There is a saying that goes, “It’s not who you know, but who knows you.” As the recipient of a national award, a lot of people will know Rachael Sperling, senior public relations major.
Rachael received the Public Relations Student Society of America National Gold Key Award this past October at the PRSSA national conference. The award "honors outstanding public relations students and leaders who excel in their academic study of public relations, have pursued ambitious professional development opportunities and are leaders in their respective PRSSA Chapters."
As president of the UT PRSSA chapter, a member of Texas Belles Event Planning Organization, an intern of Whole Foods, and a recipient of the National Gold Key Award, she already has an impressive amount of experience in public relations as a college student.
HCTX: When and how did you realize you wanted to major in public relations?
Sperling: I actually stumbled upon the profession as editor-in-chief of my high school’s yearbook. I'd debated going into journalism but I wasn’t entirely sure yet. I talked to my yearbook advisor and he recommended looking into UT’s programs, specifically the communication courses. I saw the PR program and I thought it sounded similar to journalism but there was a lot more variety in it. I came to orientation and saw how many pathways PR offered. I realized then that PR was definitely for me.
HCTX: How in the past few years have you gained experience working within the PR field?
Sperling: Internships are definitely important. I started with some marketing internships where I was on the street talking to people. It was a good skill to have and from there I was able to work up to some of the more serious internships I’ve had. I did a work-from-home internship with a small boutique agency. With that, I learned how to manage time and got a sense of what the professional world was like. I then interned at Cohn & Wolfe, and that’s where
I began really getting a PR background. I then went on to work with Southwest Airlines and now I intern for Whole Foods. PRSSA was also a huge factor. I got the most from PRSSA my freshman year because I was able to learn about the career from all of the speakers coming in to talk about their jobs. Becoming an officer and being involved in the chapter helped me build my resume before I could hold a strong internship.
HCTX: How has being a member of PRSSA helped you personally and professionally?
Sperling: Personally, it really helped me understand what PR was instead of just reading about it from a piece of paper. I met a lot of my close friends from the chapter, especially the officers. I also believe that it built up my confidence. I had a voice and it was cool to see that I had such an impact on the chapter as a whole. On a professional level, I definitely think PRSSA helped me get my internship at Cohn & Wolfe because I was able to network and develop a professional relationship with them at our events. Southwest Airlines had also told me that seeing PRSSA membership on my resume was a huge factor in why they hired me.
HCTX: How did you feel when you found out that you received the National Gold Key award?
Sperling: I was so surprised. Only ten people across the nation win the award each year. It was such an honor and it left me speechless. It just made it feel like all the hard work I put in had finally paid off.
HCTX: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Sperling: I would like to start out in Austin for a few years to get grounded after graduation. I'd just like to apply myself and be able to move up the career ladder. I'm not opposed to working at an agency, but I like the atmosphere of working with big corporations like Southwest Airlines and Whole Foods more. I've been told it takes about 7-8 years before you can start your own firm. In ten years, hopefully, I'll be just starting my own firm but that depends on how life plays out.
HCTX: What is your advice for incoming freshmen that want to pursue a career in public relations?
Sperling: Take your classes seriously your first two years and really get to know your professors because they will be your first professional contacts for recommendation letters. Volunteer and do whatever you can to get internships when you’re younger. When you’re at the junior and senior level, try to get the paid internships through agencies and corporate experiences.
I think it’s really important to get experience across the board so when you graduate you know where you want to be working and what you want to be doing. Just put yourself out there and network. Even emailing a professional can leave a lasting impression. Be open to talking to people and try to establish yourself as a professional student while still having fun.
You Might Also Like...