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FIU in Chicago: How a group trip to visit top PR agencies helped me refine my career path
Elisabeth Rogers-Paulus, third from left (in back) with Professor Hugo Ottolenghi, far left, and other communications students during their recent trip to explore career paths in Chicago

FIU in Chicago: How a group trip to visit top PR agencies helped me refine my career path

A communications major writes about the value of networking with industry executives and getting a firsthand look at what it takes to land a job in the field.

May 2, 2024 at 10:30am

As my graduation date approaches, in December of this year, I wanted to improve my networking skills and establish career goals. As a public relations, advertising and communications (PRAAC) major, I also wanted an opportunity to view my classroom knowledge through the lens of the real world. Luckily, I learned about the FIU School of Communication’s PRCrawl, which takes a small group of students to the Windy City to do all of those things by visiting communications agencies and meeting with their executives.

As an account executive with FIU’s student-led strategic communications agency BOLD and a consultant to the online platform Parker Dewey, which connects recent graduates with employers, I had experiences that confirmed I wanted to pursue a communications-focused career. I was unsure, however, in which area I would flourish: public relations, marketing or advertising. I decided the trip to Chicago was a prime opportunity to shape my future.

Along with eight other students and Professor Hugo Ottolenghi from the School of Communication, we began with visits to agencies Team Lewis and Motion, where we heard about the creative campaigns they manage and the inner workings of their media relations departments. At Team Lewis, the agency’s marketing and engagement manager answered my questions and gave me personal advice on being authentic and honest when contacting news reporters and editors on behalf of my public relations clients. He reiterated that the best way to pitch story ideas was to be candid, concise and confident.

At Motion, three creative directors explained the creative process for campaigns and stressed the importance of mastering organizational skills. I found the real-world advice and suggested techniques for success incredibly valuable. That evening, we debriefed over Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza by sharing the numerous ways the agencies provided us with career and academic clarity.

On day two, we started at the ad agency Digitas, where the human resources recruiter emphasized the importance of building a diverse team and treating everyone like the unique and creative individuals they are. As a queer student, hearing that inclusivity is a foundational pillar of such an established agency was motivating and heart-warming. I felt reassured that I will be entering an industry that is dedicated to diversity among its employees.

Our afternoon visit to the NBC TV affiliate confirmed what I had already been thinking: that I want to pursue a career as an account executive. There, we conversed with Joel Negro, an FIU graduate who is a digital sales planner for NBCUniversal Local. We talked about the role of an account executive and how no two days are the same. As I enjoy working on different tasks and communicating with diverse individuals, I felt increasingly that this is the position for me.

On the last day, our early-morning session with marketing and public relations executives at the Chicago Transit Authority confirmed my decision. The senior manager of communications described the processes for managing creative teams, sustaining media partnerships and promoting accessibility-focused initiatives.

The rest of the day was all about landing internships, and we heard about available opportunities during our final two visits. At the advertising, marketing and public relations agency Oglivy, executives shared with us their career experiences, educational backgrounds and typical workdays. They explained that successful account managers require strong organizational, project managment, time-management and presentation skills, all of which I have been exercising this semester. At Zapwater Communications, the company CEO and her team stressed the importance of writing skills.

Through the trip, I learned much about myself and honed my career goals. I now know that I want to work in an agency setting that promotes a positive company culture. I also came to the conclusion that I want to pursue a master’s degree in strategic communications and start my career as an account executive. As I work toward those goals, I will apply both knowledge gained during my FIU education and the suggestions of the communications professionals that FIU helped connect me with. 

About FIU’s student-run creative agency and the trip that gives students exposure to the field

The PRCrawl is made possible by the student and faculty leadership at FIU's strategic communications agency BOLD. This unique group strives to create real-world industry experiences for aspiring professionals while serving clients of all scales across South Florida delivering top-tier communications and management strategies tailored to individual business and communications objectives.

“Our emphasis is on strategic collaboration, innovation, and commitment to excellence,” said Professor Emmanuel Cabrera Muñoz. “BOLD continues to shape the future of our students, bridging the gap between education and professional practice for a lasting impact on real clients.”

Adds Professor Hugo Ottolenghi, who accompanied the students most recently on their trip to Chicago, “Learning in person how communications professionals serve their clients and collaborate in an office environment makes these agency visits invaluable.”