Making it in the “Real World”

When I joined c21, I was encouraged to join and participate in a professional organization. I had no idea of the depth of benefits these organizations could provide. When I was in college, professors endlessly recommended professional organizations as great resources for job and internship listings, but didn’t focus on the long-term benefits of membership. Since I’ve been involved with the Georgia chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for the past two years, I have really begun to recognize the impact it’s having on my career.

I began my involvement with PRSA as a member of the Real World committee – a group that plans and executes an annual conference for college students to help prepare them for the “real world” and a career in PR. This year, I’m continuing my participation as the chair of the development committee – which secures sponsorships from corporations and agencies across Atlanta. (Shameless plug: to find out more information or sponsor, click here)

As a result of my work, I’ve had greater exposure to the Atlanta marketing PR community. Now when I attend events, others read my nametag and say, “Hey, you’re the person who sent me those e-mails – it’s nice to put a face to a name.” It’s honestly pretty cool to have people at other agencies and corporations recognize my name this early in my career!

Beyond networking opportunities, I have gained practical experience as well. I’ve learned how to approach people I’ve never met and I’ve taken that knowledge back to my daily client interactions. I’ve learned that people pay attention when you lead with the benefits they will receive, whether they are potential sponsors for an event or a client. I’ve also learned that sometimes people say no, but they may be willing to help in other ways. For example, I’ve worked with a company that wanted to sponsor, but couldn’t due to budget restraints. By creatively thinking about what the company could provide on a limited budget – providing branded tchotchkes for the attendee gift bags, for example – I was able to secure the company’s involvement and build the relationship so that when they do have the budget to sponsor, they will be more likely to participate.

In addition to my work with PRSA, my colleague Elyse Hammett serves on PRSA’s APR board and mentors professionals working toward their own accreditation in PR. Other colleagues at c21 are involved with the Atlanta chapter of the American Marketing Association and contribute by organizing events and serving on the board of directors.

Based on my personal experience and the experiences of my colleagues, I would recommend professional organizations to anyone, no matter what industry you’re in. You can find more information on the PRSA and AMA Web sites, and information on the benefits on networking can be found on job-search sites such as Monster.com.

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