Indiana State University Newsroom

Public relations students offer tips to young professionals at national conference

November 29, 2010

Holly Sears sees a problem with how young professionals present themselves to potential employers.

Attending a national public relations organization conference in October, the senior communication major from Kokomo noticed some young women wearing what she perceived were inappropriately short skirts.

"I probably can see them going into an interview like that," Sears said. "I mean, this was a professional setting that we were in and it's more like you should dress like you dress to go to work. And they weren't."

Sears addressed students' clothing choices during a chapter development session at the Public Relations Student Society of America's 2010 National Conference in Washington, D.C. She was one of six ISU students to attend the conference and serves as co-president of the organization's ISU chapter.

Founded in 1968, the organization is a counterpart to the Public Relations Society of America, which seeks to provide networking opportunities between students and public relations professionals.

This was the second consecutive year ISU students spoke at the conference. Just eight of the organization's hundreds of campus chapters nationwide were selected to participate, said Debra Worley, professor of communication and the ISU chapter's faculty adviser.

Worley said she believed the relevancy of ISU's topic and the clarity and organization of last year's presentation helped her students stand out among all the other universities vying for a spot in the conference. Faculty from across the country complimented Worley on the quality of both presentations, which reflects upon the public relations program.

"From a national level, we get that kind of recognition," she said.

The sessions were designed to promote each chapter's programs and initiatives and inspire ideas for improvement. ISU's students offered tips about personal "branding" for the professional workplace, covering the gamut from resumes and cover letters to etiquette.

Sears offered tips on how to properly dress and prepare for interviews.

"Even in a laid-back company, you still need to dress professionally, you need to wear suits," she said, adding that attire should also be kept neutral.

Joe Little, a senior communication major from Delphi, covered the use of social media in a professional environment.

Rather than explain the basics of Twitter or LinkedIn, he focused on how students could connect to particular experts in their intended career fields and stand out among other prospective hires.

"I think that they understand a lot of the tools as far as social media, but they don't know how to best utilize it," Little said. "The part I focused on was really targeting your audience and joining the audience. More not how to use social media but how to more effectively use social media."

Both students said the audience, which consisted of about 400 people, was generally enthused about ISU's work.

"I think they really took something from it," Sears said. "I mean, I received several e-mails after the fact [from] people requesting our information because they want this information, they want to be able to give this information to their PRSSA chapters."

She added that she enjoyed speaking in front of peers. As a whole, she said the group felt like it made a positive impact on the future of the profession.

"We did not feel an extreme amount of pressure," she said. "We were all nervous about performing well, but the session was fairly laid back enough to where we felt comfortable."

ISU presented alongside three other universities.

"We did a Q&A session at the end and all the questions were actually for us and none for Penn State," Little said, "so you could tell we kind of stole the show for that, so it was kind of nice."

Sears recalled that with a laugh.

"Joe was like the lead man on the question-and-answer session, so poor guy, it was funny."

Little was quick to add that Penn State conducted a fine presentation as well.

"Everybody's really there to find out how they can sell themselves, how they can get the job they want, so it's a good turnout," he said.

Little and Sears said they hoped networking with professionals would help land them jobs.

Little has interest in the environmental industry while Sears wants to go into fashion.

She said it was hard to describe why she was interested in public relations.

"The main thing I really enjoy is writing. You just get to be so creative," she said. "I mean, it fascinates me that people need us to help them to brand themselves."

From left to right: Hilary Duncan, Ally Paauwe, Carolyne Holcomb, Dr. Debra Worley, Holly Sears, Annie Smith, Joseph Little. ISU Courtesy Photo

Contact: Debra Worley, professor of communication, 812-237-8882 or

Writer: Nick Hedrick, media relations assistant, Indiana State University, Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773 or