Written by Megan White
Getting to stand in front of my peers at commencement in a few short months is something I’ve been waiting for since I was a freshman in college. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the working world. There’s a refreshing feeling about it. In college, you can easily overwhelm yourself with a plethora of clubs, organizations, internships and jobs. But once you graduate? You’ve got one professional responsibility; your full-time job. I have a few tips for my freshman self, or better yet, any freshmen or underclassmen in public relations that may be reading this.
Find your niche. Are you passionate about social media? Writing? Media training? Crisis management? What excites you and makes you eager to get up each morning and learn? Find that interest of yours and practice it. Do your research on what can make you better. Take classes in that specific area. Talk with professors who have been in that area of expertise. Find a job on campus where you can challenge those skills. You can learn to “Curate and share content about the industry, engage with industry influencers on social media, and attend industry-specific networking events” (Honeysett 2020). Grow your resume to show you have experience and can be the best version of yourself doing so. Immerse yourself in your niche, you’ll thank yourself later.
Apply for it. Trust me, you’ll regret not doing so. Apply for the job on campus. Apply for the internship, even if it’s unpaid. I found an unpaid internship that I applied for completely on a whim. Turns out, I got it. It has challenged me so much and I’m so thankful for it because I wouldn’t have gotten that experience anywhere else. But, I almost decided to not apply. Apply to the internship you see on LinkedIn. Apply to be the club president. What’s the worst that could happen? They reject you? Oh well, apply for the next one. Don’t be afraid of the word “no” because you’re going to hear it a lot in this field. Let it be a learning experience.
Networking. If you haven’t heard this word then start listening to your professors, because I wish I had a few more semesters to do solely this. In the past year or so, I’ve been lucky enough to take classes where I get to network with professionals in my field, but not everyone has that opportunity. Meet EVERYONE you possibly can. Everybody knows somebody. Get to know all of the professors in your program. Get to know all of the students in your program, upperclassmen too. But don’t get the word “networking” twisted. For example, “Any work activity becomes more attractive when it’s linked to a higher goal” (Gino, Kouchaki, Casciaro, 2016). Networking doesn’t have to be, “Let’s talk about the latest industry trends,” or “Can you get me an internship?” It can be authentic and about something higher than ourselves. Focus on the “collective benefits of making connections” rather than your personal agenda. Learn to love networking for the benefit of pursuing relationships.
Looking back, I wish I knew these things earlier. I’m excited to step foot out of my comfort zone and into the real world. Advice, opportunities, and experiences are only possible if you chase after them. I’ve been given many and I’m excited to see where I land because of them. In 101 days, I will walk across the stage to receive a diploma… but who’s counting?