Back to School: Tips for Students Considering a Career in PR

September 8, 2017

As thousands of undergrads head back to college campuses around the country, many are either taking the step to declare their majors or continuing down the path of deciding what they want to be when they grow up.

For some, a career in PR/Communications is the preferred path, but what kinds of courses or extracurricular opportunities should they be prioritizing? Here are our tips for how college students can maximize time spent in school, from those of us who have already done the legwork.

Learning by Doing

Experiential learning, or learning by doing, is often the best way for students to get a taste for challenges they may face in the “real world” when it comes to working in PR and communications. Although PR pros will often tell you that every day, every issue and every client is different, case studies can be a great way to expose yourself to a variety of potential situations.

Seek out courses that allow you to work through case study challenges in groups, simulating real-life situations you may face on the job, and coming up with solutions as a team. The best professors will allow teams to present their proposed course of action and discuss how and why they arrived there, then review pros and cons with the rest of the class. Even if the answer your group proposes is not ultimately the best solution, working through the problem as a team and hearing a variety of points of view from other students helps prepare you for future conversations with clients who may poke holes or disagree with your recommended strategy.

Stay Current

Study requirements and extracurricular activities can make it difficult to find time to stay up on current events; however, understanding the news and shifting media landscape is critical to being a successful PR professional. Finding a daily source for condensed information like The New York Times’ Morning Briefing Newsletter or even The Skimm newsletter can provide you with an efficient, yet impactful daily dose of news.

Also try to make a habit of reading longer form publications, like The Atlantic or Vanity Fair, on a monthly basis to get a sense for feature writing styles and topics. Getting clients into these kinds of publications is often the “Holy Grail” so understanding how they report will be a benefit that may help you stand out in an interview.

Build Up Your Resume

While it may be easier for some students to take internships during the school year than others, building up your resume is always the best way to both learn and position yourself ahead of other graduating students when it comes time to apply. If an internship just isn’t possible, there are other ways you can get on the job experience to add to your resume.

One option may be to shadow someone in your university’s communications office or see if they would be open to an ongoing series of informational interviews that could. Or look to start up an email or FaceTime relationship with an alum working in the PR/communications field, to ask questions and learn about what they are working on and use it as opportunity to find a mentor. Finally, be sure to check if your campus has a local PRSA chapter that you can participate in, as these groups often have great networking opportunities for students.

For those who are able to take on intern work during the school year or even during the summer break, look for internship programs that give you a wide variety of experiences. PR agencies, like Barokas Communications, offer students the opportunity to shadow and participate in client campaigns and agency projects that span the full breadth of PR activities including media relations, content development, social media and even business development activities.

Whether it is through case studies, internships or mentorships, the key to getting the most out of your education is to learn by doing. Feel free to get creative about how you can get real world experience and help yourself stand out when it comes time to get that diploma. In the meantime, be sure to check out our careers page for current opportunities, including Fall Internship positions in our Seattle, Denver and Detroit offices!

-Sarah

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