By Fernando Agudelo
Senior leaders from top Chicago PR firms met last week with college students, recent grads and junior-level professionals at Weber Shandwick Chicago to address topics relevant to young professionals who are in or are looking to break into the industry.
Following a panel introduction, attendees split into small rotating groups for more intimate sessions where panelists shared personal stories about their career paths and advice on overcoming challenges. Hosted by the PRSA Young Professionals Network, the valuable and inspiring event focused on three main themes: networking, mentorship and navigating the professional world.
1. Networking – how to keep in touch
Networking is about creating, building and nurturing relationships. Tina-Marie Adams, Chicago managing director of APCO Worldwide, taught us a trick to maintaining effective and ongoing relationships. To aid her, she created a networking database using a spreadsheet to keep track of everyone she’s talked to including acquaintances, and past and current colleagues and clients. Tina makes note of the last time she connected including snippets of what the conversation was about, and encouraged us to follow up with a regular cadence of about every six months or so.
2. A mentorship makes a big difference
Networking can oftentimes lead to finding great mentors. A mentor is an active partner who helps a mentee reach his or her professional goals. Whether that’s Al Golin himself or your college professor, having a mentor is a great way to nurture your professional development. Clarkson Hine, senior vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at Beam Suntory, reminded us that mentors don’t necessarily have to be a working professional in the industry. Clarkson’s mentor was his father who was a business man he looked up to. Details about PRSA Chicago’s mentorship program can be found here.
3. Years of wisdom and experience condensed
- Keith Burton, Principal at Grayson Emmett Partners: Keith briefly touched on the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation. While he admitted that having your APR won’t boost your salary or lead to a promotion, he agreed that as a personal goal it proves your commitment to continuous education and understanding of the profession.
- Michelle Flowers, Chairman and CEO of Flowers Communications: Though it can be easy to lose track of the big picture when bogged down with the day-to-day tasks, Michelle encouraged us to love the game and learn as much as you can about the game to ensure a bright future.
- Mike Santoro, President of Walker Sands Communications: Speaking up and challenging ideas are highly valued at Walker Sands. That’s that attitude and biggest lesson Mike learned as he grew the agency from five employees to more than 80 in just five years. “If you put the effort in your 20s, it will pay off in your 30s.”