By Jayla Kearney
“We gave the internship to someone else with more experience.” I was stunned to hear those words from a recruiter last year. How could someone already have two years of related experience as a college student? I thought I was on the right track but little did I know, I could have been doing much more.
In public relations and many other fields, it is difficult to obtain a job post-graduation without experience. Employers expect you to already have some type of experience in your field in order to prove that you have built the right skills. Even some internships require you to have experience.
So, how do you build a portfolio of work when the majority of jobs require you to have at least two years of experience?
Here are some ways to gain PR experience in college:
- Internships: Internships are among the most common opportunities to develop valuable job market skills. Depending on where you live, there are an abundance of internship opportunities in the public relations field. Try getting multiple internships under your belt before graduation. The more you do, the more contacts you make and the more experience you gain. Internships are also a great way to learn what activities and sectors are most interesting to you. In addition, they can be a valuable learning experience.
- Volunteer: Do you want to work for a particular company? See if there are any events or projects in which you can voluntarily get involved. Many companies post volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn. Here is an example from a nonprofit organization needing a social media plan: Social Media Plan for Family Promise of Hawaii (Remote). Volunteering stands out on a resume and catches the employees of that company’s attention.
- Blogging: Blogging is something anyone with a computer can easily begin doing. Blogging is valuable because it shows potential employers that you have writing skills and they learn what you are passionate about. It can also be an opportunity to showcase your expertise or intelligence about a particular topic. In addition, it helps develop a personal brand.
- Campus involvement: If you’re not already involved on campus, you should seriously consider branching out. Join any organization that interests you! The organization may even need someone to do their public relations and social media management. In addition to joining PR/communications organizations such as Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators, you can become the PR/marketing chair for your fraternity/sorority or any organization that plans events.
- Student Jobs: Ask around. There may even be real PR jobs for students available. At the University of Central Missouri, we are lucky to have Innovative Public Relations as a student-led agency that gives us real world experience. In addition, check with the theater department, television station or any office on campus for available publicity or social media positions.
- Build connections with a variety of people: Anyone can be a valuable connection, not just recruiters. Talk to your peers from different majors as well as your own. You may be able to help each other out when an employer is looking for another assistant or intern.
- Pitch yourself: When you cannot find anything that interests you, create your own opportunities. Come up with a list of duties and pick an on-campus organization or a company that can benefit from having a PR Intern. Some small or local organizations may not have a specific person to do their public relations. Ask them about it! It could be a great start for your career. Also, follow professionals on Twitter and people with whom you would like to work. Often, companies and even musicians have gone to Twitter asking for PR professionals.
If you or anyone you know would like to apply for Innovative Public Relations for Fall 2017, navigate to the “Join Our Team” tab.