By: Maxlyn Wilbanks
When you first think of public relations, what do you think of? When I began my degree, I thought of all the negative aspects of PR and wasn’t sure it was the right choice for me. However, as I am about to graduate from UCM, I have realized how much my perspective on PR has changed. I now see the profession in a much more positive light and see how perfect this major was for me.
Want to know the reason I love PR so much? Well, I’d love to tell you: PEOPLE! I have met some of the nicest, most genuine people through my experiences in my PR program. Let me tell you about some of my favorites-
I recently interviewed sisters who are 98-years-old and 103-years-old during my internship with Western Missouri Medical Center. The older sister remembers the Spanish flu epidemic and told me about some of her experiences during her prime in the 1930s and ‘40s. I got to take photographs of them while they received their COVID-19 vaccinations and each one took it like a champ! Click here to read the full story!
Helen (left) and Sammy (right) receiving the COVID-19 vaccine!
During my internship with the GenWhy Leaders Podcast, I had the opportunity to speak with several successful entrepreneurs. One of my favorites was a woman who decided to start a jewelry business after creating a pair of earrings to match an outfit. Now, her business is one of the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies. Click here if you’d like to watch the full episode!
I have also enjoyed the people I’ve met while working for IPR. One of my clients created his own podcast and interviewed with the Director, Multicultural PR and Engagement at McDonald’s USA. I never thought I would have a connection with someone with such an impressive position at such a huge corporation. Click here to watch the full video on YouTube to hear about her great experiences.
I am also a member and was on the board of PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America). Through PRSSA, I met someone who worked as the Public Relations and Social Media Director at Hallmark. He now does freelance work and owns his own communications company.
Through all these great connections I have had the opportunity to apply to several jobs in preparation for graduation. I’ve been told, “resumes don’t get you jobs, connections do”. This is a statement I totally agree with and I’m lucky to have picked a degree that has allowed me to connect with so many great, successful people.
Meeting people is one of the greatest pleasures I have had while pursuing my degree. I am so glad to have been able to learn from so many great entrepreneurs and hard workers who taught me valuable skills and life lessons.
So if you are ever curious about what public relations truly is, it’s meeting amazing people and making great connections.
By: Sydney Halas
In college, time seems to fly quickly. One moment you are moving into a dormitory room for the first time, and the next, you are a senior, hopefully, well-prepared to embark on your professional career. Like many students, I was lost as a freshman. I entered school with an undecided major and no specific direction. After taking a class where I had the opportunity to explore many majors, I found myself considering either a degree in public relations or speech pathology. In several hours of discussions with my academic advisor, we decided a career in public relations would be more fulfilling for me.
My first class in the public relations program was taught by Professor Tricia Hansen Horn, and she wasted no time emphasizing the importance of networking. Being a first year student, I didn’t understand the importance behind her message. I wasted more than two years doing absolutely nothing to connect with public relations professionals. I sat through presentations by guest speakers in classes and conferences hardly paying attention to the speakers’ names. My grades have always been incredibly important to me but taking the extra step to connect with professionals who could offer me future opportunities did not register with me.
Finally, a few months into my junior year, something clicked. I needed an internship. I knew I had a better chance at securing one if I made connections before applying. I began taking extra steps after listening to a guest speaker. I would go up to a speaker after he or she spoke and shake their hand and introduce myself. I would connect with them on LinkedIn, and in some cases, send them a message about what I learned or extra questions I thought about later. They often responded. Networking enabled me to get a summer internship at Worlds of Fun through an employee who reached out to me. Had I not learned about the value of networking, I may have failed to check LinkedIn, and I likely would have missed the opportunity.
Another incredible networking opportunity was presented to me earlier this year. I was discussing my plans as a future public relations professional with my best friend from back home, and she gave me the name of a young woman who might be of interest to me. I connected with her online, and we made plans to get coffee in Kansas City. As a gesture of good will, I offered to buy her coffee, just like Professor Hansen-Horn had always instructed us to do. And, as Professor Hansen-Horn predicted, she instead bought mine. I followed up the day after the meeting with a hand-written thank-you note. Now, she is personally helping me tailor my resume to apply for an internship with her public relations firm, which is one of the largest in the world. I would have never had this incredible opportunity if I was not brave enough to make the first move and capitalize on this valuable opportunity to meet a professional in my chosen field.
I hope that any college student who reads this learns from my mistakes. Networking is an incredibly valuable skill for any student and young professional, not just those who plan to work in public relations. You never know who might offer you your next internship, job or phenomenal career. Never let your laziness, or fear, or whatever it may be, stop you from reaching out to a professional in your field. Remember, the worst they can do is say “no.” What’s the best thing they can do? Well, you will never know until you reach out!