On April 27, 2016, active PRSSA members and alumni arrived at The WELL at Sacramento State for PRSSA’s Alumni Night panel. Everyone gathered inside the Terrace Room, overlooking Hornet Stadium, dressed up in their professional attire. The PRSSA members and the alumni were soon ready to meet and greet one another while engaging in small talk over Epicure appetizers. We had the privileged opportunity to attend Alumni Night featuring graduated guest speakers from Sacramento State. The guest speakers included Kyla Aquino Irving, Justin Knighten, Jeff DePew and Caity Heim, who were once in our shoes as current PRSSA student members looking to explore the public relations field.
Brooke Bendorf, current alumni relations director, had the honor of hosting the guest panel for Alumni Night. The four guest speakers sat in front of the PRSSA members while Brooke asked a series of questions relating to their past experience into their current career. It was an educational experience to learn from these professionals because each individual has a different story to tell how they got started and developed new skills to discuss their current job position.
Here is a little bit more information about each guest speaker:
Justin Knighten, Vice President at Lucas Public Affairs, earned his B.A. in public relations and government at CSUS, and since graduating has developed public affairs experience with expertise in media relations and social media strategy. When an audience member asked for advice for new graduates with little to no experience,
Justin’s advice to new graduates, who have little to none experience, “Try your hardest, even if they aren’t an expert in their field yet.” He believes most successful people are those who willingly to step up to do anything rather than being told to do something.
Caity Heim, Account Executive at Randle Communications, earned her B.A. at CSUS in communication studies with a concentration in public relations, and since graduating has developed management, crisis and social media expertise.
Caity’s advice on discussing the difference between an internship and an entry-level position mentioned, “an internship is meant for individuals who want to learn the basics, and an entry-level position is meant for individuals who want to enhance basic skills and eventually move onto the next level.” She stressed how important internships are, and how students should pursue them even before they graduate because it is the first step students will have to receive more insight in their work environment and learn the functionality of the business.
Kyla Aquino Irving, Program Director at the California Medical Association (CMA) Foundation, earned her B.A. at CSUS with cum laude honors in communication studies with a concentration in public relations and a minor in marketing, and since graduating has developed public relations campaign experience. She is also passionate about diversity, inclusion and healthy equity.
Kyla’s advice to students on how to make a resume stand out stated, “One must perfect grammar, spelling and use active words and measurable results.” She emphasized to students to also have measurable results because it shows what the individual can deliver and its adds value to their business.
Jeff DePew, Media Planner/Buyer at MeringCarson, earned his B.A. at CSUS in communication studies with a concentration in public relations, and since graduating has developed public relations, marketing and strategy development experience. He also served as the president of PRSSA and attended the 2012 PRSSA National Conference in San Francisco.
Jeff’s advice to all the PRSSA students said, “Members should participate in something that would set them apart from the rest.” For example, learn and practice using graphic design. It may be a valued skill for someone who is looking for a young professional with a little more than just public relations experience because they can work on designing logos, graphics for social media posts and web designing.
Brooke was an excellent host, who contacted each guest speaker and picked the perfect venue for the alumni to have a mini reunion with one another as well as meeting new PRSSA members. The alumni guest speakers gave great advice and tips about the Do’s and Dont’s in PR world. It was inspiring to hear about their education at Sacramento State and their struggles throughout their career. All of the PRSSA students learned to work effortlessly hard to find their best fit in their PR career, create and maintain those professional relationships to have resources in the future and to never stop learning because you never know when you might need a bag of tricks to help you through the most difficult times.