Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) national chair-elect of 2017, Jane Dvorak, came to Brigham Young University (BYU) to talk to public relations (PR) students about her variety of experiences in the field. On her personal website, Dvorak calls herself a “Consultalancer©” as she consults and freelances for a variety of companies, all from the basement of her home in Colorado.
In an interview with Dvorak, she said she woke up at 3 a.m. to arrive at BYU on time and spend the day with students and faculty, which paid off, as students loved hearing from her.
Travis Mortenson, PRSSA president and senior at BYU studying PR, was the one who personally reached out to Dvorak to make this event possible. He shares his excitement about the event, “Jane just knows who to engage with people and get them to laugh. This makes her such an effective teacher.”
Dvorak’s passion and enthusiasm about what she does in PR was evident as she gave students three major pieces of advice about launching their career.
- Invest in yourself
“Now is the time for you, public relations students, to invest in yourself,” says Dvorak.
As students, self-investment is your number one job. This includes time, money and a professional network.
Dvorak advises students to put the time into gaining the skills and knowledge necessary for you PR career. This short two-year program is meant to launch students to the next step: getting a job. However, if you a student isn’t willing to spend an extra hour to improve their portfolio or give up an evening for a webinar, they won’t after graduating either. Putting the time in now will pay off in the future when you are ahead of colleagues in skill and experience.
Investing money into yourself might be where many college student struggle. It can be difficult to see the value in attending a $40 recruiter dinner or spending $75 on a PRSSA membership; however, this investment leads to future opportunities that will pay off fees in just a few days.
“Paying my PRSA membership dues of $300 is just a fraction of the return I get back from the society,” says Dvorak.
Students are taught about the benefits of building a professional network all the time; however, Dvorak reiterated the importance of networking with a mentor. Find a professional and connect with him or her. Ask about experiences and failures. Learn from his or her mistakes and successes.
If you put in the time to get to know professionals and reach out, they will put the time back into you. But remember this responsibility falls on you as the student.
- Learn what you don’t want to do first
Dvorak’s advice to students after graduation was to take nearly any job you can get (as long as you are growing). Immediately after graduation is not a time to be picky in career options.
Dvorak absolutely hated her first job. Her manager was incredibly difficult to work for. However, because of this experience, Dvorak is now the “best boss ever” because she learned what not to do.
Take your first job in hopes to find exactly what you don’t like. Stick with it for a year and then move on. It’ll take a while to find out what you do want to do as you work through what you don’t want to do.
- Create the skill set, then own it
As students interview for internships or full-time employment, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and under qualified. Dvorak’s advice to this is that if you follow her first two steps listed above, and then be confident in what you know, you’ll succeed.
During the PR program, if students are taking advantage of all it has to offer, they are more qualified than they think. You don’t need to start at a management position, in fact you won’t. But start from the bottom and, as Dvorak says, “sponge in all you possibly can.”
As you learn and grow, own your capabilities. Employers aren’t looking to see what you’ve done. They are looking to see what you are capable of doing for them.
Students have a variety of skills to offer and are capable of great things. So believe in yourself then deliver. Dvorak stated that this generation of students is the generation known to do something great then “drop the mic” and walk away. It’s just that simple.
Students were not only entertained, but also encouraged and motivated to continue in their hard work in the PR program. Dvorak’s speech was a great event, and those in attendance didn’t regret investing a Wednesday evening to hear her.
What other tips from professionals have shaped your PR career?
One thing that stands out above all I have learned here at BYU is the art of communicating. From blogging to tweeting to face-to-face interaction, communication is what makes our world go round. I am passionate about the art of public relations and tactfully communicating on behalf of any business, organization or person.