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Students Get One-on-One Career Advice from Top PR Professionals

Public Relations Student Society of America Hosts Career Workshop

by Michelle Yoby (B.A. CCPA '10)

Southern Methodist University’s Public Relations Student Society of America chapter (PRSSA) hosted the 2nd Annual Communication Career Workshop on March 31. The combined efforts of Chapter President Cari Perez, Vice President of Programming and Program Chair Ally Owens, PRSSA members, and Faculty Advisor Christina Baily-Byers, APR, brought 20 Dallas-area professionals to the SMU campus to communicate with more than 40 students in an informal setting.

“The professionals volunteered their time to provide helpful tips and advice to those attending, helping to jump start careers and better prepare students for job interviews,” said Owens.

The keynote speaker for the evening was Lisa LeMaster, president and founder of The LeMaster Group -- a communications firm that specializes in issue and strategy consulting, crisis communications and spokesperson training. LeMaster’s speech provided tips to students on how to “conquer the job interview.”
She said that students should prepare for the interview by:

  • Making social media accounts professional.
  • Having personal stories ready that highlight key qualities.
  • Rehearsing key persuasive objectives.

During the interview, she said, students should:

  • Maintain a professional composure.
  • Stand up when greeting the interviewer.
  • Provide short and concise answers to questions.

Students used LeMaster’s tips when they participated in speed interviews, round-table  discussions and resume reviews with top communications professionals. The interviews were led by Gail Chandler, APR, CCPA Advisory Board, PRSSA Professional Advisor, Public Affairs and Communications, Texas Instruments; Taylor Cole, APR, CCPA Advisory Board, Public Relations Manager, LifeSynch; Christy Ecton, Outreach Manager, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Children’s Medical Center; Kim Francis, Director of Affiliate Marketing for HDNet and HDNet Movies; Jamie Leon, Public Relations Assistant, Brooks & Associates; and, Blake Lewis, Principal, Lewis Public Relations.

According to Kelsey McGaw, a senior in corporate communications and public affairs (CCPA) at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, “the speed interview was a great opportunity to talk with field professionals and get their opinion on my portfolio. They were also very candid on what to expect in an interview and gave some advice on how to avoid trick questions.”

The round-table discussion topics included “Building a Winning Portfolio,” led by Kaycee Holmes, Account Executive, Edelman and Stephanie Shaw, Senior Account Executive, Ketchum; “Realistic Salary Expectations and Budgeting,” led by Mike Lake, CCPA Advisory Board and Chairman, Southwest Region, Burson-Marsteller and Emily Graham, Senior Associate, Burson-Marsteller; and “I landed the job, Now how do I keep it?” led by Beverly Carmichael, CCPA Advisory Board, Former VP of Human Resources and Chief People Officer, Ticketmaster, and Former VP of People, Southwest Airlines.

“The students were engaged and had obviously spent time preparing for the workshop in order to gain the greatest insights and answers to their questions about preparing for a career in public relations,” said Mike Lake, leader of the round-table on salaries.

“I found it helpful how the professionals brought examples of portfolios and talked about what types of school work you could incorporate, as well as internship materials,” said CCPA senior Carolyn Angilillo.
The resume reviews allowed students to collaborate with communication specialists, getting personalized advice to improve their resumes.

“I appreciated the opportunity to help those I spoke with showcase the very relevant work they've done in support of their career goals,” said Linda Beheler, a public relations consultant with Crescere. “I was very impressed that everyone I spoke with had at least one internship experience.”

The other professionals providing resume reviews included Michelle Frith, Senior Account Executive, Cooksey Communications; Barbara Hyman, APR, CEO, Hopkins & Associates; Megan Magaňa, Marketing Specialist, HDNet & HDNet Movies; Lauren Randa Hasson, Writer and Speaker, The Résumé Girl; Caryn Statman, Assistant Director, Hegi Family Career Development Center; Casey Thompson, Regional Communications Specialist, Red Bull; and Juana Veliz, Managing Director, Hispanic Practice, LeGrant Communications.
“I was nervous about sharing my resume, but their advice was very constructive and helpful. After making adjustments, I can proudly show my resume to anyone,” said Cari Perez, PRSSA president.

The mission of PRSSA is “to serve our members by enhancing their knowledge of public relations and providing access to professional development opportunities, and to serve the public relations profession by helping to develop highly qualified, well-prepared professionals.” The career workshop upheld the mission exactly.

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