Those who were seniors this past year are now graduated and moved on, leaving room for the next class of future PR professionals to fill their shoes—to take next steps on the path of their PR student career. So, what should they be doing during summer break? Listed below are a few items 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 each week.
- Set long-term goals, write them down and number them in order of importance. For example, attend at least one industry professional networking event per semester. And/or get involved with on-campus pre-professional organization (like PRSSA or AMA).
- Work on your portfolio. Gather writing samples–or create some by volunteering to write a guest blog post, or better yet, start your own blog. Be sure to include any public relations or marketing plans you’ve created, press releases, anything written in 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 come graduation time. NOTE: If you are including any work that was done as part of a group, be sure to notate this and identify which part you actually 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 OUT LOUD. Use your smartphone to record yourself so you can play it back and make improvements.
- Clean-up and hone your online presence—including 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 and learn from the professionals, not just fellow students.
- 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.”
- Research agencies, organization, companies that you would like to intern with or work for. Reach out to them and request an information interview. Face-to-face is best but Skype or Google+ Hangouts work, too. Ask what (coursework, degrees, activities, skill sets) they are looking for when hiring. Ask, given identical academic backgrounds, what makes some candidates standout above the rest.
- If you have free time, volunteer at a local non-profit organization and offer to help with public relations, marketing, social media, blog content creation, special events. This is experience—it all counts!
What else should students (or young PR pros) be doing in preparation for their career? If you are a student or recent graduate, what have you done (or are doing) to progress your career? We want to hear from you.