CPRS Toronto’s Doris Whiteside Award winners share tips for success in PR school

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Education Chair and Board Member Heath Applebaum recently caught up with each of the seven outstanding 2016 recipients of the Doris Whiteside Award. The awards are given to one deserving student at each Toronto public relations program annually, who exemplifies both academic excellence and outstanding leadership qualities. To qualify, students must be members of CPRS Toronto.

Heath asked the seven winners to reflect back on their academic journeys and share their advice for current and future public relations students. Valuable insights and tips to make the most of their academic experience and prepare for the real world after graduation.

Kristen Cockburn
Program: Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate, Loyalist College
Status: Communications Advisor, Public Health Ontario

“Public relations is definitely an exciting field, but it can also be a scary journey to embark on.  Trust me, as someone who made a career change, I know how intimidating the decision to go back to school can be. One thing I did differently this time around, which I think contributed to my success, was that I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone; there’s no better time than school to do that. Whether it is being in front of the camera, selecting a personal story to tell in an assignment, or asking a professional from a networking session for a follow-up coffee, I took this time to push my personal and professional boundaries. My advice to current and future public relations students would be to take every experience in your program as a future opportunity. Put the extra effort into your assignments and build a great portfolio, stay connected with your classmates, and talk to everyone who walks through your classroom. You never know where that door may lead.”

Zena Schmidt
Program: Advanced Diploma Program, Humber College
Status: Completed PR internship and looking for her next big opportunity

“Attending the Public Relations Advanced Diploma program at Humber College was an amazing journey. When I think back to all the professors and fellow students that took part in shaping my learning experience, I will be forever grateful. If I was to give current and future public relations students helpful advice it would be this: collaborate with your teammates; one solid unit working together is always better, and more productive, than one person operating alone. When facing obstacles, don’t simply identify the problem, be an integral part of the solution. Most importantly, compete with yourself. It is not about being better, or brighter, than the person beside you, it is about constantly challenging your personal best. Embrace your internships, be a self-starter and believe in yourself. Confidence is key; people notice it and respond to it. The transition from the academic and internship world to the real work world can be daunting. Be persistent, patient and network, network network.  In closing, a thirst for knowledge is an exceptional gift; wake- up every day with an inquisitive mind and a passionate heart.”

Erika Manassis
Program: Corporate Communications Post-Diploma, Seneca College
Status: Account Coordinator at Cohn & Wolfe Canada

“I say the same thing to all PR students that I’ve met since graduating – volunteer, and get hands-on experience. No matter how strong you are academically, there is only so much that can be learned in the classroom.  So, get out there. If I had to do my public relations program again, I would tell myself to get in the habit of reading more news, from more sources. Being a student can certainly be busy, even stressful at times, but setting aside time to read the news (newspapers, magazines, websites, social media – everything) has so much value. I believe it has made me a better PR practitioner, because I have learned to recognize the names and interests of the writers and editors that I now communicate with regularly, and I am beginning to be able to identify editorial trends. I wish I had started this habit sooner.”

Lori Talling
Program: Public Relations Post-Graduate Certificate, Ryerson University
Status: Program Coordinator, Sport Tourism, Regional Municipality of Durham

“From my first Intro to Public Relations class, I knew Ryerson’s post-graduate certificate in Public Relations was the right path for me. I loved the content and I was fueled by a desire to learn all that I could about public relations. I often spent hours researching assigned topics, I took an active role in group work, which included listening and learning from other students, and I considered quality a high priority. In my view, enthusiastic, open-minded, hard-working and engaged students will achieve the most success in the program. I recommend that students treat course assignments as opportunities to apply what they are learning and prepare for future roles in the field – work hard and have fun, collaborate, and be prepared to go the extra mile to make your mark!”

Amy Gingerich
Program: Post-Graduate Certificate Program, Humber College
Status: Account Coordinator, Veritas Communications

“One of the most important things I learned during school was to create positive relationships, with fellow students, professors and connections. This can come from a lot of things: being respectful, going above and beyond, and keeping your word, are three that seem like common sense, but are often forgotten. The public relations world is small, and memories are lasting, so the impression you make now can affect you later. Absorb as much as you can, especially when you’re learning from seasoned pros, and use their knowledge as much as you can.
Once you’re in the working world, be ready to work hard, but know that especially at the beginning, it’s not always the most glamorous work. Do it enthusiastically and you’ll make a great impression, and that’s always important when you want a reference or to move up the ranks.”

Stephanie Murphy
Program:  Public Relations Graduate Certificate Program, Centennial College
Status: Communications and Public Engagement Coordinator, Canadian Red Cross

“The best piece of advice I can think of – for both school and employment – is to take the opportunities that come your way. The best way to learn in this field is by doing, so when your instructor asks you to help with an extracurricular project, or your boss asks you to support in a new way, take it as an opportunity to learn and grow – you never know what may come of it! It will also show your dedication. While you’re in school, your instructors are a great resource. They’re industry professionals after all! Whether you have questions about an assignment or are interested in something they did in their career, chat with them outside of class time. In the workplace, if there’s a particular project you’d like to work on, or skill you’d like to develop, definitely ask. There are so many opportunities to learn in the workplace, but sometimes you have to speak up so your supervisors know you’re interested.”

Ashley Haraburda
Program: Bachelor’s Degree, Public Relations, Humber College
Status: Media Officer, The National Ballet of Canada

“Find ways to get involved in the public relations community. Throughout my time at Humber, I attended CPRS networking events, went on informational interviews and volunteered at agencies and events. You never know where one connection could take you. The more hands-on experience you gain outside the classroom, the better prepared you will feel when you start your career.”

 

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