By Avery Marelli
As college students, we have all, at one point or another, doubted the direction we were going in. You may recall having asked yourself if you were on the right path or perhaps faced the daunting thought that you were not making enough of an impact. Subsequently, we live in an age where social media glamorizes success; LinkedIn can be a haunting place as you watch your fellow classmates have “bigger and better” opportunities, your best friend living out their dream job, and your high school friends doing exactly what they intended to do.
This was my biggest obstacle as I entered the PR field after changing both my school and major. I felt as if I could not make the impact I wanted to in a sea of successful individuals. As someone who has experienced a complete career shift and found confidence in PR, I want to share some of the greatest lessons I have learned, along with a few pieces of advice.
- Treat Everyone Kindly: In 2022, I was on a connecting flight to Dallas, eagerly heading to the PRSSA ICON Conference. Despite my enthusiasm, I was exhausted from my previous 5 am flight. A mother sat in my row, accompanied by her young son, and I noticed how drained they both looked. My seat was between them, so I switched to sit in the aisle and let them sit together. This simple act gave me the opportunity to meet the woman behind me at the conference the next day. She approached me and mentioned recognizing me from the plane the day before and how kind my gesture was. We are now connected on LinkedIn and have ties between our universities’ PRSSA chapters.
- Utilize Your Campus: At my previous school, I was too nervous about joining a professional organization or extracurricular activities on campus. When I arrived at Virginia Tech, I decided to give PRSSA a chance and attend a few meetings. Within one month, I was fully committed and astonished by the opportunities I had once been missing out on. Throughout my time with the organization, I have held three positions, obtained three different internships, and made countless friendships and connections.
- Don’t Underestimate the Power of Networking: During my time with PRSSA, I have made more professional connections than I have throughout my entire college education. The difference is that these connections have been lasting and impactful. When I first entered the major, I had no sense of direction and no idea where I wanted to end up. After learning more about myself and my opportunities, I became determined to work in the alcohol industry. On the last day of the 2022 ICON Conference, I met a recruiter who was looking for lifestyle interns for a media agency in New York. By maintaining close ties and communication with her, I can proudly say that I currently intern for the agency and work with three of my favorite clients: Aperol, Campari, and Patron.
- Learn From Those Before You: No matter how big or small, always maintain good relationships with those in the field. At the beginning and end of each semester or job, I prioritize introducing myself to my mentors and later writing them a note to express my gratitude and maintain a line of communication. Believe it or not, PR has been around for quite some time, and our educators and supervisors are our greatest resources for strengthening the future of our work.
- Find Your Niche and Strengths: It has taken me almost four full years to understand that even though many of my peers are excelling in different aspects of work and school, it does not mean I am falling behind them. We all have different timelines in life, which also means it may take longer to discover our strengths and passions. Capitalize on your capabilities, whether it is your compassion for others, your organizational skills or even your ability to listen, and apply them in your field. I have found that my greatest strengths in life have given me the ability to be more authentic in my work.
Once you find something that fulfills you, give it your all and continue to expand your knowledge in that area. As PR professionals, it is our job to bring things to life and stay educated. To be young and exposed to so much of this field, has made me so excited about what the future holds for myself and my peers.