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CEO talks to students about working abroad, public relations

Hannah Brokenshire / Lantern reporter

Working overseas is like playing an away game, according to the CEO of one of the world’s largest public relations firms.
After 20 years abroad in the global public relations world, Ohio State alumnus Alan VanderMolen returned to his alma mater to share insight into an evolving market and “the great big world that’s out there.”
As CEO of global practices for Edelman, one of the world’s largest public relations firms, VanderMolen has worked in Hong Kong, Belgium and Poland, among others.
“I think you have to be very respectful realizing that you’re playing an away game, you’re not playing a home game,” said VanderMolen at a Wednesday event in Campbell Hall.
When working or traveling abroad, he believes a sense of humor is key.
“I think we underestimate cultural differences in general and you’re going to run into them, so I think you just have to learn how to laugh at yourself,” VanderMolen said.
Laura Jackson, a fourth-year in communication, said VanderMolen, a former chapter president of OSU’s Public Relations Student Society of America, was an ideal speaker for the event.
“He’s a really prestigious person in our field … to see how his career has taken off and how he started at OSU, I think that that is going to benefit people in the crowd tonight,” Jackson said.
VanderMolen has worked with well-known clients like Starbucks Corp., Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft Corp. and Samsung.
The fundraising event was organized by PRactice, the student-led PR firm of PRSSA. Professionals attendees were charged $15 and non-PRSSA students $5.
Jackson, CEO of PRactice, said this is a rebranding year for the firm and “we knew we would have to bring in someone phenomenal to get everyone’s attention.”
Chelsea Hagan, second-year in communication and political science, attended the event as a PRSSA member but said the topics discussed were pertinent to students of all majors.
“I think the business world is changing … with the increase of social media we have a lot more direct access to companies,” Hagan said.
Hagan said VanderMolen’s projection for the future of public relations resonated with her.
“Public relations is becoming a key part of business,” Hagan said. “No matter your field, you will probably find yourself working with people in public relations.”
Technology growth has created a smaller world, but VanderMolen said he still believes experiencing other cultures firsthand is crucial.
“I think you can do global jobs from pretty much anywhere in the world, although I think it’s really important to get experience on the ground … so you can have a much better understanding of the culture overall,” VanderMolen said.
Diversity is a core value VanderMolen emphasizes for students searching for internships and jobs in today’s global market.
“Hang out with people unlike yourself … hang out with people from overseas, hang out with people that are from anywhere but Michigan,” VanderMolen said.

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