PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

First Day Reminders

With the end of the school year comes the first for something new: the first day on the job. I wholeheartedly believe that first impressions are incredibly important, especially in the workplace. If you can manage to make a solid first impression to your supervisor and coworkers, you will be off to a great start at your job or internship.

Here are some of my reminders when it comes to making a first impression:

Preparing for the first day
Just because you got the job doesn’t mean you should stop researching the company. Make sure you know about big events relating to the company and the industry in general. Keep on with Google Alerts, subscribe to the company’s blog or news feed and read industry publications to make sure you know what’s up. You never know who you’ll meet the first day!

Appearance
What you’re wearing and how well you take care of yourself really speak louder than words. Before the first day, make sure you get in contact with an employee of the company and see what the dress code is. There’s nothing worse than wearing a suit when everyone else is casual, and when you’re not comfortable, you won’t be able to perform.

officeWhat to expect
Come to your first day with an open mind and get ready for anything. With some companies, you might have an orientation for the entire day. With other companies, you might have a brainstorming meeting, a writing project and some media clipping to do. Chances are you’ll be entering a fast-paced work environment, especially at an agency, where you will have to jump right in. Get to know the people around you and ask them how you can help. By asking questions and becoming familiar with the clients, you’ll be able to be a more effective practitioner.

Lunch
Will your new coworkers take you out to lunch? Will you all eat in the lunchroom together? Will you eat at your desk? Be prepared for anything. I recommend bringing a lunch – something that you can keep for another day in case you go out.

When to leave?
When you’re trying to figure out when to leave, make sure you’re not staring at the clock wondering when you can get the heck out. That said, it might be overkill to stay hours past closing. The best thing you can do is understand when  you’ll be expected to stay and make one more call or answer one more e-mail before heading out.

For more general tips on interning, check out my post here. For some other great articles on first days, check out these:

  • Culpwrit has an entire category dedicated to first days — there are some great posts there.
  • On Brazen Careerist, you can find some good posts on internship first days here and starting off on the right foot here.
  • Pick the Brain (my favorite motivation blog) has a great post on how to survive the first day here.

What tips do you have for those of us coming to the first day of a new job (myself included)? Any good stories to share?

Photo by mikebrown3506 on Flickr.

Filed under: Internships, Professional Development, , , , , , , ,

What If You Start PR Later In College?

During the past couple of weeks, I wrote a series of posts on how to prepare for PR in college. The advice was directed at a hypothetical freshmen about to enter PR studies in college, though the advice can be applied to different parts of a career in the field. Now, I want to write to a more realistic crowd — the sophomores, juniors, seniors and new graduates who just found PR.

Before I start giving some advice, I want to make it clear that you don’t need to have four years of solid PR experience in college to get a job when you graduate. Sure, it would be nice to do all of the things I mentioned in the other posts, but is it completely realistic to do what I recommend each year? Not for everyone. If you start PR even as late as senior year, you can still get off to a great start to your career. Here is what I recommend:

Draw on past experiences

If you were pre-med, philosophy, math or even underwater basket weaving, it’s important to draw upon past experiences and apply them to the public relations field. Chances are, if you majored in biology before you changed to public relations, you have some interest in science or technology. The great part about this is you can use this to your advantage. As a public relations practitioner, you’ll probably represent a company or organization that does things the public won’t understand — and that is where you come in. When you can bring a specialized background to the PR industry, it makes you that much more valuable.

Tip: Apply what you’re learning in other classes to your PR career — it will help you to be a more effective practitioner.

Get solid public relations experience

Although you may be worried about catching up in classes, especially if you changed majors later in college, it’s important to immediately seek solid opportunities that will help you enhance your public relations skills. You will be able to get the most out of an internship if you have a mentor guiding you throughout your time with that company/organization and if the program is somewhat structured. Sure, there are exceptions to those, but if you can find a company with some talented professionals and value their interns, you will probably have a good experience.

Something I forgot to put in my last posts is a list of resources of finding an internship. So, here are some great places to start:

  • You college’s career network will probably be the most helpful in finding an internship near your college, unless you’re in a big city.
  • PRSSA JobCenter is the job bank of National PRSSA. It’s a great resource with tips and job postings.
  • EntryLevel-PR.com is a great resource for finding internships and full time jobs.
  • Reach out to your own network — make sure people know you’re looking for a job/internship and you never know what might happen.

Tip: Find several diverse experiences before you graduate in order to make yourself more marketable and find out what you want to do in your career.

Get active in social networks

The beauty of using Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed and others for professional use is the ability to build your network so easily. Reach out to public relations professionals, especially at companies you would like to work for, and communicate with them. Another really good place to be is PROpenMic. It’s a network for public relations students, practitioners and faculty members — check it out.

With all of the joining and networking you will do, it’s important to maintain a sense of professionalism. Talking about how drunk you got during the weekend on your Facebook profile used to be OK when Facebook was just for college students. That’s not the case anymore. Know that what what you put online is fair game for potential employers and bosses to read, so make sure you think about what you post.

Tip: Get online and start participating in conversations. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn from a strong online network.

Get active in PRSSA immediately

Even though it might be intimidating to join an organization with students already active in their profession, know that many people are in your same shoes. Here is my advice on how to maximize your PRSSA membership later in college:

  • Don’t be afraid to take on leadership roles on the executive board and on committees. By building relationships with peers and learning from them, too, you’ll be able to learn and grow.
  • Attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are great ways to help you get caught up from what you missed for the past couple of years. I’ve heard from a lot of people that these conferences ignited their interest in the public relations industry. I mentioned this before, but make sure to network with your peers — someday, they will be your colleagues.
  • If you have the opportunity to work with members of PRSA, do it! If you can serve on a committee or help plan an event, it’s a great way to get to know some pros.
  • Applying for national awards is not just for the members who have been in the organization forever. Apply for them, and at least they will be good practice for the future. The link to the awards is here.

Tip: Get active in PRSSA immediately and start building a network of students and professionals.

No excuses, play like a champion

Is studying public relations at all like Wedding Crashers? Maybe. I like this quote and I think it applies to this situation perfectly. Even though you joined the game a little late, it doesn’t mean you have to stay miles behind the rest of the crowd.

Tip: Don’t make excuses — get active in the public relations industry.

And here is what my Twitter network had to say:

@kellee_m Start networking as soon as you can online, in person, in class and in student organizations.

@sheesidd Immerse yourself in social media & read trade publications like PR Week.

@heatherhuhman Intern ASAP – it will help you land an entry-level job after college sooner. Plus, it will confirm your interest in the field.

@aribadler The best thing you will ever learn is that you haven’t learned enough, so never consider your learning completed.

@maryhenige Need to understand business in order to advise C-suite clients.

@aubzim join PRS(S)A, volunteer, write! Never too late for gaining experience. Work on worthwhile causes; don’t spread yourself too thin

@ssiewert you don’t need 5 internships to succeed! Immerse yourself in the industry, get involved in PRS(S)A, build a network, write a lot.

@AmberMShinn Me: late-in-college PR person. Tips: Get as much varied PR work experience as possible; be willing to volunteer to get it.

What advice do you have for PR students getting active later in the game?

Filed under: Internships, Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 3

I’m writing a four-part blog post on how to have a successful collegiate career for those interested in public relations. I’m basing this largely off my own experiences (a lot of what I’m including reflects what I wish I would have done during college, particularly in my early years) and those in my network. Please share and comment — with enough feedback, I may write another revised post.

You’re half-way done with your college career by now, but you’re hardly heading down the hill. As a junior, you should know a lot about public relations and what you want to do when you graduate. In a lot of ways, the jump from sophomore year to junior year is huge: you’ll be taking upper-level classes, you qualify for more scholarships and internships, and your younger colleagues will look up to you for help and advice. Here are my tips on how to have a successful junior year in college.

Maximize your PRSSA membership

I’ll ask this again… If you haven’t already joined PRSSA, what are you waiting for? Junior year is a great time to not only be an active member, but a leader and mentor to your peers. As a leader, you should have strong skills and be able to demonstrate how to be successful in PR. Here’s what I would do to maximize your PRSSA membership junior year:

  • Take on leadership roles on the executive board and on committees. Build your relationships with peers and learn from them, too.
  • Continue attending local, regional and national events. Attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are great ways to learn more about the profession and network. If you have been to one of these events before, don’t think you won’t get anything out of attending another year. Also, make sure to network with your peers — someday, they will be your colleagues.
  • Get published! One of the most practical membership benefits is that you can get your work published from the local to the national level. Consider writing for your Chapter’s newsletter (or even start one). You can also write for national publications and submit press releases to Chapter News.
  • If you have the opportunity to work with members of PRSA, do it! If you can serve on a committee or help plan an event, it’s a great way to get to know some pros.
  • Apply for national awards. Did you know PRSSA gives away around $20,000 in scholarships and awards? Check them out here.

Tip: Again, your membership will take you miles if you get active. What are you waiting for?

Choose your summer internship wisely

It’s really important to recognize the fact that this internship might be your last before you graduate. As such, if you do a good job, the chances of you getting a full time position with that company when you graduate significantly increase. Work hard, learn a lot and check out my tips on interning here. Also, getting a top-notch internship doesn’t mean you have to go to Chicago, LA or New York. You can get quality experience anywhere as long as you make it a quality experience.

Even so, you might find that you have a negative experience at the internship. Make sure that you make the most of the position and don’t burn your bridges with that company.

Tip: Choose a company that you can see yourself working for when you graduate. Prioritize what you value and look for companies that are similar.

A word on what you submit professionally

I’ve heard this too many times to ignore putting this in my post. When you submit your resume, cover letter or professional work samples, make sure it’s absolutely perfect. That means no spelling, grammar or AP errors. If a recruiter sees a single error on something you submit, chances are you’ll be out of the running for that position. The reality is that for one position in a PR jobs, there will probably be a ton of applications, especially at the agency level. Make sure your work is the best that it can be and that you and people in your network proofread it.

Another tip that has helped me is make all of your work follow AP Style. In your resume, make sure your states and dates follow the correct abbreviations, don’t write website anywhere (it’s Web site, according to AP) and follow the correct capitalization rules of titles. Again, have this proofread by as many people as possible.

Tip: If you haven’t already, get yourself an AP Stylebook and learn the rules. Some supplemental quizzes are here, here and here.

Get to know the industry

Truthfully, the best way to learn about new things going on in the public relations industry is to read about it. Knowing about account changes, new trends (especially in the digital sphere and best practices will help you learn the lingo and know what’s going on. I’ve included my recommendations as to what to read in order to learn more — I definitely recommend you check these sources out, both in print and online.

Tip: Subscribe to these publications/Web sites to better understand the world of public relations:

School is still important

I participated in a recruitment event for MSU a couple of years ago, and amid a conversation with a future Spartan, I realized something that is often forgotten when career advice is discussed. In my spiel, I talked about how many opportunities he will have to prepare himself for a successful career, but admittedly, I didn’t talk about classes. He then asked me, “so classes really aren’t that important, are they?”

Unfortunately, this is a bad attitude that a lot of over-achievers tend to spread. Sure, gaining internship experience, getting involved on campus and everything else is really important, but doing well in school is a given on the road to success. Even more discouraging is that GPA isn’t the most important thing to a public relations student. I think a better attitude is to treat college like a mini real world: there will always be things you don’t want to do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not important.

Tip: Challenge yourself in classes, and do a good job in them — it pays off.

Here’s what my Twitter network had to add:

@ckeppler Obvious, but they should take the opportunity to build their resume with internships and volunteering over the summer.

@LJZuber Make sure to go to networking events as well as run for leadership positions!

@kellee_m Get PR experience to build your resume in any way that you can, even if the job doesn’t pay

@AllisonLeAnn Create & perfect your resume, portfolio, blog/website & interview skills; Network, Network, Network!; Don’t procrastinate!

So, what do you think PR juniors should be doing to stay on track? Anything else to add?

Filed under: Internships, PR Book Club, Professional Development, PRSSA, , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 2

I’m writing a four-part blog post on how to have a successful collegiate career for those interested in public relations. I’m basing this largely off my own experiences (a lot of what I’m including reflects what I wish I would have done during college, particularly in my early years) and those in my network. Please share and comment — with enough feedback, I may write another revised post.

The way I see it, you really need to lay strong foundations in your college career. That means starting early. Sure, some people can pull it off starting in their junior year (and do a good job, too), but if you keep these important principles in mind early, you’ll be off to a great start. That said, here are my tips on sophomore year:

Get your career going!

Now you’re out of the “way to get involved so early” phase that is freshmen year (I heard this a lot), get going with your professional career. Start seeking internship experience during the school year (if possible) as well as the summer after the year. In my previous post, I talked about getting jobs on campus working for the school newspaper or in sales/fund raising — these are great jobs to develop necessary public relations skills. You can move on from those positions to PR internships, or take on leadership roles within those positions.

If you choose the PR internship route, start by making a list of several companies you want to work and find ways to network with their employees. One of these ways is to attend networking events through PRSA and other associations. Another way is the informational interview. E-mail a younger professional with the company and see if they have a half an hour to talk about the company. This is a great foot-in-the-door opportunity, and remember not to be shy.

Tip: Make business cards, attend networking events and follow up with the professionals you meet. You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow up and that puts you far ahead of the rest.

Think diversity

As you begin to think about what you want to do with your career, make sure you’re thinking diversity. This doesn’t necessarily pertain to ethnicity; it means to think of your career in an interdisciplinary fashion. Working at two mid-size agencies specializing in health care probably isn’t your best approach. Try to get as much experience in as many different industries in a many different atmospheres as possible. It’s a mouthful, but learning from different people will help you down the road.

This also means to get involved with different things. Getting involved with communication organizations is great, but also think about student government, research with professors and other leadership opportunities. Sometimes, the best experiences come from where you’d least expect it.

Tip: Try to work in at least three different settings. Some options you have include large and small corporations, differently sized agencies, nonprofits and writing jobs. Try to mix and match with what you would like to do when you graduate.

Maximize your PRSSA membership

If you haven’t already joined PRSSA, what are you waiting for? Sophomore year is a prime time to be active in the organization and network with your peers. Here’s what I would do to maximize your PRSSA membership:

  • Take on leadership roles. Yes, you have to do more than just go to the meetings. Talk to your executive board and learn ways to lead committees, shadow the e-board and learn as much as you can about the organization.
  • Attend regional and national events. Here’s where it gets a little more expensive. Attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are great ways to learn more about the profession and network.
  • Work with other Chapters in the area. Get to know some of the other students at colleges nearby.
  • Work for your student-run firm. If you don’t have one yet, consider starting one with a single client and work up from there. Check here for more info on this.
  • Learn about the member benefits — locally and nationally. Talk to your local executive board for information on scholarships and awards, mentoring programs and other benefits. Also, there are so many benefits at the national level. Check them out here.

As you can see, I put a lot of emphasis on making the most of your membership. This organization probably won’t help you if you aren’t active. If you are active and get the most out of your membership, you’ll have a job when you graduate.

Tip: Don’t make excuses — get active, take on leadership roles and go to conferences.

Study abroad or intern?

I’ve heard this debate a lot, and truthfully, there’s not necessarily a better choice. Some companies would rather see more experience, but some of the larger corporations want to see international experience. I know a lot of this depends on your financial situation, so if you have the money and can do it, I would recommend fitting this in some time during college.

Tip: If you can fit in a study abroad, try to do it earlier than later so you don’t have to choose between your trip and a sweet internship.

And here is what my Twitter community thought about sophomore year:

@AdrienneBailey Find an internship with a nonprofit for experience or job shadow to learn the ropes! And of course join & get involved w/ PRSSA

@KarenRussel get more involved in student orgs (as PR rep) and volunteer positions — starts to build experience for internships

@KFo11 and get connected with professors to ask them what they did and what did/didnt work for them! MISS YOUR GUTS

@makeyourownfun Now that they’ve probably had time to hear of some of the student organizations, to get actively involved with them

@AngelaHernandez It’s never too early to gain experience. Do PR for nonprofits, small biz or other student orgs

@kelle_m Take as many writing classes as possible

So, what else do you have to add for sophomores?

Filed under: Internships, Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, , , , , , , , ,

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 1

I’m writing a four-part blog post on how to have a successful collegiate career for those interested in public relations. I’m basing this largely off my own experiences (a lot of what I’m including reflects what I wish I would have done during college, particularly in my early years) and those in my network. Please share and comment — with enough feedback, I may write another revised post.

For many, freshmen year is a time to transition and learn a new surrounding. From my own experience, a lot of people didn’t have a job or even a declared major, but one thing I learned is that freshmen year is a great opportunity to start your career. Here is a list of what I think are the most important things to keep in mind during freshmen year:

On selecting a major

The more and more I think about what major you choose, the more I think that it’s not necessarily the most important thing you should focus on. I think the key item to take away when choosing a major is that you should weigh your options and carefully choose. Another important thing to remember is the more writing classes you can take, the better off you will be in the long run. Here’s a list of preferred programs:

  • Public Relations-If your school has it — great! Similar programs that will probably have a lot of PR stuff include Advertising, Communication or Mass Media. Make sure the program has plenty of writing classes, but also make sure to take classes in other fields (i.e. business, political science, psychology) in order to become more competent in other areas.
  • Business- If you want to work in corporate communications or in an agency setting, a business degree is a great idea, just make sure to take more writing classes. If you emphasize your classes in marketing, this will be especially helpful.
  • Journalism- Knowing how to write (well) is arguably the most important skill a PR practitioner can have, but also know that PR practitioners write to persuade. That’s why if you’re planning on studying journalism, it’s good to have another major or minor to complement this.
  • Social Science- My other degree is in political science, and truthfully, it’s kicking my butt. However, I’m learning a lot of research (I’m surprised at this), analytical and writing skills, too. I’ve heard this from others, so it’s probably not a bad idea to consider a social science major. Dr. Rick Cole, the chairperson for the APRR Department at MSU, once told me, “Don’t forget the business is communication but the science is social and the science separates the real leaders from the technicians.”
  • Other- You’ll find that many practitioners “fall” into PR — as long as you are strategic with your career approach and make smart decisions, there are many other degrees that would prepare you for a PR career.

Tip: choose wisely, and seek input from many people.

Join PRSSA and other organizations

I truly believe that if you take advantage of all the opportunities PRSSA has for its members, you will start off on a successful career — not just a job — in public relations. I could keep going about how PRSSA is so helpful for PR students, but I think the most important thing to remember is that you need to take advantage of the opportunities. While you’re at it, join another organization that is service-oriented. Volunteering can be an integral asset on your resume, so while you have time freshmen year, help some people out.

Tip: become active in PRSSA, apply for leadership positions when possible and join another organization (not necessarily PR-related) that will allow plenty of volunteer opportunities.

Get a job

There are not any legitimate excuses why freshmen can’t have jobs. Seriously. Going from high school, when you’re in class for nearly 40 hours per week, to college, when you’re in class for around 15 hours per week, gives you plenty of time for a job. Even if you have to work in the cafeteria or telemarketing, just get a job. And try to save some of that money (like I said above — this is what I wish I would have done).

Tip: try to get a job working with people or on teams in order to develop phone and other communication skills.

Internship or no internship?

As a freshmen, I think it’s better to spend the year preparing for an internship rather than actively seeking one. That means building your resume (with the tools listed above), networking with professionals and learning the right skills. I would take a look at trying to find an internship after freshmen year.

Tip: you probably won’t get paid at your first internship, and maybe in future internships. Don’t be afraid to work with a nonprofit or small agency, especially during your freshmen year, while you still have your high school graduation party money.

Facebook is NOT for drunk pictures

I’ll tell you what no one told me as a freshmen — professionals are on Facebook and will “friend” you. Anticipate that down the line, you’ll need to have a clean online presence. Enough said.

Tip: don’t think cameras at parties are safe. And don’t be dumb about what you leaved tagged.

On networking

I’ve been in PRSSA for three years now, and each year brings a new class of freshmen who think they don’t have to start networking until their junior or senior year. If you learn one thing from this post, learn this: the best time to build a network is when you don’t necessarily need your network. If you start networking during your junior or senior year, you will undoubtedly face the awkward resume pass-on. However, if you have a strong network, you will be more likely to avoid this.

Tip: attend PRSA events, get to know leaders and members of student organizations, and attend your professors’ office hours. Network well and make sure people know you, especially in a good way.

I also asked my Twitter network what they thought, and here is what they added:

@carolinejones Use every mistake/pitfall as a learning opportunity to build knowledge and grow as a person.

@MKMasson Get involved RIGHT AWAY. PRSSA is the best experience, even if you don’t even know the definition of public relations yet.

@kellee_m Start early and get involved on campus. If you’re connected to people within campus, you can get hired before you even graduate

@GuyMCampbell Advice for PR freshmen: take extra writing classes and learn to pitch by phone & f2f, not just email. I learned in “real world.”

@CharlieCurve Intern early. Intern often. Internships provide valuable experience, but more importantly, they help you build relationships.

@LJZuber Volunteer to do things PR related, even if you don’t know what you’re doing – it’s a learning process.

@Charlotte_Marie Don’t be intimated by professionals. Most of them are more than willing to help you out and give valuable advice

@YMoffitt I can offer nothing better than “Get involved early on. It might seem daunting, but the sooner you catch on, the better.”

What else do you have to add?

Filed under: Internships, Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, , , , , , , , ,

Being a Career Strategist

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard a trend from multiple recruiters and professionals concerning what they look for in a prospective employee. More than just having internships, demonstrating the right skill sets and showing a professional attitude, it’s important to remember the difference between strategy and tactics. In your own career, you can show employers that you are a strategist, which is more important than just contributing to the tactics.

So, what’s the difference between a career strategist and a career tactician? Here’s what a career tactician does in college and in their early career:

  • Makes a list of internships to complete
  • Plans their class schedule to fulfill all requirements
  • Has a portfolio full showing different things they can do
  • Goes on a study abroad to have international experience

Here’s what a career strategist would do in the same situations:

  • Keeps internship and career options open, but keeps in mind how it will help future roles
  • Takes classes that supplement their career interests, not just to get the credits done
  • The portfolio shows they were part of a campaign and contributed to the success of it
  • Studies abroad and is able to “unpack” and apply their international experiences

There are plenty more, but what it comes down to is being able to see the big picture of what you’re doing and why. If you are a strategist, you can answer why, when, what’s next, was it successful and what would you have done differently. It’s also important to remember that you can be a leader no matter what company or organization you are involved in.

plan1

I think it’s a good idea to take a top down approach to college vs. a bottom up approach. That is, keep in mind what you want to do upon graduation and then find the best things to fill in the gap of that goal and where you are now. If you want to go into PR, a good idea would be to have different internships that emphasize different things.

If you don’t know what you want to do when you graduate, you can still be a strategist. Your goal of what you want to do upon graduation will still require general skill sets that you can enhance with collegiate experiences. Personally, this is where I’m at. I know I want to do PR when I graduate, but where I want to work and with what kind of company… I’m not set in stone. I still know what I need to work on and improve, so I am still able to be strategic.

After you have created your top down plan, it’s a good idea to micromanage each step. When you earn those internships and leadership positions, don’t come in with a checklist of things you need to have. You should approach everything like a sponge – absorb as much information as possible and look at your projects from the big picture prospective. When you’re assigned to write a press release, you shouldn’t just do it. Ask why you’re writing the release and how it is important to the client. The Career Strategist blog has some great posts that talk more about preparing for a strategic career.

Seth Godin wrote a great post on the difference between strategy and tactics. He even says the right strategy can make any tactic work. So, when you’re planning your career, make sure that you know where you want to go and that you’re taking the right steps. Look at the big picture of what you want to accomplish in your early career that will propel you forward.

So, are you a strategist? Any tips or advice on how to become one?

Photo by soccergoalx on Flickr.

Filed under: Internships, Professional Development, Public Relations, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goals in the Workplace

This post is coming to you from a guy with experience in sales, but what I learned in that position can be applied to every industry.

Goals are an important part of any job. Setting goals, working to achieve them and eventually accomplishment is a three-part cycle that will help guide you to success. Here are some tips on how to set goals, especially as an intern, and how to keep improving.

Make goals

Think it sounds simple? It’s harder than you think. Coming into an internship, you’re there for a limited amount of time to learn. Make sure they are measurable and specific. Sounds like a PR campaign, doesn’t it?

Some good goals:

  • I want to improve by AP fluency through such writing projects as press releases, media advisories and company newsletters.
  • I would like to work on at least one writing project a week.
  • I would like to experience all practice areas of the company in my time with the company.
  • I would like to help plan _____ event and assist from start to finish.

The point of these goals is to show that you want to learn and help. This sets you apart from the rest of the crowd and shows that you’re serious. Once you can build a positive reputation, you’ll be able to take on more and more.

success

Let your supervisor and other coworkers know about your goals

Now that you made your goals, make sure your team knows about them. Set some time aside in the beginning of your internship (probably in the first week) to meet with your supervisor and talk about the things that you would like to accomplish during your time with the company. Pay attention as to how the different titles of the company operate and be careful not to overshoot. Listen and learn before you take on too much responsibility.

It’s also a good idea to talk about what kinds of experiences you’ve had in the past. You can talk about what you’re good at and what you would like to improve on. Also, be careful not to turn down functions of an intern. Saying you don’t want to get coffee, file or answer the phones can put you far behind. Have an open mind, especially in the beginning, to make a solid first impression.

Constantly evaluate your progress

There are a couple of different ways to keep track of what you’re doing. I have seen some career blogs in which the authors talk about what they are working on and what they have learned. Some meet weekly with their supervisor to check up, get projects and see what they can improve on. Whatever you do, try to keep track of what you work on. This will help you to show future employers what you work on and it will allow you to keep track of your own progress. No matter what you do, be careful as to not get too specific on what you’re working on. You never know who is reading your work.

At my internship this summer, I created a “weekly evaluation” of sorts that I could fill out and send to the team. Here’s how I kept track over the summer. I took off the client names, but the information is all still there. In case you can’t tell, I do like to have a good time so I had some fun with it. But it was my way of showing the rest of the staff what I was working on and what I would like to work on. After all, you’re at an internship to learn and contribute!

What did you learn?

You should have learned something. Look over your goals and see if you accomplished them. If you did, great! If you didn’t, see what you could have done and try it again at the next job. Maybe your goal is too big or too general; if that’s the case, make a stepping stone goal to get you to the promised land.

Also, when you are done with your job or internship, sit down and add your best work to your portfolio and update your resume. I made the mistake of putting my portfolio together after two internships and a job with relevant work, so needless to say it took me a long time. It’s so much easier to have everything ready to pass on to future employers. When you scramble to put everything together, chances are there will be a mistake.

Just like in public relations, you don’t want to do something just to say you did it. You need quantitative and qualitative data to show others what you worked on. It might help you move on up, but it will also help you to learn and grow as a young professional.

How else do you keep track of what you worked on or accomplished at an internship? How did you employers feel about it?

Photo by aloshbennett on Flickr.

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Finding PR in Everyday Life

Internships. Love ’em or hate ’em, you gotta have ’em to get a job in public relations. The job market is getting more and more competitive, especially in today’s tumultuous economy. But it’s not just a solid internship experience that will separate you from the rest of the crowd. At the big agencies, they sometimes review more than 300 resumes for a summer internship. So besides an internship, what else will separate you from the rest of the crowd?

When it comes down to it, there are a couple of key principles that public relations practitioners must be proficient in.

  1. Strong communication skills
  2. Generating content for a myriad of communication channels
  3. Ability to adapt and learn

A huge part of public relations is communication skills. Where can you practice this? I think a better question is where can’t you practice this? Practicing AP style in regular e-mail conversation, papers for class and even on your resume is helpful down the line.

Generating content is something that you will have to do in virtually every function of public relations. This might include writing and drafting speeches, writing and editing articles for a company newsletter and generating content for a Web site. The best way to get this going is to get involved with a campus organization. It’s even better if the organization is not PR-oriented because this will allow you to build and develop a public relations system for the group.

Today, with the constant changes occurring in the public relations landscape, it is integral to keep up with the times. Read PRWeek, subscribe to blogs, join online conversations, join professional associations.. the list is endless. Support your own professional development and make sure that you are saving money to partake in professional development.

Besides becoming proficient in those three skills, there are several experiences you can have outside of a public relations internship are pretty important in making you a more well-rounded pre-professional:

  • Sales. Some love it and some hate it. Whether it’s telemarketing or working at your college newspaper, the skills you learn in sales are critical to pretty much any career. I work at The State News, MSU’s newspaper, in the advertising department, so I’m responsible for selling ads. Every day, I’m cold calling potential advertisers, building relationships with current advertisers and working with a team to accomplish individual and department-wide goals. It sounds a lot like PR, and it is.
  • Writing for different mediums. This is something everyone can work on, and I’m looking for new ways to try this out, too. Writing for your college paper is how a lot of great PR students get experience and I would recommend it, too. It’s also a good idea to try out alternative and online publications to get a feel for different writing styles. Maintaining a blog doesn’t hurt, either.
  • Usability of social media. Not only can you get yourself out there online, but this is also an open forum for networking. You can find and connect with new people.

In general, one who can draw from multiple experiences and can demonstrate a strong ability to learn new things is a pretty solid candidate for any position. As a manager in the ad department, I take part in the interviewing for new account executives. That’s what I look for, and that’s what a lot of recruiters are looking for, too.

*Most of this post comes from my favorite career-related book is Knock ‘Em Dead. They have a killer Web site with a FREE resume critique section. Check it out!

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