The following is a post from Pyxl’s current public relations intern, Kelly Steffen.
One thing I thought about was college courses—does college really prepare you for your desired career? As we all know, most the courses we take are the generic liberal arts classes – history, English, foreign language, etc. I was never truly exposed to my public relations major until my junior year when I was “accepted” into the major. Truth be told, I never knew how much writing was actually involved in PR.
The best advice I ever received
The first day of my PR writing class, my professor stated, “If you don’t like writing, this profession is not for you. I suggest you leave now and find a different path in life.” Sounds harsh right? This was honestly one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received from a teacher. PR is not the career for everyone. Communication skills such as writing and public speaking are needed to succeed in the field.
Whether you’re considering a career in PR or a related field, here are a few tips that I’ve learned from experience with school, jobs, internships and other networking connections.
1. Internships, internships, internships. Throughout your college career you will be told by professors and PR professionals that companies are looking for employees that have experience in the field and proof that you know what you’re actually doing! We all hope to gain that amazing internship that gives us the experience we need to thrive and learn is productive and yes, PAID.
Truth is, your first internship will probably be unpaid and you will be doing a lot of busy work. My first internship involved hanging fliers around my campus and trying to generate interest in the company I was working for. I was “that person” that you seeing trying to hand you things as you’re walking and trying to get you to sign up for a particular service. I chose to look at this internship as a learning experience.
Talking to people helped develop my personal voice and vacate my shy shell. I am now able to converse with anyone about pretty much anything and I learned that persistence was the key to success. I put myself entirely into the work and showed enthusiasm in all I did. This paid off – I was eventually hired on as a part-time employee. This unpaid internship led to a great internship where I’m actually putting the skills I’ve learned to great use and yes, it’s paid!
2. Manage your online presence and reputation. Our generation is expected to know everything about social media and its different uses. This is what companies are looking for when hiring new graduates – we’re supposed to be able to take these new concepts and transfer them into profitable endeavors. Even though you may have a Twitter or Facebook account, does that really mean that you know social media? NO.
Create web content
You must actively participate in the various social media sites and create an online presence; create a personal website, blog and join multiple social media sites. Potential employers will research you and find everything you’ve done on the internet.
Be wary of privacy settings
Think that employers can’t bypass your privacy settings? You’d be wrong because there are several business websites that allow people to view your profile. So yes, filter what you put out there to the world and take down those incriminating photos. www.sampoint.com and www.socialmention.com are two such sites that companies use to see what you’re posting.
3. Social Media courses. What colleges and universities need is a course on social media – ranging from how to use them effectively and professionally to writing social media releases. There is so much out there and unfortunately, the current PR professors are not experts in this field. Ultimately, it is up to you to spend time and research social media and the benefits of its use today.
4. Write: Improve skills and grammar. Writing courses will be your best asset and the epitome of your frustration. English papers are nothing like how you write in public relations. Your messages to the public will be informative, but you must be creative in reaching to the public and the mass media. You must provide angles that the media can use that highlight your company or organization. My advice is to practice writing whether you’re writing your own blog, journaling or writing mock press releases. Keeping up your skills and practicing proper AP grammar will benefit you for the future.
5. Network. College is a great time to socialize with people from diverse backgrounds. It’s also a great time to get involved with organizations that you can put on your resume and talk to employers about.
For PR majors the best organization to join is the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Most major universities have a chapter that is excellent for networking with your peers and professionals. Most PRSSA chapters are affiliated a Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) local chapter. Utilize the time you have with these meetings because you never know how these connections will come in handy with internships or potential jobs.
College is all about what you make of it. Take chances and don’t pass up opportunities. So how will you make your college career work for your professional career?
*Photo by orvalrochefort. Used under Creative Commons.