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What PRSA Has Done for Me

By Bart Graham 

I used to consider myself an introvert.  

Sitting at a computer and staring at a screen for eight hours a day doing sales can make you feel that way.  My only window to the outside world, where my clients were, was my phone and Microsoft Outlook. I was in my own little bubble thinking nothing would ever happen. Then the unthinkable did happen. Three years ago I was told my services were no longer needed by my company.

I thought, “What do I do now?” I had a LinkedIn profile with no picture and only 50 connections.  I also had my yearly Grand Prix auto racing vacation where I volunteered for a week doing media relations in the Media Center. This was my hobby, which I still have and love.

Outplacement services told me that I needed to network and update my LinkedIn profile. I told myself that I also needed to join a professional association. In my job-search notes I wrote “PRSA.” Why PRSA? Two words: media relations. Could I possibly turn the work I loved doing for the Grand Prix into a new career chapter?

As luck would have it, through a civic activity I was involved in, I met the PRSA Tampa Bay chapter president serving at the time and mentioned to her I was interested in joining. That was all it took. The orders were to let her know when I had completed my application so I could be placed on a committee. I worked the registration desk at one of our events. It was pretty overwhelming for an introvert, but I told myself to embrace the change and to not be a spectator.

I can’t believe where I am at today.

Do I have my dream job?  Not yet, but I am working on it. It is just a matter of time.

I never had a mentor.  Do I have one now? I sure do, through the help of PRSA. My mentor is great, and I now consider him a dear friend, somebody I can talk to if needed. I know he is there, and he has taught me the fine art of conversation among other things.

Have I met great people and made many friends and connections? Wow, I sure have! There must have been an extroverted side of me hidden somewhere. My connection count on LinkedIn is now more than 1400. I love networking.

I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship to attend our PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis. This really opened my eyes, and I felt right at home. The conference was themed around auto racing. Go figure!

I learned a new social media skill for this conference, courtesy of our Digital Communications Committee. They gently led me “kicking and screaming” into using Twitter!

Was the chapter there to support me when I went through a family tragedy last year? Yes, they were, and I am forever grateful.

And guess what else. I think I found another niche I might be good at because of my involvement on a committee: volunteer recruitment. Just another skill I have honed from being involved with PRSA Tampa Bay.

While all of this might sound like an advertisement to join PRSA, it really isn’t.  I guess I just didn’t realize the importance of being active in a professional association in the field you work (or want to work) in, of volunteering your time and of networking. I sure do now.

Am I a true extrovert now? No. I am not willing to go that far, but I do consider myself an ambivert. That works for me!

 

 

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1 Comments

  1. Denise T. Wilson

    Feb. 22, 2018

    Great article, Bart!