It’s the end of summer—a transition time for most students. So, whether you’ve just finished college and are diligently hunting for your first full-time job or you’re psyching up for your senior year with a short-term internship, we’ve gathered our best advice for graduating PR students.
1) Join an Organization
If your college has a chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), a student-run PR firm, or even just its own communications club, take advantage of that! Student organizations are a prime place to get to know your peers, meet experts, and learn about job opportunities. People are assets, and you can go far if you know the right ones. So start with the PR department on your campus. From there, make it a priority to network everywhere you go.
2) Harness the Power of Social Media
Since public relations is all about communicating and building relationships with mass audiences, it’s no surprise that social media plays a key role. It’s a powerful tool for storytelling, and PR specialists regularly use it on behalf of the brands they support. However, it’s also a bridge between your personal and professional life. When potential employers Google you (yes, we said “when,” not “if”), what will they find? What story are you telling? While it’s important to guard your reputation and be mindful of the content you share publicly, social media is also an effective platform for building a strong personal brand, selling yourself, and demonstrating your skills, knowledge, and expertise. So, create a LinkedIn profile, connect with your classmates, professors, employers, and others, and post about your academic and professional wins.
3) Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Strong Writing Skills
Strong writing skills are the core foundation of any communication career. From captioning photos to authoring cover-page features, practice as much as you can. And keep track of your work! Building a portfolio along the way will prove to be both a practical resource and a rewarding experience. A portfolio gathers samples of your writing into one convenient location for future employers and allows you to track your growth and visualize your progress. It’s becoming increasingly popular to showcase your work digitally on LinkedIn or on a personal website through Squarespace, Wordpress, or Wix. This is the most easily accessible option for potential employers.
However, while it is crucial to maintain an up-to-date online portfolio, there’s something sweet about collecting clippings of your print bylines too. An organized folder of those newspaper and magazine excerpts could serve as an impressive, tangible item to present in an interview or simply as a memento of your journalism work.
4) Be in the Know
As a PR professional, it’s important to follow what’s going on in the world. A lot happens everyday, and with the modern 24-hour news cycle, it’s impossible to keep up with everything. However, there are three main news spaces you should follow: the local, the global, and the industry. While you may not need to know the details of a small town incident across the country, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on where you are. You should also take the time to gain a basic understanding of the major nationwide and global happenings. And third, you should immerse yourself in industry news and familiarize yourself with PR jargon and big-name agencies.
5) Keep Educating Yourself
Your learning doesn’t end when you receive your diploma, and having a degree behind your name isn’t always an immediate qualification. In fact, you will probably grow and learn as much during your first few months at a new job as you did throughout your time in school. And, while your college coursework was certainly an essential part of your growth as a PR professional, the classroom is only the launching pad. So, be humble and don’t hesitate to ask questions. If possible, seek a mentor! Whether you find someone to connect with through an official mentorship program like PRSA Mentor Connect, or you simply make an effort to chat with your favorite professors, you will likely find the verbal guidance of a trusted, experienced mentor to be the most enriching insight.
6) Write Your Own Definition of Success
Last, but not least, don’t buy into the lie that there is one “right path” for success. You can go in so many different directions with a degree in public relations. One gal may find herself at home in agency life, but that doesn’t guarantee that it’s the best fit for you. Maybe you’ll start there, but then dabble in freelance, and ultimately fall in love with nonprofit PR. Do some research, ask around, shadow, intern…all of the above! And remember that it’s okay if it takes awhile to discover the work-life balance that best suits you, your story, and the purpose you’re truly passionate about.