Advice for the Specimen Collegium Discipulus, Part III: Get Experience
Recently, I had family friend's daughter ask me about my experience as a PR major in my former life as a college student. Not only did this request make me feel old (which felt awesome!), it made me critically think about the best advice to give a PR major.
All of the advice I wanted to give instantly started flooding my head. My mind swam with pithy little declarations of PR student excellence and created navigational instructions about college life and career preparation. I wanted to tell her everything (even the not so great things admissions booklets like to ignore).
After sorting through all of my mind jumble, a theme soon emerged: Get experience.
Experience sets you apart from your competitors. Experience helps you narrow down your employment preferences. Experience guides your academic career. In short, experience is vital to success before and after you earn your degree.
An obvious way to do this is to obtain internships. Thanks to my internships, I gained incredibly valuable knowledge I never would have learned in the classroom. Experience that I am grateful I obtained now that I am professionally working in marketing and PR.
But if you can't obtain an internship, for whatever reason, look to my pithy declarations and navigational instructions below for some advice.
Attend professional development meetings.
These can either be in the form of student groups or actual professional organizations. By attending either, but especially ones run by professional organizations, you will gain inside knowledge about job and internship opportunities. This sort of insider trading is far from illegal and incredibly advantageous to employment seekers.
Also, current professionals have years of experience and can offer personal mentorship to help you make the most of your time in college and the years after you graduate. That's right, mentorship. The holy grail of professional development.
Don't let the excuse of "being too busy" stop you from gaining experience.
If you don't have time for a full-time internship, job shadow. Call up a local professional and ask to work with them for the day or the week. You would be surprised how many professionals would be willing to allow a student come and observe them in their natural habitat.
If you don't want to job shadow but just want a little information, call or email a professional with a couple of questions and wait for their (no doubt) enlightened guidance.
Look for opportunities on campus.
All universities have some sort of marketing team. Ask to work with them for the day, week, semester, year, whatever works for both parties and then make it a party.
Your PR and Marketing professors are most likely connected with this crew. Ask them for a contact to get you in the door and in an intern's chair.
Life as a PR major is fun, exciting and filled with opportunity. It's up to you to go and seize it. Now in the famous words of the truly enlightened St. Ignatius of Loyola, "Go forth and set the world on fire."