This year’s seniors have graduated and moved on, leaving room for the next class of future PR professionals to fill their shoes—and to take the next steps in their PR student careers.
So, what should they be doing during summer break? Below are a few things that came to my mind, but I’m hoping some of our PR pro friends will chime in with additional tips:
• Set short-term goals.
For example, attend at least one professional industry networking event over the summer, or read industry blogs and/or articles and comment on at least one per week.
• Set long-term goals.
Write them down, and prioritize them. For example, attend at least one industry professional networking event per semester, and/or get involved with an on-campus pre-professional organization (such as PRSSA
RELATED: Hear how top companies adapted to the digital PR industry changes at our August event.
• Work on your portfolio.
Gather writing samples, or create some by volunteering to write a guest blog post—or, better yet, start a blog. Be sure to include any public relations or marketing plans you’ve created, press releases, anything written using AP style, research papers, newspaper clippings, presentations, creative design samples, reference letters, special certifications, etc. If you haven’t yet created an online portfolio, do so. The earlier you begin, the more prepared you will be when graduation arrives. (Note:
If you are including any work that was done as part of a group, be sure to acknowledge this and identify which part you did.)
• Practice your elevator speech.
You should have a 30-second spiel that is memorable and opens a window to your personality, your passions, and your mindset. Not a laundry list of skills but rather what you can offer to a potential employer. Practice aloud
. Use your smartphone to record yourself so you can play it back and then make improvements.
• Clean up and hone your online presence.
This includes your social media accounts. Google yourself (be sure to “hide personal results” by clicking the globe in the upper right) —and don’t forget Bing and Yahoo. If the first-page results do not represent who you are, immediately begin digital damage control. This is even more important if you have a common name and can easily be confused with a dubious Doppelgänger
. Seek out and follow industry leaders so you can network with and learn from the professionals, not just fellow students.
o Not sure what “digital damage control” is? Here are some tips from CareerBuilder on CNN.com.
o Don’t think employers are using the Web and social media to research job candidates? Read this from The Wall Street Journal.
• Burnish your brand.
PR professionals must view themselves as “brands”—it’s a very competitive industry. Your business cards, resume, online portfolios, etc. should present a cohesive message. Work on ensuring that all these match your “brand.”
• Do your homework.
Research agencies, organization, and companies that you would like to intern with or work for. Reach out to them, requesting an information interview. Face to face is best but Skype or Google+ Hangouts work, too. Ask what elements (coursework, degrees, activities, skill sets) they look for when they hire. Ask, given identical academic backgrounds, what makes some candidates stand out.
Put in time at a nonprofit organization and help with public relations, marketing, social media, blog content creation, special events. All this experience counts.
PR pros, what else should students or industry newbies be doing in preparation for their career? If you are a student or recent graduate, what have you done (or are you doing) to progress your career? We want to hear from you.
Tressa Robbins is vice president of media contacts at BurrellesLuce. She contributes to the company blog, where a version of this article originally appeared.