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What I Learned at Career Development Day

By Jay Johnson, a student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville studying public relations, head of PR Development for her PRSSA chapter in the 2017-2018 school year. 

Before I attended Career Development Day, I didn’t have the confidence I needed going forward in my studies. I knew I wanted to study communications with an emphasis in public relations, but I wasn’t sure what career I could see myself pursuing. I’d been told that people in the public relations profession only do event planning, but after attending Career Development Day, I learned that is far from true. Career Development Day was a perspective-changing event for me.

Being a new PRSSA member, I had no idea what to expect when attending my first Career Development Day. I knew I’d be doing some networking and meeting some professionals, based on what I’d learned from my chapter’s previous meetings. I was very nervous, but I went into the event with an open mind and my best foot forward.

A breakfast of coffee and muffins was a perfect, well-needed way to begin the day. I sat with unfamiliar faces and met PRSSA members from several different chapters. In the middle of breakfast, a man in a very nice striped suit approached our table and mingled with us for a bit. Later I’d come to know him as David Grossman, CEO of The Grossman Group and our first keynote speaker.

The event began with a few words from Paul Spooner, PRSA St. Louis’ president-elect, welcoming us to the event. I remember thinking his energetic mood made for a great opener. His passion for PRSSA and Career Development Day made me excited for the day ahead. He seemed young but he also seemed experienced. I wondered how he established himself.

After Paul, David Grossman took the stage, and I was immediately fascinated. He talked about his journey to success and the speed bumps along the way. Talking about both his struggles and his triumphs made his journey relatable. Two statements he made will stick with me throughout my own journey to success. He focused on having respectful authenticity – being true to oneself while also being respectful towards others. He also talked about quiet courage – being courageous inside and composed on the outside. The cherry on top of his presentation was his gift to the attendees of copies of his book No Cape Needed: The Simplest, Smartest Steps to Improve How You Communicate by Leaps and Bounds.

Later we heard the story of Travis Sheridan, Executive Director of Venture Cafe, and it was just as moving as Grossman’s story. I began to wonder how the organizers of this event found these people! Travis came from a single-parent home. His journey began with selling rocks around his neighborhood. Yes, rocks! Throughout his journey, he failed time and time again, but he didn’t let his mistakes break him, he let those mistakes stop him. He decided that if he wasn’t dead, then his mistake couldn’t end him. His genuineness gave me hope that if I want success badly enough, against all odds, I can achieve my goals. I am not afraid to fail, knowing that my mistakes are not the end.

Career Development attendees heard the Career Advancement and the Real World panels. The Career Advancement Panel, moderated by Tressa Robbins, emphasized that further education will advance your career and help you gain expertise in multiple areas. The Real World Panel, moderated by Paul Spooner, stressed that even though we’re young, if we take advantage of the right opportunities, we can achieve any goal, and that also could help us gain credibility. 

We ended the day with Professional Round Tables, which resembled speed-dating. Instead of the “dating” part, we visited each table and learned about multiple careers in the communications field. Something that all communication professionals have in common is that, in each of their positions or jobs, they are the “jack of all trades.” Each of the table leaders had adapted to different environments and personalities, did multiple jobs and carried out multiple tasks daily. Each professional never let their educational degrees limit their opportunities.

Thanks to all of the professionals speaking at Career Development Day, I’m now confident that my career choice will not be limited. I may not know exactly what path I want to pursue just yet, but I know that I have plenty of options to choose from.


Jay Johnson is a student at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, studying public relations. She has been the president of Illinois Jobs for America’s Graduates, a business program, and is now involved with Public Relations Student Society of America. She will be the head of PR Development for her PRSSA chapter in the 2017-2018 school year. You can find her on Twitter @JinkyJayJohnson or on LinkedIn.


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