SOJC Senior Instructor Kelli Matthews took (left to right) Yusuke Ohno, Tiffany Lo, Katie Birrenkott, Nikki Kesaris, Kate Klosno, Brooke Stewart, Shelby Strout and Ethan Dagenais to Chicago to learn from a variety of public relations outfits, including the Chicago Cubs’ internal PR team.

What’s the best way for a public relations student to kick off summer? If you said building a professional network and learning more about the PR industry, I just had an eye-opening experience that proves you’re right. Earlier this month, PR Senior Instructor Kelli Matthews took me and seven of my classmates to one of her favorite cities, Chicago, to do exactly that.

In the Windy City, we met with professional PR teams from companies and agencies of a variety of sizes and types — including Edelman, Porter Novelli, Razorfish, Groupon and Starwood Partners Retail — and saw how each company operates differently from the others. Starwood is a newer and growing company that handles everything internally, including purchasing, leasing new stores and researching new locations for potential shopping centers. Edelman encourages its employees to work in its multiple locations around the country and try different departments so they can find their true passion in the field. In contrast, Razorfish is a newer company where employees usually grow and expand within one to two departments. We also got a taste of sports PR when we met with the public relations teams for the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Cubs.

Here’s a surprise: There were Oregon alumni working at almost every place we visited. As you might expect, they were happy to share the processes they used to look for jobs and internships as well as tips for using our time wisely in school so we can stand out from the pack once we graduate. These people know exactly how we feel because they took the same classes we’re taking to get to the positions they’re in now.

SOJC PR students also got to meet with the Chicago Cubs' PR people.

SOJC PR students also got to meet with the Chicago Cubs’ PR people.

Here are some of their tips that hit home with me:

  1. Be nice to everyone.

Why? You never know how someone will be able to help — or hinder — you in the future. One of the Ducks we spoke to had met an associate at an opposing firm a couple years ago. Fast-forward to now, and they both work on the same team. It’s a smaller industry than you think.

  1. Let people know when you work really hard on something.

Professionals often make what they do look easy. That’s a mistake. There’s a hidden assumption in the workplace that those who do great work do it because it comes easy to them. But the truth is, most of us work hard on our projects, and it’s OK to let your client or boss know you have put your heart and sleepless nights into a project in order to perfect it.

  1. Explore as many facets of PR as you can.

You might be exposed to something new that you end up loving. Edelman gives its employees the opportunity to jump in on projects in other departments. I believe this is a smart industry move, because how can you know you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it? A graphic designer, for instance, might never find her passion for health-industry work until she gets a chance to do a project for her firm’s health department.

  1. Always look for the learning opportunities.

Hint: They’re often your biggest mistakes. Every day is a learning experience. Don’t take it for granted.

  1. The SOJC PR contingent also visited several PR agencies in the Windy City, including Edelman.

    The SOJC PR contingent also visited several PR agencies in the Windy City, including Edelman.

    If you don’t get your “dream job,” then it wasn’t actually your dream job.

Applying for jobs means that you will experience rejection. Event though it’s tough to hear “no,” it is important to remember that something better will come along in the future. Even if you thought your career path was set in stone, it’s not until things unexpectedly change that you discover something you love far more.

  1. Stop trying to plan out every little thing.

It’s impossible to know where you’re going to end up in a year or two. So you might as well let things happen organically and learn what you can along the way. (See #4.)

The amount of knowledge I gained on this trip was priceless. Once upon a time not long ago, I thought my journey into fashion and lifestyle PR would be rather straightforward. After meeting with the Ducks who have gone before me, however, I now realize it will most likely include some surprising twists and turns. Now I’m quite a bit closer to figuring out exactly what I want to do when I graduate and the steps I have to take to get there. And I plan to enjoy the ride and lessons learned along the way.

Story by Katelyn Klosno ’17, photos by Kelli Matthews