PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

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?

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

How to Prepare for PR in College – Part 4

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’ve made it to senior year! The most important thing to keep in mind about being a senior is to keep up the hard work throughout the entire year. Don’t get lazy, keep up the job search, join PRSA and enjoy your last year in college. Here are my tips for a successful senior year:

Maximize your PRSSA membership

Believe it or not, you can still genuinely benefit from a PRSSA membership during senior year. The most important thing to keep in mind, job or not, is that joining PRSA is the key to continuing your professional development. Keep that in mind as you go through the year and prepare to graduate. Here’s what I would do to maximize your PRSSA membership senior year:

  • Continue to take on leadership roles on the executive board and on committees, but also make sure you are serving as a mentor to the younger students.
  • Continue attending local, regional and national events. Even during senior year, attending National Conference, National Assembly and Regional Activities are still great ways to enhance your public relations knowledge and network with your future colleagues. If you’re lucky and serve as Chapter President, you’ll be able to attend the Leadership Rally and learn from students just like you.
  • Apply for national awards — still. PRSSA has many scholarships and awards seniors qualify for and can help put you ahead of the game. Check them out here.
  • Finally, join PRSA. Did you know that as a member of PRSSA, you can join PRSA as an associate member for up to two years for only $60 per year? How sweet is that?! More information here.

Tip: After years in PRSSA, the best thing to do is continue your professional development and join PRSA. Keep learning!

Don’t be afraid of post-graduate internships

Finishing up your senior year, you will probably looking for full time positions with your dream company. It’s important to be aware that you will probably have to intern with a company before you work for them. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but I wouldn’t count on you being the exception. Also, even though you might have had four or five internships in college, you still might be to intern with the company before a full time position. That’s OK, too.

The reason for this is simple economics: for any one open public relations entry level position, there will be a ton of applicants, so the employer can be more selective. That means they can have their top candidates “try out” for the position before hiring them on full time.

Tip: Don’t rule out post-graduate internships and don’t be surprised if you get offered one. This is the company’s way of making sure you’ll be a good fit and will do well full time.

Avoid senioritis like the plague

I’ll be honest: I think senioritis is the biggest crock of BS I’ve ever heard. It’s a state of mind and you will only get this “disease” if you let it happen. So, to make sure you have a productive year, surround yourself with highly motivated and hard working folks. Make sure you remember that just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean you can stop trying.

Tip: Don’t get lazy and pride yourself on the work you accomplish senior year.

Understand strategy and work a campaign from start to finish

One of the biggest differentiators between a tactical PR professional and a strategic PR professional is their understanding of “why.” That said, working a campaign from start to finish can be one of the most beneficial things a student can experience.

There are a couple different ways to get this kind of experience. One way is to participate in the Bateman competition through PRSSA. Another way is to stay in an internship for more than a semester. Even if you can’t take part in these above experiences, you can learn about strategy simply by asking your supervisor “why.” Why is a press release going out after the media advisory? Why write three blog posts per week instead of five? Why target this audience? These are all questions you can be asking those you work with in order to better understand public relations strategy.

Tip: Enhance internships and other PR activities by understanding and taking part in public relations strategy.

Know how to network

I mentioned this in one of the previous posts and I hope you listened! The best kind of network is one that you don’t need at that moment, so if you have been building a solid network for the past couple of years, the job search process shouldn’t be long and painful. Remember that networking is not about how someone else can help you; it’s about how you can help someone else. If you help a professional with a freelance project, or volunteered some time to help, that’s what real networking is all about. Continue to build a strong network, even if you’re planning on leaving the area. The PR community is smaller than you think, and local professionals might be able to help you in other areas.

Tip: Hopefully you have been building a strong network for the past several years so you can get advice from mentors and look in the right places during the job search.

Patience, grasshopper

In case you didn’t know, the public relations industry is not really like other industries. Companies usually don’t consistently recruit a certain number of graduates each year. Also unique to the public relations industry is you probably can’t show up to a career fair without knowing anyone and land an internship after. Getting a job in public relations takes a lot of time and work, and chances are you probably won’t find a job before you graduate. The key here is patience — don’t let the job search distract you from finishing up the year strong.

Tip: During the job search, keep your chin up, don’t get too discouraged and know that something will find you.

And for this last post, here is what my Twitter network had to say:

@MelissaHackett (she cheated and wrote three!): Well, I will be a PR senior next year and I think it’s important to realize that it is your LAST year in college. If you haven’t been, become very active in organizations. Soak in as much experience as possible before graduating. In this economy, you need more than a degree. You need skills, and you get those through experience.

@beckyjohns Reach out to people in your network that can be professional mentors. Having a sounding board is so helpful in a job search. Try to involve yourself with as many different types of PR as possible. Use the skills you’ve developed to become well-rounded.

@rossmanmckinney Learn to write w/3 c’s: be crisp, clear, concise. Be curious, ask questions. work ur butt off. do everything!

@kellee_m Start sending out resumes early in the year so agencies have you on their radar. Apply again when you graduate.

@FrancoPRGroup Graduating PR seniors MUST have great writing skills! also need to find a way to distinguish themselves..what makes them unique?

@samemac Work harder than you ever have before. Try something new and dream big.

@heatherhuhman Apply for internships and entry-level jobs simultaneously. You never know what opportunities you might uncover.

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

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, , , , , , , , ,

Gaining Necessary Writing Experience

I attended a presentation last week given by Dr. Richard Cole and Andy Corner, APR. Dr. Cole is the Department Chair of APRR at MSU and Andy is an instructor in the department. They have been working on some research about the level of writing skills associated with entry-level public relations practitioners.

Dr. Cole blogged about the specific findings here, but here is a quick summary. The survey reflects the views of 848 PR practitioners from PRSA.

  • Only 14 percent of PR supervisors think their subordinates are good writers
  • Writing for the media amounts to around 20 percent of the entry-level PR practitioner’s time spent in the day
  • Supervisors graded their subordinates less than 3 out of 5
  • Nearly half the respondents have been reducing expectations of entry-level writing skills

Basically, we need to get our act together.

I think there’s a lot of reasons why this is occurring. First, if you look at the more seasoned professionals, many of them have degrees in journalism and/or worked at a newspapers. Now, many schools have a public relations major and that’s where much of the PR industry is recruiting from. Another reason. While I don’t have any research or stats to back this one up, it’s something I have noticed. Shannon Paul once told me that the future of the public relations industry will need to be able to balance new media with traditional practices, and I think that’s the best approach a student can take.

Writing

If  you’re not a journalism major, you can still saturate your degree with writing courses. I’ve found that my political science, English and foreign language courses to be the most useful now that I’m learning a different form of writing. I studied French all four years in high school and that taught me more about grammar than I ever learned in any English class (sadly). At least within my circle of PR students, many of us are intimidated by a “low grade” in a writing class, but sometimes we have to bite the bullet to make the most of your degree.

Here are some resources to improve your writing in addition to your classes:

  • Copyblogger. Read it. No questions asked.
  • Various AP Style exercises: Newsroom 101, Platform Magazine, OK Cupid.
  • Your internship experience should include not only agency and corporate components, but a writing component as well. Work at your college newspaper, write for various departments and offices in the university.. anything. Just make sure you have a supervisor who is willing to make your projects bleed.
  • Join the conversation on-line. Writing a blog will let you make those embarrassing mistakes that lead to you being called out. Just make the mistake and learn from it.
  • Proofing your work. Honestly, I used to never read my work (shame, shame) and I learned the hard way that this really is essential. By printing off your column or release and reading it over, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about proofing and writing.

The bottom line is that you need to be a good writer to be a solid public relations professional. That doesn’t mean you need to write a certain number of press releases, opinion editorials, etc. Remember when I talked about being a strategist rather than a tactician? Learning to be a good writer should be part of your career strategy.

How else can students improve their writing? Can writing only be improved through classes? Are there any other resources we should know about to help improve writing?

Photo by churl on Flickr.

Filed under: Professional Development, PRSSA, Public Relations, Social Media, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Learning from the Critics

I don’t remember exactly how I came across this Web site, but I did last night. It’s called PR Watch and it is run by the Center for Media and Democracy. Here’s how they describe their organization:

“The nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, media ‘of, by and for the people.'”

Ouch.

Then there’s this video featuring John Stauber, co-founder of PR Watch, who makes the argument that PR = Propaganda. Watch it here.

Double ouch.

I respectfully disagree for plenty of reasons, but that’s not why I’m writing this post (I’ll be writing posts on this later). After searching through the site and reading what they have to say on some different PR companies and campaigns, it’s easy to throw it away as garbage because we’re on the other end of the spectrum. I’ll argue that it’s important to listen to what they have to say in order to improve the industry.

So, as PR practitioners and students, we can take this in one of two ways:

  1. Do any combination of: whining, blaming, disagreeing, fighting, etc.
  2. Respect their opinions and move forward.

I’m thinking the second choice is a little better. The Ogilvy PR Digital Influence Blog has a post on how to deal with negative detractors in the social media sphere, and it’s pretty applicable to this situation. Here are their steps with my additions:

  1. Always say thank you. I like that they point out what they think is bad PR and bad ethics. It’s great that the industry is held accountable to PRSA’s Code of Ethics.
  2. Address the issue. Let’s acknowledge the faults and see what we can do to make it better in the future.
  3. Correct any misinformation. Opening channels of discussion to see what’s wrong and talk it out. I like to think that #journchat on Twitter is a 3-hour Dr. Phil episode that occurs each Monday evening where PR practioners and journalists talk about improving relations. I also think PRSA (and PRSSA) and SPJ should work together on this, too, as each both have ethical codes.
  4. Be transparent and honest. Even more important is regulating and enforcing these ethical standards.
  5. Opportunity is knocking on the door – it’s the future of the industry. Educating young PR professionals and PRSSA members on past mistakes can help make a better future. Teach us to take the right path for our careers.

I’ve found that you can learn the most from your critics. I’ve also learned that you can never learn enough. I’ll be perusing PR Watch and use it a guideline of things not to do in my career. Whether it’s accurate or not isn’t the point.

What do you think of PR Watch? Do you think it’s accurate? Can we learn from our critics? These are questions you should answer – here and in your career.

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

Public Relations in 2009

I’ve seen a lot of posts going around about social media in 2009, specifically ones from Brian Solis, Shannon Paul and Todd Defren. Check them out – those are some pretty solid posts. So in anticipation of the new year, I wanted to write about what I think is going on in public relations in 2009 – challenges, obstacles, what’s working and what needs to change.

From my perspective, here are some of the buzzwords within the industry for 2009:

Diversity of the industry

I see diversity as more than solely differences in gender, race and ethnicity. To me, diversity is just different kinds of people. In public (or people) relations, it’s important to keep in mind that when you are reacing out to a large audience, chances are that audience will be very diverse. Learning how to reach out to different kinds of people is key to successful public relations outreach.

Another point of interest – I was listening to a recent PRSA diversity podcast and heard a great discussion on the future of diversity in public relations. I discovered that 90 percent of PRSSA members are female – HOLY COW. The industry is definitely dominated by females, but it seems as though this gender gap will only widen. While I have my own theories why this is happening (hint: some of my friends call me a party planner.. yuck), it’s something that the industry needs to pay attention to. Also,

You can check out the PRSA Diversity Today podcasts here. They are full of great information.

New standards in PR education

Because public relations is a constantly changing industry, PR education needs to be constantly changing, too. I’m lucky to have a solid curriculum at MSU – we have a strong balance of PR academics and PR professionals teaching courses that are generally relevant and topical.

I think combining theory with practical experience is the name of the game for successful PR education. Last semester, I took a journalism class on writing for the media. It was a really great class because touched on some history and communication models in addition to working on a press kit for a Lansing-based non-profit. It gave the students the opportunity to build their portfolio right in class.

public-relations

Is PR Social Media?

I’ll be honest – I don’t have an answer for you. And I don’t think that the answer is black or white. But I will say that knowledge and understanding of social media is becoming more and more important for the public relations student. It’s also becoming expected, too. One thing that us students sometimes forget is that we really do need to know the basics of PR, too. Solid writing skills, understanding business principles and office etiquette will still trump having 10,000 followers on Twitter – at least in 2009. We’ll see what 2010 has to offer.

Ethics for you and me

I think 2008 was a year of dishonesty and unethical behavior. Whether it’s the Madoff scandal or the Blagojevich drama or the Wall Street CEOs and their ridiculous bonuses; it hasn’t been a pretty year. I’m hopeful that corporations have learned to be honest, ethical and transparent – 2009 will be the year to show it. Now more then ever, public relations professionals are relied upon to build that trust. Mike Cherenson from PRSA talks about how important this will be for the professional in a PR Tactics article.

Advocacy for itself

Public relations professional often get tied up with client work that the industry often forgets to advocate for itself. We need to hold our colleagues and clients accountable to high ethical standards and make sure that the rest of the world knows we’re doing it.

The new wave of professionals

My fellow public relations students are tenacious, curious and dedicated. But as I previously mentioned, we need to remember the PR fundamentals, too. The future of the public relations industry, as I see it, balances old habits with new techniques. We can’t get too caught up in the blogosphere – we still have to go to class, right?

Call me an optimist, but I’m really excited for what 2009 has to offer the PR industry and PR professionals. While there are some challenges ahead, there is much to accomplish, too.

What else am I missing? Where do you see public relations going in 2009? Are you as optimistic as I am?

Photo by Rasso on Flickr.

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Investing in Your Career

Back in my freshmen year, I served on our PRSSA Chapter’s committee to host a regional activity. This was the first event (of many) that triggered my passion for the public relations industry. We had some great sessions and I learned a lot. But if I can remember anything, it was Rhoda Weiss’ keynote address to us.

While this regional conference was occurring, Rhoda was serving as Chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. I could go on about her accolades as an industry leader, but suffice it to say that she rocks.

She talked about investing in your career as one of the best things that you can do as a pre-professional. For some of us students, professional development can be expensive. Add up traveling to conferences, membership dues, magazine subscriptions… you can easily drop a couple of grand in a year. I recommend planning out your year and setting aside money with each paycheck to be used for professional development. I don’t want to disclose any details of my sad bank account, but I do have a separate account strictly for professional development things.

Here’s a list of some of the things a pre-professional should be spending their money on:

Professional association membership
If you know me, you’re probably heard me say, “you know, you really should join PRSSA…”At the beginning of the semester, I promised our eager group of students that if you make the most of this organization, you will walk out of MSU with a job. And I mean it. The economy affects the amount of jobs, the changing indsutry affects the amount of jobs, but if you make the most of your student career, you can prove your worth to any company.

After discussions with a couple professionals, there are three general things companies look for: education, professional experience and professional development. You can get good grades in school and have a couple of solid internships, but there will be people who have done the same as you AND been involved in student organizations and associations. Don’t underestimate the power of networking with your peers – after all, you will be working with them when you graduate.

Professional development seminars
Your group or organization that you join will most likely have some kind of conference. Go to it! It makes a world of a difference when you list your group on your resume and being able to answer the question, “so what did you do with _______.” Recruiters will know the difference between an active member and a non-active member.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

For PRSSA, the most common objection I hear is “it’s too expensive.” I’m not made of money. But I do have my conference registration saved up for next year. And the year after. Professional development takes priority in my pre-professional career over a new car or spring break. I’m not saying don’t spend money for fun, I just can’t emphasize enough the importance of saving your money for the right things.

Dress the part
You will be judged if you don’t look your best at interviews. Once you get the job, it’s important to stay on top of your appearance, too. Make the investment in a really good suit or two that will last for a long time. A good friend of mine, Jenni Lewis, pointed out to me that she will buy expensive business clothes because she knows they will last a long time. Also, keep in mind that people look from the bottom up. Give a nice pair of shoes, too.

Industry publications
Making yourself knowledgeable of the current industry news sets you apart from other interns and entry level employees. You never know when you’re going to run in the CEO of your company – it’s best to have something to talk about.

The good thing about industry publications is that most will have student discounts. PRWeek and Advertising Age both do – check them out. Also, pay attention to when these publications are seeking participants for surveys interviews. It’s a nice way to get some ink before you graduate and makes you look pretty cool to potential employers.

There’s a nice supplement to the above list. Please note that I did not say alternative – it’s important to do both. You can do some of these things online! Read blogs and news. For blogs, get started on Alltop.  Check out podcasts – you would be surprised what a quick search of “public relations” or any other industry search shows up on iTunes. Also, follow the right people on Twitter and you will hear about Web seminars and discussions.

What else can you do invest in your career? Is there a way to invest too much in your career? Not enough?

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