa Johnson, Senior Marketing & Communications Manager, Visit Bucks County alexaj@visitbuckscounty.com

“Get creative and stay hungry. Find new ways to make connections. Even though it’s our profession to watch the news, don’t give in to the ‘doom and gloom.’ We will get through this.” – Anthony Stipa, Communications Manager, PHLCVB; Temple alum anthonystipa@gmail.com

“Find something you care deeply about and volunteer your communications skills to an organization that supports your cause. You will make a world of new contacts and build your portfolio at the same time. Keep a diary of your COVID-19 experience. You are living through an extraordinary time in history. You are a writer, so write! Also, reach out to alumni from your school who work in communications and ask for informational interviews now. One of my best employees ever came to me that way. When someone we had just hired took another job, the woman who had the informational interview got the job! Finally, know that ‘no’ isn’t final. It means ‘not today.’ Keep in touch with the network you build. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what happens over time.” – Bev Volpe, Partner, Snap2 Marketing/PR; Penn State alum bev@snap2mkt.com

“Research companies in the news, research their web sites and who their spokespeople are. Pay attention to universities and non-profits.” – Bonnie Grant, Executive Director of  PHL Life Sciences, Philadelphia’s Convention & Visitors Bureau; Temple alum bonnie@discoverphl.com

“Join professional organizations in your desired field. Network as much as you can. Taking the first step to a new connection can make all the difference. And remember to nurture these relationships.” – Deirdre Hopkins, Director of Public Relations, Visit Philadelphia; PPRA President deirdre@visitphilly.com

“While there may never (I hope) be another event that affects the world on such a scale, there will always be obstacles to overcome. Understand that and prepare for them, even if it is getting used to the sense that you cannot control every variable. Learning to be flexible, how to pivot, how to adapt, is one of the most important skills one can have in their career and in life. It allows you to see new opportunities and let go of the things that don’t work anymore. That’s not to say ‘give up on your dream’ but know that most paths are not a straight line. Try to learn new things and add skills wherever you can find them. Be open to new employment that may not fit your ideal job description.” – Hope Corse, Director of External Relations, Science History Institute; Temple alum hcorse@sciencehistory.org

“Invest in yourself, professionally and personally. Use this time to read a book, learn a language, make a bucket list. Consider what this pandemic has shown us about the future of work and consider enrolling in a free course to fine-tune your digital skills.” – Jennifer Micklow, PR Account Director, Brownstein Group; Rowan alum jmicklow@brownsteingroup.com

“Use this time to reconnect with others. Invest time in your relationships and they will often pay dividends in the future. Don’t let fear or self-doubt keep you from reaching out. You’ll often find that people are generous with their time and advice.” – Kellsey Turner, Account Manager, Vault Communications; La Salle alum kturner@vaultcommunications.com

“Use this time to develop new skills – there are so many free courses out there right now, it’s a great time to take some on Adobe Creative Suite, photography, videography, SEO, Google Analytics, Facebook Advertising and more. These are the skills that will set you apart when you’re trying to get hired in a hyper-competitive environment. Don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals right now – we’re all figuring this out together and 9 times out of 10 the person you’re hoping to connect with will be willing to chat.” – London Faust, Digital Media Manager, Bellevue Communications Group; PPRA President-elect; Temple alum lfaust@bellevuepr.com

“Use this time to build your portfolio. Review past projects, refine them. Get additional feedback and work to put a stellar collection together.” – Melissa Fordyce, Executive Director, Marketing & Communications, Philadelphia Foundation; Temple professor; Villanova alum melissa.a.fordyce@gmail.com

“Read. Read. Read. Know what is going on in the world from many perspectives. This will help you become an asset in PR or any field and will help you have thoughtful conversation with prospective employers, mentors and the media.” – Michelle Sonsino, Director of Marketing and Communications, Germantown Friends School; UPenn alum msonsino@germantownfriends.org

“During this time of social distancing it’s important to have a polished digital portfolio. Update your LinkedIn profile by publishing articles on relevant topics to the area of communications or public relations that you are interested in. This will help you stand out from the competition. You may not have the opportunity to meet prospective employers in-person so become familiarized with video-conference interviews. The days of handshakes may be behind us but making a good first impression will never go out of style!” – Nina Rodebaugh, Adjunct Professor – Digital Analytics for PR, Temple University; Immediate Past President, PPRA; Cabrini alum nina.scimenes@gmail.com | Twitter: @NinaScim |LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ninascim/

“When I was a sophomore, a summer internship I thought I had secured fell through and I was devastated. But, a week later, I found another opportunity that ended up forming the foundation of my professional career. Don’t compare yourselves to others, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to adhere to a strict timeline. Attitude is everything, and if you keep your chin up, you’d be surprised to find that the world is often smiling back at you, cheering you on.” – Ryan Wall, Account Executive, Brian Communications, La Salle alum rwall@briancom.com | Twitter: @ryan_wonderwall | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ryanmwall/

“First, be sure to take care of yourself. This is a strange and uncertain time and it’s okay to be uncomfortable with that. In the same spirit, once you’ve settled in, take the time to think about what you want, your immediate goals and plan accordingly. Figure out how you can get your dream job or internship – does it require you to know a specific skill? Then, find a free, online class. Do you need to reach out to someone in that field? Do some virtual networking, or send an email to a professional (that includes professors!). During this time, build a clear roadmap for yourself and put it to action!” – Samantha Byles, Senior Account Executive, Bellevue Communications Group; Temple alum sbyles@bellevuepr.com

“Always follow up after applying for a job! Don’t assume “they don’t want me.” They probably are just busy. I got internships at the White House and U.S. Senate by simply making a follow up call – in both cases, they called me back right away and I’d secured the internship by the next day. Following up shows that you’re committed, responsible, and mature.” – Sarah Maiellano, Owner, Broad Street Communications sarahmaiellano@gmail.com

“The COVID-19 crisis will likely put a freeze on communications hiring for some time, so set the stage for success on the other side of this. Use every opportunity to make yourself more marketable. 1) Closely follow the news. We are living in a watershed moment that will likely change the way communications professionals think and operate. Be conversant in how this has impacted our world. (You don’t want to be caught off guard in an interview). 2) Bolster your resume. Whether you’re simply touching it up or getting new certifications outside of the classroom, do what you can to make your resume stronger your peers’. 3) NOW IS THE TIME TO NETWORK. Set aside 15 minutes (or more) every day to research a company or agency that seems interesting to you. See how they operate. Reach out and share your story. (You were looking into their company because they appeal to you in some way, and you’d like to learn more.) Have a genuine conversation with them, (avoid asking them about openings) and learn everything you can about where you might want to land in future.” – Thomas Logue, Account Executive, AKCG – Public Relations Counselors tom@annekleincg.com

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