Careers 101: The Difference a Decade Makes


Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway (third from left) with the Temple PRSSA Executive Board at Careers 101.

Register Today for PPRA’s 10th Annual Careers 101

One decade ago, I jumped on the Broad Street Line with several other members of our PRSSA “e-board” and left Temple University’s Main Campus to attend PPRA’s Careers 101 event for students and young professionals.

As we walked into the building at U Arts, I can remember how nervous we all were.  This was our first professional event, where we tried our best to look and act the part. In retrospect, we truly knew little about PR…and being professional, for that matter.  We didn’t know how agency work differed from corporate or nonprofit work. We walked in as PR “newbies” and walked out with our first real PR contacts. (Fun fact: One of these contacts is now a past PPRA president and the other is running for mayor of Philadelphia.)

If any of us doubted whether we picked the right [PR] major, Careers 101 somehow miraculously assured us that we had in fact made the right decision to go into this fast-paced and ever-changing field of writing, creativity and grit.  We wanted to share this experience with dozens of our classmates.  Therefore, on behalf of our PRSSA chapter, I emailed PPRA Executive Director Denise Downing and, should the event ever be held again, offered to host it at Temple University.

Not only was the event brought to Temple, it remained there for three years before moving to PECO for another three years.  Then, after speaking at a Drexel PRSSA meeting, their chapter reached out to me and offered to host the event.  Needless to say, the event then went to Drexel, where it was held for two years.  Now, the 10th Annual Careers 101 will be held at The Liacouras Center at Temple University, where my career started a decade ago partially as a result of this wonderful event.

As such, I have participated in the event every year since its inception, as an attendee, PRSSA president, College Relations Committee chair, panelist, networking volunteer, resume critique volunteer and now in my capacity as president-elect. It has been an honor and pleasure to watch this event grow and flourish. Each year there is a different angle or twist.  This year, in honor of Careers 101’s 10th anniversary and PPRA’s 70th anniversary, the panelists are all past presidents of PPRA and are some of the top PR pros in Philadelphia and beyond.

PPRA’s College Relations Committee has worked hard to put together a thoughtful program that somehow adds an element to one-up years passed.  Over the years, thanks to the honest feedback of the students and young professionals, as well as input from past panelists and university/college faculty and professors who have supported the event, changes have been made to improve the event for anyone involved.  For example, in its first year, there were only a handful of professionals in attendance, which resulted in a half hour wait for students to get their turn to talk with them.  Event attendees can now expect to network with up to a few dozen professionals in attendance.

The Committee wanted to come up with something else new and special for the 10th Careers 101, so this year’s attendees can look forward to getting their professional headshots taken for their LinkedIn profiles.   Also, a number of PR professionals are raffling off their time for shadow days, networking lunches and informational interviews.  The access to high-caliber professionals is a tremendous value to students and young professionals alike.  Of course, what’s Careers 101 without a resume critique?  That must-have bonus will be available again this year.

If you are a student or young professional considering going into PR, this event is for you. Your path to internships, mentors, professional contacts and maybe even employment opportunities, it all starts here.  If you are a PR professional and you have interns and/or young employees, this is an event they will benefit from…and where you might be able to find your next interns!

Additionally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the 2015 Dr. Jean Brodey Student Achievement Award.  This award honors a college junior or senior who has exhibited outstanding professional promise in the field of public relations, has an excellent academic track record and contributes to his or her community. Any PPRA member or internship supervisor in the Philadelphia region may submit nominations for the award. Self-nominations are welcome. The winner receives a commemorative plaque and a $250 cash prize.

To learn more about the PPRA Dr. Jean Brodey Student Achievement Award or the PPRA President’s Fast-Track Award, which honors recognizes an up-and-coming professional who has contributed greatly to the organization, the profession and the community,visit:

See you at Careers 101 on April 1!  Remember, your career is no joke.

Meredith Z. Avakian-Hardaway is President-Elect of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association and Director of Communications and Marketing at the Philadelphia Bar Association.  Follow Meredith @MZApoetry on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn at

The Key to Success: Loving What You Do

Love My Job Mutually

Valentine’s Day is a day of celebrating love…what better time to remind ourselves what we love about public relations?

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This popular adage, most often attributed to Confucius, was reiterated a few thousand years later by Steve Jobs, Apple CEO and perhaps one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, during his Stanford University commencement speech. Jobs expanded upon the original sentiment, saying, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Chances are you didn’t just fall into a job in public relations. You chose to enter this field for a reason – its diversity, the particular skill set required to excel, or the constant evolution of the industry, which has enabled PR pros to advance from the traditional role of storyteller into digital marketers, multimedia content developers, digitally savvy web managers and social media gurus.

With the changing industry comes an increased demand for professionals who can adapt easily to change, remain calm under pressure and problem-solve at a moment’s notice – no wonder online career site CareerCast named public relations as the sixth-most stressful career (event coordinator came in at number five). Sometimes, the draws that inspired us to enter the field can be clouded by the demanding projects and deadlines that often accompany it.

Passion breeds success, so if we want to continue excelling at what we do, we should continue to remind ourselves why we got into the profession in the first place, especially when things get stressful. In an effort to reignite the flame that once drew you into public relations, and in honor of Valentine’s Day, here are five perks of the public relations industry that will help remind us why we love our jobs.

Diversity. As one of the only fields that enables its practitioners to experience any industry in which they’re interested, the opportunities to pursue your passion are endless. If you like science, check out opportunities in health care PR at hospitals, pharmaceutical companies or non-profit health associations or organizations. Those interested in law and politics may want to look into opportunities at lobbying firms, state departments or government agencies. From Fortune 500 companies to mom-and-pop shops in your local town, you can put your PR skills to good use virtually anywhere.

Knowing what’s going on in the world. Knowing what’s in the news is an essential part of your job, and being tuned-into real-world issues can translate well into our personal lives. We’re also growing our knowledge base and exposing ourselves to new information every day. In order to effectively promote a client’s or organization’s message, you have to become well-versed in the subject matter at hand. As PR pros, we’re constantly learning something new – about a product, a procedure, a theory and more. All this knowledge makes us well-rounded conversationalists and enables us to breeze through networking functions, dinner parties and awkward encounters with acquaintances.

No two days are alike. While you may come into work with the best intentions and a to-do list, you’ll likely end up doing a hundred other things and having to reorganize and re-prioritize your day. While it can sometimes feel stressful to juggle so many responsibilities and conflicting priorities, coming up with a successful solution and finally being able to cross something off your list is so rewarding – and it keeps us on our toes.

Access to the public. Want endless access to interesting people? Become a public relations professional. Whether you’re interviewing an entry-level employee in your organization, chatting up the highest-level executive at a company your firm represents or pitching a reporter at a national publication, being a public relations pro means you have unlimited access to professionals up and down the corporate ladder and can build relationships with people from all walks of life.

The rush that comes with a big media placement. You probably remember the first major media placement you helped secure. If you’re lucky, the same rush you felt then is the one you still experience when you see your client or company in print or on television or hear them on the radio. Your non-PR friends and loved ones may not understand why you get so excited seeing client coverage (“Where’s your name? Are you going to be on TV?”), but you know a good media placement is a huge victory in our world.

Still not feeling the love? Stay passionate about the work you do by networking – meet other people involved in similar fields and share tips, ideas and best practices. Read up on the latest industry-related trends and issues. Find new ways to expand upon your skills and learn how to implement those things in your daily life. Whatever your means to get back in touch with your passion, it’s important to do so to be happy – and successful – in your work.

What do you love most about public relations? Do you think loving your job helps yield success? Let us know by commenting.

Jen Micklow is an account executive at Thomas/Boyd Communications, a leading woman-owned public relations firm specializing in strategic communications for clients of all sizes in a variety of industries. When she’s not communicating clients’ key messages to tailored audiences, securing media placements or writing carefully crafted content, Jen can be found hunting down a big sale or cozying up with a good book. Connect with Jen on LinkedIn, like Thomas/Boyd on Facebook or follow the company on Twitter @thomasboydpr.

This is a great career path. Now what?


With the continued steady growth of the public relations industry – up 11% in 2013 according to The World Report and anticipated to grow 12% over the next 8 years by the US Department of Labor – this is a great time to be a PR professional.  But just because companies are spending more time and resources on their reputations, doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be the one reaping the benefits.

Just as you wouldn’t want a dentist with bad teeth or an unfit personal trainer, your clients won’t feel comfortable with you if you don’t have a clear brand of your own.  While early in your career, your goal may be to gain as much broad-based experience as possible, as you mature, you probably want to narrow your focus and become The Go To Person for something.

Pinpoint your value.  Identify exactly what it is that sets you apart as an expert in the field:  Do you serve a certain type of client?  Do you know how to cater to specific demographics?  Do you offer a depth of knowledge regarding a given industry?  Are you known for helping startups define their place in the market or for helping established organizations revamp their images?

Make a name for yourself.  In addition to whatever bio your employer maintains on you and having a strong presence on LinkedIn, you should have a place where potential clients can get a feel for who you are.  A website with your own blog, digital portfolio, and clear contact information is key.  Be sure your online footprint reflects your PR style and speaks to your target audience.  (A WordPress site isn’t going to impress major multinational corporations; a complex site with an ultra-sleek feel isn’t going to put small locally focused organizations at ease.)

Be careful to separate your work and your personal life.   It’s not simply a matter of making sure your clients don’t find those less-than-professional pictures you couldn’t help but post of inappropriately hilarious things your kids have done – it’s also a matter of being able to dedicate yourself to the task at hand.  If you never disconnect from work, you’re much more likely to burn out on both fronts.  With the increasing expectation of connectivity and the blurring of personal/professional, it’s more important than ever to set boundaries for yourself.

Manage your calendar.  Just as you wouldn’t send out an email blast or slap together a press release on a whim for a client, you shouldn’t let the pacing of your career go with the flow or be another item on your to-do list.  This works on both the micro and the macro levels.  Defining clear blocks of time each week as “personal” and “professional” can help enforce those boundaries.  Setting bigger picture career milestones or checkpoints for yourself can help you stay on track when you get caught up in the whirlwind of your home or your office.  Literally – pick a date to take stock of your career and mark it on your calendar.

Maintain your resume and your portfolio.  Add this to your calendar, too.  Even if you absolutely positively love what you’re doing right now, make a date to review your own marketing collateral at least once a year.  You never know when some amazing opportunity is going to pop up (or, some unanticipated disaster), but if/when it does, you’ll be ready to tackle it.

Continually expand your horizons.  Take advantage of networking and career development opportunities – PPRA has regular programming geared specifically towards industry professionals, and there are plenty of other exciting events throughout the region all the time.  Set a goal for yourself – plan on attending one extra event or volunteering your time for a cause at least one extra time each month.   Add events to your calendar to make sure you actually go!  Do this right now.  Seriously, open a new window in your browser and just do it.  You’re much more likely to go if it’s on your agenda.

Become a leader*.  Mentor junior-level personnel – you’ll need someone to fill your shoes as you move up to the next step in your career.  Take charge of a project at work.  Find ways to contribute to the community through volunteering or participating in special initiatives.  Use your career objectives and value propositions as markers to help you find ways to align your endeavors with your goals.  Feel free to add these experiences to your resume as appropriate.  *Ask for help as needed and look to learn from colleagues – this only makes you a better leader.

Above all, treat yourself as you would a client.  Your image, your messaging, and your visibility as an independent professional is your career.

Certified Career Coach Rita Friedman  – –  helps clients plan their careers, conduct effective job searches, give great interviews, and grow professionally.  She provides one-on-one coaching, leads small group workshops, and writes a career advice column for  Subscribe to her blog or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Building Connections through PPRA’s Mentoring Program


The undergraduate school system is filled with teachers, coaches, and academic advisors as mentors to provide counsel or advice on the future.  In fact, the word “mentor” gets its origins from the trusted teacher and charge for Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, in Homer’s “The Odyssey.”

However, as you graduate from college and transition into professional life, those close, advising relationships becomes an even more crucial concept for success.  Not all companies have onboarding programs that assign mentors, and it can be intimidating to approach people you admire from other companies to form an authentic connection.

That’s why PPRA revived its Mentoring Program: to more easily and formally link specialists of varying years’ experience or different areas of the communication industry to enhance our member’s relationships, knowledge and skill.

Boasting some of the most talented practitioners in Philadelphia PR, our Mentoring Program is a huge advantage for students and young professionals trying to establish themselves in the communications industry.  The best practices, insights and networking provided through your mentor can truly make the difference between a mediocre career in PR and a stellar, successful one.

We encourage you to take advantage of this membership benefit by downloading the sign-up form now.  If you’re not a member yet but would like to become one to gain access to the program, check out our brochure and join today!  

 This post was written by PPRA member Christine Guerrini. Christine is a corporate communications specialist at Aramark, where she provides reputation management, media relations and social media expertise.  Connect with Christine on Twitter (@CMGuerrini) or

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Upcoming PPRA Events


Dedicated PPRA committee members have been working hard to bring you fun and exciting events, featuring some of Philadelphia’s top industry professionals. Register early and join in on the fun. We look forward to seeing you there!

The Event: “A Smile, A Handshake and a Strategy: Face-to-face networking skills that take you beyond the keyboard.”

Straighten your tie and put on your best blazer. This event is all about good old-fashioned face-to-face networking. Because a simple acceptance of a LinkedIn request doesn’t always cut it.

Date: Thursday, September 18, 2014
Time: 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM Registration and Networking
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM Lunch and Program
Location: Sonesta Hotel Philadelphia 1800 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19103
Register here!

The Event: “In the Tasting Room with Brian”

Looking to learn about bourbon? Then learn from expert Brian Bevilacqua, our Bourbon Master, who will pair three bourbons with three local cheeses and an assortment of charcuterie and introduce you to the flavors of bourbon as only an experienced pallet can.

Date: Thursday, October 9, 2014
Time: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Location: Bank & Bourbon (inside the Loews Hotel) 1200 Market Street Philadelphia,PA 19107
Register here!