This one is for my college students out there, because I know there are a TON of you looking to break into the industry and have absolutely no idea where to start looking for your first step.
Let me preface by saying unless you go to a school that actually specializes in Public Relations (which frankly, I can’t think of any off the top of my head, so that’s that) your education is going to basically do jack shit for you when it comes to hard skills.
Soft skills, like time-management, learning how to prioritize things, juggling multiple tasks at once…yeah, college is good for that but learning how to pitch media? Lol. Good luck.
That’s why it is SO IMPORTANT that you intern during your college career if you think that PR is what you want to do post-grad. First, it’ll give you the chance to actually experience the grind that comes with the public relations field. I’ll admit, other careers are JUST AS DIFFICULT for SURE but PR is a special kind of hell-on-Earth thanks to the amount of physical activity you get to experience as well as the typical desk-jockeying.
Second, it’ll give you the hard skills that you just don’t get from sitting in a classroom. Media list management 101, identifying influencers and building that media list in the first place, working the door at successful press events…all very much intern tasks/skills that’ll help you stand out in a sea of applicants.
So the age-old question…
How do you find reputable PR internships that’ll give you those hard skills and teach you PR 101?
Once you land the internship itself, focus on proving your worth. Go in early, leave late, and work quickly but efficiently. PR is super fast-paced, and you need to learn how to churn out what’s asked of you fast but with minimal mistakes.
I think the best bit of advice I ever got during my internships was to carry a notebook with me everywhere and take a butt-ton of notes. I naturally suck at details. You’ll even notice in every blog post I push out, I always make stupid grammar mistakes that I know better than to make but because I rushed proofreading…I missed ’em. It’s probably one of my biggest weaknesses, but carrying a notebook and taking SUPER detailed notes cuts back on the errors I make.
Finally…and this is a SUPER unpopular opinion so take it with a grain of salt…if push comes to shove and you have to choose between going to class and going to an opportunity provided by your internship…TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY.
Be smart. If you have a test in your class, don’t fucking skip it obviously, but if you’re just sitting in a lecture full of 150 other students and you’re given the chance to work the door at New York Fashion Week by your internship… You’d be pretty stupid to turn that opportunity down.
There are some career fields out there in which class time is REALLY important. Take accounting, for example. Wouldn’t recommend skipping those classes if you’re gearing up for your CPA test (I forget what that’s called, but that’s why I’m not a CPA) because what you’re learning in that class DIRECTLY applies to you being able to secure a job in passing that test. Public relations is one of those weird professions where you learn the best/most on-the-fly and on-the-job.
The biggest pushback I get from telling people about my logic on this topic is that young students are worried that not having straight A’s upon graduation is going to cost them a job at a PR firm. I can tell you RIGHT NOW that your priorities are really out of place if that’s your concern.
Sure, straight A’s are lovely but as a hiring manager in the PR field, I would MUCH rather hire someone who has experience with managing the front door at a press event or knows how to use basic PR software like CisionPoint. Neither of those skills are taught in a classroom, but are significantly more important to me (as your boss) than you saying that you got an A in your PR class where you learned about the history of corporate communications.
Those are a few of the basics to when it comes to getting started in the industry,
drop me a comment if you have any questions I might be able to answer for ya!