One of the great mentors in my life was a well-known educator named David Salten, whom I’ve mentioned here before. I shared birthday cake with David at his home as he turned 93, three weeks before he passed away. When I asked him how he stays so mentally sharp, his answer was, “I never stop learning.” Profound advice.
This weekend I attended PRSSA’s Regional Conference, hosted by Marist College’s PRSSA chapter, and featuring several public relations practitioners who shared insights on the PR job market. David’s words echo each time my students and I gain knowledge beyond the classroom.
So what did we hear and learn at Marist? Much was said about skill sets and professional traits, as were words to live by. For example, Tim Massey of Health Quest started with a lengthy list of characteristics employers seek including critical thinking, a global mindset, intellectual curiosity, ability to listen and brainstorm, and confidence.
Michael O’Brien of Ketchum told students they not only need to be exemplary writers, but also must be able to identify and craft great stories. He encouraged PR students to learn how to “make the mundane interesting and the complex simple.”“You need to be reading,” he added. “Read everything–on multiple platforms. Get yourself out of your social media feed and read about things you’d never think about reading.”
Kelsey Donohue, a recent Marist grad who now works in the First Lady’s press office, said, “Develop the skills to talk to people. Practice breaking out of your shell.”
My favorite words of wisdom came from conference keynoter Michael O’Looney, a long-time TV news reporter and later NYPD spokesman. “Don’t let fear trap you into a small life,” he told participants, “and don’t confine your world to social media. You have to get out the door.” He also challenged students to “always hold yourself to a standard of excellence.”
There was a lot more profound advice at the conference, too much to note here, but I’d like to expand on David Salten’s “never stop learning.” I’m adding, “and never top listening.” Your thoughts?