Post by Kiersten Bagley
As a young professional, I have been asked countless times about how and why I entered the field of public relations. I am always humbled to tell my story and do hope that it offers some type of assistance to soon-to-be graduates. With the fall semester ramping up, here is some advice to undergraduates on their way to public relations and communications careers:
• Volunteer. Many universities encourage a lot of nonprofit work, which is great for the organization and great for student experience. Your professors and/or advisors should be able to assist in connecting you to community organizations that can benefit from your skills. Get involved with a cause you’re passionate about—it’s always easier to work harder when it’s something you truly care about.
• Shadow and talk to professionals you admire. Getting the nonprofit experience is invaluable, however there are so many other segments of PR to discover. Reach out to those corporate, government, agency (and so on) professionals and ask to take them to lunch or shadow them for a period of time, just to learn more about their day-to-day.
• Network, network, network—get to work on a broad base of contacts. Create professional-looking business cards for yourself. See and be seen at events such as Public Relations Society of America meetings (shameless plug) and fundraising events (whether you’re working the room or the check in table). Get involved with the local Chamber(s) and attend mixers that make sense in relation to your goals. Always check the community calendars in your area for the next big event.
• Go the extra mile so that your resume is full when you graduate. Don’t pick up your cap and gown and still be digging for bullet points to tack onto your resume. You want to have more qualifications and experience than you can fit onto one page. Try not to say “no” and always be busy doing something that will help you in your future.
• Read, read, read. Sign up for PR Daily, PR News, PRSA email newsletters, etc. Industry news is wildly beneficial, but your reading list should include local and national news. There’s nothing worse than being involved in conversation and asked your opinion or take on a prominent current event you have absolutely no knowledge about. Try this list of top email blasts you should have in your inbox.
• Know a little about a lot. PR isn’t limited to traditional public relations anymore. Take a class if possible, or at least stay abreast on topics such as social media marketing, copy writing, web design, graphic design, photography and SEO.
• Last, but certainly not least, be active on social media, responsibly. Tweet things you would want your future boss to see! As an aspiring young professional, the generations before you look for you to tell them what’s the latest and greatest in technology. Have an active profile on LinkedIn and never be the last to know in regard to new tools or networks.
And, in case you’re wondering—here’s a bit of the “how” I got into PR: My interest actually began with a volunteer position that turned into a job that turned into my career – C.A.R.E. Animal Rescue. I got tossed into the role of taking the “Pet of the Week” into the KSFX/KOLR10 studio in Springfield, MO every week, sort of by default and at random. Then, experiencing how the PR leg of the broadcast news worked, I was hooked. I stepped into a PR role with C.A.R.E. once I began my PR-centric classes, so I was able to apply classroom techniques to real situations (event planning, campaign development, social media, writing content, etc.). Here’s the story of how I landed the internship at Howell through social media and how I turned that internship into a career.