Zach Spanton

Advice From Some Guy

You are taking a bit of advice from some guy, a 20-something who, like you, dear reader, is still navigating through life and trying to make sense of it all. If you have something to contribute to these thoughts and ideas, please do! Life on our little flying rock is short. Thanks for reading.

4 Awards Later: Noting My Appreciation (+ an Inside Look at the PRSA Classics)

Typically, I make it a point to keep feelings of pride minimal and short-lived. Over the last week, however, I’ve felt a great deal of pride and honor.

Last Thursday, April 20th, I was recognized as the 1st Place Scholarship Winner in all of Minnesota at the MN PRSA Classics – basically a mini Oscars for the PR field.

The following weekend, I received three more awards at the WSU Mass Comm Banquet: MVP of my capstone course team, highest GPA in the PR major, and overall Outstanding Student in the Mass Comm Department.

This level of recognition made me feel not only honored but also incredibly thankful. Yes, my hard work over the past four years both in school and the community paid off, but without the help of mentors/professors, close friends, family, my girlfriend, and my amazing academic advisor, Tom Grier, it wouldn’t have happened.

So, many thanks to all who have stood by me in my college journey.

Networking, recognition, and a glimpse into the future. What more could a graduating Mass Comm student ask for?

I’d like to share my experience at the PRSA Classics for those interested (especially MCOM students who hunger for insider details).

As I said, it’s like a mini Oscars for the PR world. PRSA members from an array of agencies, corporations, and universities come together, chat over drinks, eat some food, and hope to see their organization win awards. Oh yes–and a few students get recognized.

As one of those few students, I feared feeling like a total outsider. As expected, I saw no familiar faces as I first wandered around like a lost duckling sporting my newly purchased suit coat. It wasn’t long though before I started recognizing a few professionals I had networked with previously. (Start touring agencies to make this happen, my fellow students–hop to it!)

Once I got my feet wet, I was able to meet many more awesome and inspiring people in the field (with the help of those willing to find hands for me to shake – shout out to Janet Swiecichowski from University of St. Thomas).

They were all so encouraging - swapping stories of when they were in my shoes, telling me about some of their recent work, or giving overall career advice.

My favorite part of the event, though – getting a deeper look at how pros interact with each other at a primarily non-student event.

When first learning about the field way back when (actually just a few years ago), I imagined folks from rival agencies pitted against each other in every aspect. Perhaps they’d awkwardly avoid eye contact in public or put on a fake smile through gritted teeth. Maybe that still happens, but the primary truth came into full focus at the Classics.

It was not just a gathering of professionals but of friends, swapping stories and getting caught up on each other’s work. An ad placed in the night’s agenda by Carmichael Lynch Relate put it well:

“You’ve gotta love an awards show that’s part professional rivalry, part Minnesota nice.”

Yes, everyone wanted to win awards, but they congratulated the other winners nonetheless as good sports.

After all was said and done, I was giddy to join the industry.

Next on the agenda:

  1. Graduate and finish strong

  2. Head to Minneapolis

  3. Rock that place

Zach Spanton