By Brittany Dorfner, UWO alumna, ‘08 (@Brittany_D)
Last month, it was my pleasure to participate in the Journalism Department’s Mock Interviews. My first time as an employer (versus the three times I participated as a potential employee) stirred a number of different feelings; the most notable being excitement. I looked forward to speaking with students about their in-class and internship experiences, and hearing their questions about life after graduation and landing that first “real-world” job.
Since I was representing my public relations agency, C. Blohm & Associates, I assumed most of the students I interviewed would be enrolled in the PR/Ad or PR track, with most of their classes being of that focus; however, many had taken classes from all emphases of the Journalism program. I had to commend them for expanding their education outside the PR/Ad focus. These days, the PR professional needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, and expanding one’s knowledge outside the core PR curriculum is a great way to start honing other important skills.
In addition to broadening one’s education, I also couldn’t stress the importance of internships enough. As an undergrad, I remember how often we were told to have multiple internships completed by graduation. While a good education is important, there are still things you can learn only outside the classroom walls.
According to U.S. News & World Report, PR Specialist ranks among the top 50 careers in 2011. Although job growth is predicted, competition will still be fierce, making internship experience even more important for students to showcase their skills. Even volunteer projects with community organizations can prove helpful. While you may not get paid, you can utilize your budding skills and add the final materials to your growing portfolio. Plus, working as an unpaid volunteer speaks to your desire to work in the field.
My last words for these students, “Don’t forget to network!” As I’m sure many have said before, networking is extremely important in this industry. Start with your professors, and get to know the professionals you meet through agency tours, club presentations (e.g., PRSSA, Ad Club), or connect with former alumni. Thankfully, with social media tools like Twitter, you can find and follow professionals (even those you may not know) and start engaging with them, sharing content they would find interesting and useful. If you notice they’re going to a professional event, attend the same event and introduce yourself in person – get the conversation going.
For those of you with a few years to go, start looking for those internships now and ask your professors what additional classes, projects or opportunities could enhance the skills you’re building. If you’re graduating soon, keep practicing your craft. If you could use more internship experience, keep your eyes open. A full-time, entry-level job may be ideal, but might not be available without additional experience as a stepping stone. Use the resources available to find your next venture in PR, and feel free to reach out – I’m available via e-mail at email@example.com, or via LinkedIn.