What Public Relations Students Should Do During Summer Break

June 3rd, 2013
Flickr.com: QueensU

Flickr.com: QueensU

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.
    • Not sure what “digital damage control” is? Here are some tips from CareerBuilder on CNN.com.
    • Don’t think employers are using the Web and social media to research job candidates? Read this from the Wall Street Journal.
  • 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.

13 Responses to “What Public Relations Students Should Do During Summer Break”

  1. Brittany Machnicki says:

    Hello Tressa! Awesome article, thanks for the advice! Would you have any recommendations for online portfolio platforms? Thanks!

  2. Tressa Robbins says:

    Thank YOU, Brittany! I know a number of students who use Wix.com. Another one is Weebly. I even know of some using VisualCV, WordPress or About.Me (with links out). Hope that helps.

  3. Brittany Machnicki says:

    Great, I’m on it!

  4. […] What Public Relations Students Should Do During Summer Break (burrellesluce.com) […]

  5. Ashley Glantz says:

    This is great! I’m a young professional in the making and I’m trying to utilize all these tips. I think I would also add one more thing: being a part of a second club (not pr related, but interest related). This will help you meet people outside of your college and major and can possibly help you later on in the future as well. Being part of a different club will also ease the stress from school, because you’ll be doing something fun and interesting to you. What do you think?

  6. Megan Keesee says:

    I know it isn’t summer currently, but I think that this post has some great year-round advice. One aspect of this whole job search thing thing that I’ve always found awkward is this “Information Interview” thing. What is the best way to go about this without seeming awkward or like I’m pre-interview brown-nosing? Should I send my resume when requesting an informational interview? How do I know that the company doesn’t feel like I’m wasting their employee’s time by requesting an informational interview and asking so many questions? Do most companies actually prefer that I take the initiative to request and informational interview?

  7. Great questions, Megan! You most definitely need to take the initiative in requesting an informational interview, and have questions ready. It’s okay to take a notepad and take notes during the meeting–that’s what it’s all about. However, be sure to look up and make eye contact as well. IMHO, I’d try to keep the meeting to 30 minutes so you aren’t taking up too much of their time. If they seem like they want to keep going after that 30-minute mark, you may mention that you’ve taken up the time you requested but you have more time if they do. Does that make sense? It shows you’re respecting their time.

    As much as the informational interview is about you learning, it’s not a bad idea taking your resume (or sending in advance IF they request) and ask them for feedback/suggestions. Hope that helps!

  8. Ashley, I realize your comment is several months old, and I apologize for not seeing it sooner. I definitely thinks it’s important to be well-rounded. Many PRSSA members are also members or a sorority/fraternity or other school organizations. Some are also Big Brothers/Big Sisters or volunteer for a local charity. I would just caution you to be careful of your time commitment. There’s only one thing worse than not being involved in anything, and that’s over-committing and not being able to keep your promises. 🙂

  9. Alison, I think you are right–many students get so wrapped up in the college experience that they forget in a couple short years (semesters, months) they’ll be starting their career! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being a party-pooper here. It’s okay to have fun and enjoy the freedom of moving away from home, adapting to being a young adult–for the first year or two.

    Your uncle sounds like a smart man, and I’m going to steal his “What did you put on your resume today?” line!

  10. Katie Dziki says:

    I would add that it’s never too early to start interning! During the summer after my freshman year of college, I interned for a non-profit musical theater organization. I assisted with a middle school production (not my dream internship, but rewarding). The summer after that I was hired as an event management and marketing intern! So you never know. Start reaching out to companies you’re interested in after winter break to ensure you have an internship lined up for the summer!

  11. Very true, Katie! There is no such thing as ‘too early.’ Thanks for taking time to share. 🙂

  12. […] helping PR students is a passion of mine. You may know that I’ve previously written about what public relations students should do during their summer break, what PR students can do to build their personal brand, and more. If you are an underclassman, you […]

  13. Mike Tyre says:

    Great info Tressa. I have found that Wix is the easiest online platform for me to use.

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