Network in college now for a career in PR later
It’s back to school time for many of you, and I know your future job options must be uppermost in your minds.
If you are considering a career in public relations, start networking now!
- Become well acquainted with the staff at the public relations or public affairs department at your school. If possible, obtain work or an internship there, or at minimum, work on a short-term volunteer project during a busy time for them. If not, you can request an informational interview. Keep tabs on how they promote your school. Touch base at least once a month.
- Involvement in the PRSSA is nice but even better: find the PRSA chapter near your school and attend an event once a month so you can network with established professionals who will be charmed by your initiative and will want to help you. Most chapters offer signficant event fee discounts for students. Bring your “business card” (you can them for free at VistaPrint) and practice networking. Always ask for advice and leads, and listen more than you talk.
- Ask your professors about their connections in public relations. Do they know anyone who works at an agency or association? See if they will help you obtain an informational interview, as well as leads for internships.
- Don’t leave school without at least one letter of recommendation and at least one LinkedIn recommendation from a teacher for a public relations or communications related project you worked on, preferably a real-life one (not a classroom group project), such as an internship, paid project, or volunteer project. Document your participation with a camera (you should always keep a digital camera with you), even if all you did was staff a registration desk for an event. Blog about it.
- Apply for summer internships early. The best ones tend to be paid. If you must take an unpaid internship with a nonprofit organization, try to make it part-time (e.g., 20 hours a week), so you can also work during the summer to earn money for college. But don’t settle for a “distance” internship — you need to be in the workplace, learning and making connections.
- Keep it classy. Want to be remembered? First impressions count, but so do second and third ones. Be helpful, appreciative, and always say “thank you” to the many people who will help you along the way. Keep your cell phone or Blackberry out of your hand during networking sessions, and polish your conversational and interpersonal skills. And remember, a handwritten and mailed thank you note will always make you stand out.