Over my past four years at UCM, I have found myself questioning the purpose of assignments/exams/projects and their overall practicality for the real professional world. Would I really need to know each of the Supreme Court Justices? Will I ever use the seven years of French that I struggled through? Why so much emphasis on AP Style? What does it matter if I watch the news?
As a freshman, I was scared, timid and had no idea what the world of public relations entailed. Looking back, I wish I understood how my decisions as an underclassman would later affect my job search. In just my first week of living in Washington D.C. and interning at the U.S. Travel Association, I realized quite a few things I wish someone had told me a little earlier on in my college career. So to any freshmen, sophomore, junior or even high school student reading this, trust me, your future-self will thank you later.
- READ THE NEWS…or watch the news, it doesn’t matter your preference. Just stay up-to-date with current events!
- Internships: START EARLY! Interning is all about gaining experience. Internships get you better internships, which get you better internships, which hopefully get you a job. It’s never too early to start (even in high school). The best part about PR internships? By doing multiple, it’s much easier to figure out what you want to do with your degree after you graduate. Sports? Agency? Nonprofit? Try them all out and see what fits you best!
- Learn ALL the popular social media platforms. Even better? Experience what it’s like to run a social media account for a club or organization on campus. Learn about different scheduling sites and analytic tools. Professionals expect young PR pros to have a well-rounded knowledge of the sites BEFORE that first job.
- If you are in the Honors College, start your honors project as early as possible. Fate just might have it that you will move to a new city, work 40 hours a week, take a full semester of online classes and have to apply for jobs your last semester. The last thing you will want to do is spend time on a research project. .
- Learn about PR outside of the classroom. Start following PR blogs (like NYC PR Girls, Intern Queen or Mashable). Or read books. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree until I read Discovering Happiness and The Promise of a Pencil last summer.
- Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. But don’t be afraid to ask questions, do outside research or just teach yourself. Libraries are a great (and free) resource! It is a PR person’s job to be well informed.
- Get involved! It’s cliché advice, but it’s true. Many professional skills are gained from student involvement without even realizing it. Interviewing? Leadership? How to run meetings efficiently? Clubs and organizations are great things to talk about in interviews, and an easy way to network and connect with others in the field.
- Don’t be intimidated. You’re learning. That’s what school is for. It is okay to not know something, to make a mistake or to completely fail at something. Just make sure you take something away, and learn from each and every experience.
Whether or not you follow my advice is up to you, but I promise you will get by. Even though sometimes everything piles up at once, or the assignments seem endless, it will all be okay. The four years at college go by quicker than you can ever imagine. Don’t spend your life living in “I wish I could have” or “I should have done…” Take advantage of the moment and experience all that is around you. Believe it or not, if you do, you will unintentionally start preparing for your future. And that is something that you will never regret.
Nikki Carpenter is a senior PR student from St. Louis, Missouri. She currently lives in Washington D.C. and is interning with the U.S. Travel Association. Nikki’s past experiences include time with Missouri Sports Holdings and Innovative Public Relations.