Engaging Successfully with Industry Experts – Career Tips

A university student’s unique perspective – what she is learning as she works on a film about women who want to achieve their potential in their careers.

Lauren McDonald is a member of our Pioneers in Skirts™ team! She’s a university student who attends the UNC School of Media and Journalism. Her career goal is to work as an entertainment publicist.

s Aa senior Journalism major at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I know the importance of internships and networking. For me – a student aiming for a career in Public Relations, the question is: how do I find mentors and gain valuable experience that can help me in my upcoming career – now, versus later after I graduate?

But I need more than experience 

Public Relations is a competitive field, with entry-level PR jobs requiring at least one year of work experience. The industry is filled with great communicators and driven professionals – all vying for the jobs that I want. I must find a way to stand out.

These were things I was extremely concerned about and when I met UNC-Chapel Hill alum and filmmaker, Ashley Maria. Ashley is a director working on the 2016 documentary film Pioneers in Skirts, a film about young women pioneering in their careers. I was invited to work with Ashley and her Co-Producer Lea-Ann W. Berst, and since May 2015 I’ve been volunteering to help drive up awareness for the film and the activities surrounding it.

It’s been an amazing opportunity for my career

As a public relations volunteer for Pioneers in Skirts I have gained invaluable insight into the Entertainment industry for which I hope to one-day work as a Publicist. I’ve learned how to reach out and engage with successful professionals — two of which are Deidre Breakenridge CEO of Pure Performance Communications and Kat Cole Group President of Focus Brands. Thanks to Pioneers in Skirts, I was able to reach out to these extraordinary women; creating and nurturing a relationship that I think will help me set myself apart in my career.

Lessons learned 

  • When reaching out to connect with someone, be persistent – but give them space
    During my conversation with Ms. Cole she mentioned to me that Director Ashley Maria and Co-Producer Lea-Ann W. Berst had done a great job of reaching out to her about her involvement with Pioneers in Skirts. Ms. Cole said that while she would love to be able to participate in every opportunity that is presented to her, she simply does not have the time. Therefore she complimented Pioneers in Skirts for reaching out to her through social media in a persistent matter while not being too aggressive. I learned there is a fine line one must be aware of when trying to persuade someone to be a part of your initiative. Be sure to reach out with a clear message, be persistent while not being overly forceful. Ms. Cole commended the Pioneers in Skirts team on the way in which they conducted themselves and convinced her that Pioneers in Skirts was a film she would want to be a part of.
  • Never underestimate the power of politeness
    Growing up in the South, I have always known the importance of being polite to all those who I come in contact with. Never take for granted the time and advice someone gives you.
  • Do not expect anything, but be grateful for everything a professional shares with you
    It is the little things I have found that make more of a positive impact in my career.
  • Always send a thank you note
    Be sure to take the time to thank them for their time and for sharing their insights with you.
  • Nurturing a relationship does not mean you need to offer, or ask someone for something
    In fact, I recommend you do not. Nurture relationships by reaching out to mentors and professionals to check in, tell them what you are working on and ask how they are doing. If you reach out and stay in contact you will remain relevant in their mind as someone to watch.
  • Never underestimate any opportunity
    In August 2015 I took advantage of a special “backer reward” option offered during the Pioneers in Skirts Kickstarter campaign. In support of the film, Ms. Cole had agreed to be a “backer reward” that would allow backers to speak her about any topic for thirty minutes. In invested in my future and purchased the reward! Making sure I made the most of this unique opportunity to speak with such an impressive woman, I researched Ms. Cole and thought of questions I wanted to know as a student who was preparing to graduate. After our conversation I reached out and connected with Ms. Cole on LinkedIn and Twitter. I also sent her, and her assistant, a thank you email.
  • Be gracious and grateful for every opportunity
    I met Ms. Breakenridge early on in my involvement with Pioneers in Skirts. I reached out to her via Twitter to ask for advice on how I could improve upon my role with the film. She immediately responded, and has been extremely supportive of the film, and me, since. I will always be extremely grateful to Ms. Cole and Ms. Breakenridge for allowing me the opportunity to connect with them, and learn from their success.
Lauren Voice Picture
I chose to pioneer my career and make my dreams a reality. Here I am on the set of The Voice. Can you guess which judges chair this is?

When seeking out mentors…

During my initial “backer reward” conversation with Ms. Cole she gave me wonderful advice in regards to finding and keeping mentorships. She said, “Look for mentoring moments,” meaning it is unrealistic to expect every opportunity to turn into a mentorship. So, rather than trying to learn all you can from one or two successful people, seek out mini-mentors; people you can learn from in individual and unique work-life situations.

Since working with the film — a film about achieving personal success in life and in career, I’ve learned a lot about who my mini-mentors are. I’ve improved upon how I seek them out — and most certainly, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Pioneers in Skirts aims to help women of today, and of tomorrow. I am extremely happy to be an early recipient of that aim!

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