Making the Most of Post-Grad Transitions

A scary and exciting truth of post-grad life is that inevitably you will move to a new city. It’s sad because you have to leave friends, family and everything familiar. It’s exciting because you have a chance to start anew. I recently had the opportunity to begin my public relations career in Seattle, and through the transition I’ve learned a few things about how to make to most of living and working in a new place.

Take the Long Way Home
Chances are you aren’t familiar with the city that you’ve just moved to. Although with time you will eventually have better bearings, you can speed the process along by taking the long way home. Trust me – the long way home happens organically occasionally (i.e., getting lost), but it’s also a good idea to explore and wander a bit in your new city. You’ll find off-the-beaten-path gems in coffee shops and stores, as well as learn to navigate more quickly.

Live Simply (And be OK with it)
Another inevitable truth of post-grad life is that you won’t be making a great deal of money. This is a great learning moment for living simply and managing your money smart. No, you’re not going to be able to afford every dinner outing whim or new trend in the stores. Instead you can find the little – and often inexpensive – things that makes you happy.

Kick Bad Habits
Now is the perfect time to kick those bad habits and start new good ones. Start eating right. Try exercising regularly. Living a well-rounded life can start simply. Why is this the perfect time to kick bad habits? In your 20s your brain undergoes its second and last growth spurt as it rewires itself for adulthood – meaning if there’s something you want to change about yourself now is the time to do it. I learned this from watching a TED talk by Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, on “Why 30 is not the new 20,” in which she shares the truth about making the most of your 20s. (I highly recommend every college student and 20-something check this talk out).

Be Open to New Experiences
Visiting home occasionally is great, but allow yourself the opportunity to make whatever new city you’re in home. The only way this can happen is if you spend time making new friends, going new places and having new experiences.

It’s not easy to pick up and move to a whole new place, but so many positives come out of the experience.  How will you make the most of your post-grad life?

How To Avoid Burnout When Managing Social Media

I recently read an article from Ragan called “5 Secrets to Staying Sane When You Manage Social Media,” which discusses ways to stay focused and productive while working with online communities. It was a good read but left me thinking: How can community managers literally stay sane and in good spirits while managing social media?

A little personal background on the topic: This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a social media coordinator for the U.S. Army’s Leader Development and Assessment Course (LDAC), which is the Army’s largest annual intra-continental training exercise. Over the course of two months, more than 6,000 Cadets filtered through the intensive training course; all Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets must attend and complete LDAC to commission as 2nd Lts., the entry-level rank for officers in the Army.

The training requires that Cadets unplug from the world for 25 days by surrendering their phones. This is where it got tricky on the social media end. For many loved ones, it was the second time they had watched their Cadet go through an Army training course, but the first time they had been completely unable to be in contact during the training. While we were trying to position the LDAC social media outlets as a source of general information about the training, we ended up dealing with many personal requests and lonely loved ones.

I began to notice the personal toll it was taking very quickly – granted, I was working in a particularly emotionally charged situation due to loved ones being separated from their Cadets – and soon learned some ways to stay in good spirits during community management.

Stay positive (Don’t let the trolls get to you)
Easier said than done, right? Remember that for every troll there are many other followers who enjoy and appreciate the content that you’re creating. Trolls crave attention and defensiveness. Don’t give them the benefit of seeing your frustration.

Talk about it offline
Find a friend or coworker willing to discuss the difficult or frustrating situations that you encounter online. Confiding in a friend offline will help you gain perspective and avoid allowing frustrations to filter into your work.

Take a break
Schedule time when you’re off the social media clock. Social media is, of course, 24/7; however, you don’t have to let it take over your life. If you’re working with others to manage social media, make sure all team members get evenings and weekends when they don’t have to think about the latest social media post or crisis.

Keep up with your personal social media
Like me, you may be interested in community management because you understand the power of online interactions – probably stemming from your personal foray into the world of social media. Have online outlets other than those that you manage professionally. This may help you remember why you love social media in the first place or simply give you a mental break from the paid gig during the off hours.

Some of these tips I put into practice during my time as social media coordinator for LDAC, and some I wish that I had. Do you have any tried and true ways to avoid burnout when managing an online community? Share in the comments below.

For more tips concerning social media management, check out the following articles:
How to Handle Online Criticism of Your Business or Organization
Managing Social Media Chatter, Complaints, Conflicts and Crises

The Art of Saying No

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It took three years of having too many activities on my plate – work, internships and extracurriculars – to realize that sometimes it’s okay to say no when asked to work on a new project or take a rain check when an awesome opportunity arises.

During my last year in college, I started to see that saying yes to every single opportunity made me unable to do my best work. Many of my peers struggled with this same problem during their college career. For example, during part of my senior year, a fellow public relations student worked part-time, interned at two organizations and participated in two extracurricular activities. Later, she admitted that it was too much to handle. She enjoyed being busy and developing her professional skills; however, there was no way she could do everything successfully.

That’s why I’m now an advocate of saying no. Or, to put it in words that type-A, driven students can understand, I am now advocate for focusing your skill, ambition and drive into several activities that you are passionate about at a time. What do you do that makes you happiest? What is the project, job, internship or leadership position that you feel like you could do for the rest of your life?

During my senior year, I figured out that nothing made me happier than working as the University of Oregon (UO) PRSSA president. I loved helping students figure out how they could thrive in the public relations industry. After discovering that, I put the majority of my time and energy toward doing my best in that position. Focusing the lions share on my attention toward succeeding as president paid off because UO PRSSA improved as an organization and I was happier my senior year when I wasn’t being pulled in too many different directions.

All of this is not to say that you should only have one professional experience during your college career. You should try many things. Just avoid trying to do everything at one time. You’ll be more successful and happier if you focus your attention on one or two opportunities at a time. Believe me, even if you have to say no to a new project right now, there will certainly be more similar opportunities down the road.

Consider everything that you’re involved in currently. Figure out what makes your heart happy, and focus on excelling in that area.

Graduate School for PR Students: How to Decide If It’s Right for You

Often, graduate school is a topic that is glossed over in undergraduate public relations settings. Instead, the focus is on successfully preparing for an entry-level position in the public relations industry – an understandable goal – through classes, internships and extracurricular activities.

But what about those of us considering an advanced education? There are many conflicting messages regarding whether a graduate degree is useful for a public relations career. How can public relations undergraduate students cut through the clutter and decide what’s right for them?


After talking with Kelli Matthews, a public relations professor at the University of Oregon, I discovered three tips that I hope will help you make the right decision about graduate school.

1. Evaluate your career trajectory
Start thinking about your career from a long-term point of view. Where do you want your career to be in 10, 20 or even 30 years? What’s your dream job? Although these questions may be difficult to answer currently, having a rough idea of your desired career trajectory will help you decide if an advanced degree is the right choice.

Once you have determined your dream position, start researching. Spend time identifying the key players in the businesses and organizations for which you could see yourself working. Do the people who currently hold your dream position have an advanced education? The answer to this question will likely give you an idea of whether or not you should pursue graduate school.

2. Think about your specialization
The area of public relations in which you aspire to work will also be a key factor in determining the necessity of a graduate degree. For example, students interested in pursuing a career in consumer public relations will most likely not need a graduate degree to advance in their career. A student interested in public affairs, however, will probably need to pursue an advanced degree to move up within the ranks of that specialization area.

3. Spend time as a professional
If you’re unsure if graduate school is right for you, going straight from your undergraduate education into a graduate program may be a waste of your time and money. Consider spending time as an entry-level professional in the specialization area that interests you. This will allow you to decide if you enjoy working in that niche industry prior to obtaining an advanced degree in the area. On the flip side, working in the industry may solidify your desire to attend graduate school.

These three tips helped me productively begin evaluating whether graduate school is right for me.

Do you have any helpful hints for students who are trying to decide if graduate school is right for them? Share in the comments below.

An Ode to the SOJC


This week, I completed my fourth year at the University of Oregon (UO). Although I will not officially graduate and receive my diploma until December 2013, on Monday, I will participate in commencement with my fellow seniors. It’s a time of change. Due to this, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my time at the School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC), and what it has meant to me over the past four years.

The reasons I originally chose to become a public relations major are much less important than the reasons that I chose to remain within the major. Entering the SOJC was the best decision that I have made academically, professionally and personally. With that said, here are three reasons I’m passionate about the SOJC and the amazing work that takes place in Allen Hall:

The joy: Students are passionate about the work that they do here. The passion is obvious because even at 8 p.m. on a Friday night there are still students in Allen Hall working hard. As a public relations student, I’ve found comrades in my classmates and fellow Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) members. Like me, they invest all their extra time in developing their professional skills – in addition to the professional skills of younger students – and love every minute of it.


UO PRSSA students at Seattle agency tours


Professor Gallicano working with students at Write Women into Wikipedia

The resources: The SOJC has amazing professors, advisors and staff members around every corner. While talented professors and staff can be found in most schools, the SOJC is unique in that professors are cheerleaders and advocates for students, not just researchers and lecturers.

The innovation: From the hashtags that are created (#LifeasaJstudent), to the independently initiated student events that take place (UO PRSSA’s Rent a Pooch, to name one), SOJC students are continuously striving to improve themselves and the media industry. This innovation nearly always happens in collaboration with other SOJC students. Group work – the bane of most university students – is another chance to learn and grow for SOJC students.

This program shaped me into a professional who is excited to learn, as well as share my knowledge and experience with others. Without the joy, innovation and resources that the SOJC offers, I would certainly not be on my way toward achieving my dreams in the public relations industry. I’m so very proud to say that I’m (nearly) a graduate of the UO SOJC.

P.S. Don’t believe me? Check out this video about the SOJC.

Ellie’s June Reading List

Spring term of my senior year of college is coming to a close. I’ve spent most of the last few weeks working on projects that are entirely unrelated to public relations, as I’m finishing up general education class requirements including astronomy, film and Shakespeare. It has been a breath of fresh air, but I’m definitely ready to return my focus to public relations.

So, as spring term concludes, I’d like to share several articles that have kept me immersed in the public relations field and that would make fabulous June reading material.


4 Strategies for Your One-on-One Networking Meeting
Informational interviews are my No. 1 method of reaching out to industry professionals who I don’t know personally. An informational interview – or a casual conversation – can help you gain industry insight and connect with professionals in locations and organizations that interest you. This article from The Daily Muse gives great tips for making your informational interviews successful.

Becoming a Lifelong Learner: Why You Should Go to Graduate School
Lately, I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about graduate school. In this post, Karen Freberg does a fantastic job of detailing the positive aspects of graduate school, which is actually in response to an article that tackles the negatives of graduate school. If you’re thinking about higher education, check out Karen’s post; I appreciated her take on the issue.

The Top 8 Priorities for Any One-Man Marketing Team
We could all use periodical strategy refreshers. This article by Hubspot how to plan – and set priorities for – a brand’s digital approach. While the post was written with business strategy in mind, much of the advice is also applicable to personal digital strategy.

Between Marissa Mayer & the Opt Out Mom: Why Women Need More Career Role Models
If you know me well, you know that I’m passionate about women’s issues. That’s why this article by The Daily Muse stood out in my Feedly reader. The post adds to the discussion that has been stirring since “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg hit the mainstream. (“Lean In” is on my list to read, by the way.) The article gives voice to why we need more women as mentors, in particular.

3 Ways to Create an Ownership Mentality Within a Team
Do you manage people as a professional or as a student leader? If so, consider reading this article to learn the secret behind how to create ownership and accountability within your team members. Accountability is not an inherent quality in everyone; however, as a leader, you can help facilitate it through several simple steps.

7 B2B Companies to Admire for Exceptional Visual Content
Finding visual content for business-to-business communication can be difficult. This Hubspot article gives seven examples of businesses doing visual content right. I particularly enjoy the Dropbox example. Dropbox offers a great online product, which is complemented by fabulous branding visuals.

What’s on your reading list for June?

Bridging the Gap Between the Military and the Media

Have you ever wondered how a military public affairs officer (PAO) balances the need to get timely information to reporters with the need to protect sensitive military information? It’s a fine line to walk; however, PAOs do it every day. A 2012 paper called “Military PAOs and the Media: Conflicting Systems of Ethics” by Shannon A. Brown, Michael Parkinson, Kenneth Plowman, Robert Pritchard, John Schmeltzer and Mark Swiatek takes a look at the differences between the ethical systems of the media and the military.

Fort Hood commanding general speaks to media regarding Nov. 6 shooting spree

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army.

“The military ethical obligation focuses on protecting useful information and denying access to information to any potential enemy. The media ethical obligation focuses on acquiring information and distributing it to the widest possible audience. “

My favorite part of the paper – and the part I’m going to discuss in-depth – was the recommendations for PAOs who would like to bridge the gap between the media and the military, which is precisely the role of a PAO. The primary recommendation of this study is that PAOs serve as mediators between the military and the media through three primary roles:

  • Facilitate access: Reporters must have access to events and people to tell an accurate story. According to the paper, PAOs are in a prime position to facilitate that access. As stated previously, the military has a tendency to err on the side of caution with regard to information protection; after all, lives often depend on that information. If PAOs advocate for open access, however, the story is much more likely to be accurate and reflect positively on the military than if access was hindered.
  • Facilitate release of information: Reporters also need access to information to produce complete stories. The military has multiple channels of authority that PAOs must go through prior to releasing the information, which can cause cause delays and conflict. To mitigate this problem, officers must know the proper channels inside and out. Additionally, PAOs must be able to relay back to reporter why there may be delays.
  • Facilitate education: PAOs must continue bridging the gap between the military and the media by educating each side on the culture, restrictions, and responsibilities of the other. This, of course, requires that PAOs have a clear understanding of both. Reporters don’t always understand the culture of the military, and commanders don’t always know why information must be as transparent as possible. Facilitating an understanding between the two groups is key.

The entire paper was incredibly insightful; in fact, it received the Institute for Public Relations Top Three Papers of Practical Significance Award. I recommend it to all students interested in military public affairs and professionals seeking to expand their knowledge.

Boost Your Creativity With Several Simple Steps

Getting creative and artisticI’ll admit it. It’s been a challenge to stick to my weekly blogging schedule lately. Between working part-time, taking classes full-time, and participating in extracurriculars, moments of inspirations are few and far between. When I first began blogging, everything was new and exciting; inspiration was easy. Now, it takes a little more focus. Whether it be writing, designing, painting or another creative endeavor, this infographic has fantastic tips for kickstarting creative moments. Here are my favorites and why:

6. Take breaks. Nothing gets my creative mind flowing quite like taking a break and going outdoors. A walk – sometimes a run – usually does it. There’s something about letting your brain think freely that allows you to come up with new ideas quickly.

12. Get feedback. When I’m stuck on a post, my go-to tactic is collaboration with a peer. An outside perspective will point out an angle that I hadn’t previously considered or will be able to steer me in a productive new direction.

19. Get lots of rest. This is a big one. A well-rested brain thinks much more clearly than a tired one; I’ve often seen fellow students pull all-nighters to prepare for school, work or interviews. Ideally, you’d get lots of sleep because your brain will be able to connect the dots quicker.


I hope one of these tips will help you creatively tackle a project that’s been sitting on the back-burner. In the comments, let me know which tips sparked your creativity the most.

(Infographic courtesy of

Why Leadership in College Will Set You Apart in the Job Search

Recently, while having a group discussion about involvement during college, I was confronted with an unusual opinion. Someone commented that students should avoid focusing too much on leadership experience when applying for jobs because highlighting professional experience is more important. I was stunned. I’d never considered that perspective before.


The situation started me thinking about how college leadership positions prepare students to become full-fledged public relations professionals. During my time at the UO School of Journalism and Communication, I’ve had the opportunity to observe the way leadership roles impact student leaders in various fields and industries; from what I’ve witnessed, it’s nearly always a positive growing experience.

I believe that leadership in college sets students apart in the job search. Here’s why:

Team management: Entry-level communications positions do not often include team management as a job qualification. However, positions further up the ladder – such as account executive and account supervisor – do require management skills. A student leader is a strong hire in the long-run because he or she has already started developing team management skills.

Personal motivation: Student leaders – from what I’ve observed – are motivated and ambitious in many aspects of their lives. They’re the students who are passionately curious and always seeking to better themselves. While some students may say that they are ambitious, taking on a leadership position during college illustrates initiative and motivation in an obvious way.

Character: Inherent in a leadership role is service to others. Students who serve as leaders usually care deeply about others. Or, at the very least, those students begin learning the self-sacrifice that service through leadership entails. Kindness is a positive characteristic for any person, let alone professional, to have.

Organizational skills: All students have to juggle multiple classes. Most students have to juggle classes and work. Many students balance classes, work and an internship. But students who can add a leadership position to the mix illustrate their strong ability to organize and manage their time.

While professional experience is essential, I believe that leadership roles shape and develop students in ways that internships cannot. What’s your take? Share in the comments below.

Interviews from the Other Side of the Table

It’s springtime, which is a time of the year that inevitability strikes fear into the heart of seniors. The thought of job hunting and everything that it entails – resume preparation, job applications, interviews – is daunting. This weekend, however, the UO PRSSA executive board sat on the other side of the table when we conducted interviews with candidates for the 2013-2014 UO PRSSA executive board.

It’s a much different view from the other side. While interviewing, we learned some key points that every senior should know before going into a job interview.


Relate to past experience: The best answers that I heard were the ones that answered questions by relating to past experiences. It goes back to the “show them, don’t tell them” idiom. When you tell the interviewer a story of how you accomplished a similar task or overcame a comparable problem, you paint them a picture of your success.

Be concise: While it’s great to tell a story, be sure to tell a concise and well-constructed story. Elaborating on every detail is not necessary. You’ll show maturity and respect for the interviewer if you get to your point quickly.

Be confident: The interviewer wants you to succeed. Nervousness is inevitable before a big interview; however, always remember that the people sitting on the other side of the table want to see you knock the interview out of the park. I first learned this advice in reference to presenting to an audience, but it’s also applicable to interviews.

Answer the question: When answering a difficult and complex question, it’s easy to get side-tracked by a tangent story, but remember to conclude by answering the question. The interviewer will notice and mentally dock you for talking around a question or straying so far from the original topic that you forget to answer the question altogether.

Show enthusiasm: You want the interviewer to come away feeling energized and excited about what you have to offer. The best way to do this is by genuinely being excited about the position for which you’re applying; the key word here is genuine. Convey your enthusiasm through a positive attitude, open body language and goals for the position.

Editor’s note: At the end of the day, I was amazed by the caliber of the applicants who applied and interviewed for the 2013-2014 executive board. Interviewing is such an art, yet all the ladies who came in were incredibly well-spoken. It’s safe to say that I’m confident in the future of the UO PRSSA Chapter.