In PR, it’s not enough to leave college with just a degree.
“Public relations is different from other college majors because employers expect you to have experience by the time you graduate,” writes Lovell Communications’ Robin Embry. “College courses provide you with critical knowledge but you also need ‘real world’ exposure. An internship might give you the opportunity to write press releases, build media lists, make media calls, participate in social media strategy sessions or just sit in on senior level strategy meetings.”
Fortunately, there are many ways to get this vital work experience while in school. Take a look at the many internship opportunities listed for PR majors on the Communications Studies Department’s website.
Become active in PRSSA—help with event planning, social media, writing. On the site Under30Careers.com, a top job/advice resource for young professionals, advisers say PRSSA is a crucial step in a PR student's success:
“PRSSA infuses ethics, professionalism and poise into its members. Employer after employer has said that any PR major who was not involved in PRSSA seems questionable and, frankly, lazy.”
And don't forget to volunteer. Volunteering can help you build essential PR skills and stand out during an interview. Find volunteer opportunities on campus at the career center or in the Sacramento community at www.volunteermatch.org.
Writing is a fundamental skill in PR, and if you don’t like it, maybe PR is not the major for you.
Experts say one of the best ways to build writing skills is to start your own blog.
“Blogging will help you grow in so many ways—refine your thinking, sharpen your writing skills. It also gives you an appreciation for what content works and what doesn’t,” says Frank Strong on PR Daily.
But what about those of us who don’t have anything to blog about? Susan Adams on Forbes.com offers some suggestions:
“Pick a personal interest and write about that, whether it’s pop music or tennis or Model United Nations. It’s preferable if you can zero in on a professional topic like marketing, but if you can’t, do write about a subject that interests you.”
Here are also some recommended blogging platforms: Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr and Medium.
Writing for Progressions, PRSSA’s national blog, is also a great way to build your portfolio. By focusing on PR topics, you get to learn more about the profession and share your work with PR students nationally.
Often the key to landing your dream job is being at the right place at the right time and meeting the right people. Networking is an important skill to have in PR. It’s vital to be in the habit of meeting new people.
“For PR people, networking has to be second nature,” says Jim Masuga, vice president of Heyman Associates. “Because it has such tremendous business and personal value, communications and networking are nearly synonymous.”
Frank Strong also credits much of his career success to networking:
“I landed where I am because of a personal introduction to a person to whom I was connected. Our paths have crossed over the course of my career several times. This person knew of me but, more important, knew an employer I had worked for 10 years ago, and knew a colleague I have worked with at three different jobs. I came with recommendations.”
Get to know people in the PR world. PRSSA can really help with this (we always have an abundant supply of guest speakers to meet) and just living in Sacramento opens up a lot of doors. PR students can take advantage of numerous local events put on by our parent chapter, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the International Association of Business Communications (IABC), Sacramento Public Relations Association (SPRA) and MetroEdge. You can check out upcoming events by regularly visiting their websites (by the way, MetroEdge has monthly and annual events planned specifically for young professionals).
Be gracious and courteous to the people you meet, and be an active listener. To make sure you don’t run out of things to talk about when meeting people, do some research before the social event. Know why the event is happening and who it’s benefitting. It’s also a good idea to always have some business cards handy (because it’s a lot more classy to pull out a card than to try to write down your contact information on a napkin). And, don’t forget to stay in touch with the people you meet!
Social Media is an easy way for employers to see your experience and get to know who you are. If you do not have a LinkedIn account, Frank Strong recommends you create one ASAP.
“LinkedIn is incredibly important for a jobseeker. Recruiters are increasingly using LinkedIn to find talent. It’s obvious why: In a few clicks, prospective employers can see your work history, recommendations, network and work samples—it's a solid snapshot of a candidate.”
In addition to including your job history, education and a summary of the career you seek, LinkedIn is the perfect place to put all of the extra stuff you couldn't fit on your résumé.
Also, remember to pay attention to the content on your other social media sites. Anything that could damage your reputation on Facebook or Twitter or that could come back to haunt you should be removed. Professor John Williams, who teaches many PR introductory courses at Sac State, often borrows Peter Post’s Bulletin Board Rule:
“Always ask yourself, ‘Is this something that I would post on the bulletin board at work for my boss, friends and coworkers to see?’ If not, then don’t post it.”
So, there you have it. Leading career experts and PR professionals all agree—if you work hard to gain hands-on PR experience, build your writing skills, network and use social media carefully and effectively, you can be sure you are well on your way to landing a great PR job after graduation.
Written by: Joe Stoddard