Attain as much experience as possible. Have you heard that GPA doesn’t matter? Well, it’s true for public relations and marketing students. I’ve talked with human resource managers who told me that grades are taken into account for internships, not jobs. They want your resume to explain what you’ve done to improve your skill set through professional experience.
Take advantage of every possible opportunity that comes your way, whether it’s an internship, job, volunteering, leadership position, freelancing, etc. I graduated with nine professional experiences and I couldn’t be more grateful to have worked in agency, higher education, hospital, non-profit and sports journalism environments. I was able to do and see many things and learn about a wide range of industries. I was also on three leadership boards – Business Management Club, PRSSA and PRSA-CNY. Through these experiences, I made long-lasting friendships, grew my resume substantially, found my interests and networked with a number of professionals.
Network, network, network. You may have heard this so many times that you’re sick and tired of it. However, I can’t begin to count the number of times my connections have helped me get in touch with the right people, get interviews for internships/jobs and put in a good word on my behalf. According to a US News article posted in 2014, more than 70 percent of people land jobs through networking. If you don’t utilize your network of professionals, you’re missing out.
If you’re not sure how to start, think of people you already know:
- Family friends
Be outgoing and establish relationships with these people. You can also attend networking events, whether they’re provided by your school or in the community. It may seem like a daunting experience at first, especially if you don’t know anyone who is attending, but putting yourself out there is the only way to grow. Networking events help you become more at ease with striking up conversations with strangers, a skill that will help you in your industry.
Join PRSSA. Almost every university that has a public relations program has a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. If yours doesn’t, then start one! PRSSA is a national organization dedicated to helping students expand their knowledge of the industry, network with professionals and provide hands-on experience, among others. Throughout my two and a half years as a member of SUNY Oswego’s PRSSA, I attended national conferences, worked with clients, networked with students and professors and held two leadership positions.
Make a portfolio. A portfolio is powerful because it backs up your resume by providing employers with concrete evidence of what you’ve done. It also shows you’ve gone the extra mile to put one together.
One of the most important PRSSA meetings we had was everything you needed to know about putting together a portfolio, lead by our faculty advisor. Ever since my second internship interview during my sophomore year, I have made sure to bring my portfolio to every interview. My sophomore year, it only had six work samples in it – two graphic design pieces, two press releases, a media alert and the summary page from a campaign I created in my survey of public relations class. Now, it has a variety of samples all from internships, jobs and volunteering.
Each interview, my portfolio has helped me to stand out. At an interview for an entry-level agency position in Boston last week, the account executive I sat down with said she had “never seen anything like this before” after looking through my portfolio.
All you need:
- Black or white one-inch binder
- Clear page protectors
- Thumb drive to put work samples on
- Local print station (such as Office Max)
Keep your social media clean. How can you be paid to improve client’s reputation when you can’t create a positive image for yourself? Even though human resource managers aren’t supposed to dig around at potential employees’ social media accounts, some do. This isn’t to say that you need to be a robot and only post industry articles. Bring your personality to your profile and post about your interests, but be mindful of language used and pictures you post. Ahem, no profanity or pictures of you holding a bottle of vodka.
Author: Lauren Taylar
Lauren Taylar is a digital marketer and blogger. She is a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations. When she’s not volunteering her time with Make-A-Wish, you can find her reading a travel magazine and sipping a glass of hard cider or wine.