No matter where you are at now towards finishing your degree, there is still plenty you could be doing in your spare time between classes, work and PRSSA. When I sat down to write this post, several tidbits came to my mind that have been helpful to me during college and my job search and others I wish I would have known about earlier.
Start by thinking about where you are now in terms of your skill set and what you want to accomplish by the time you graduate. It helps if you first make a list of your long term goals. What do you want to be doing professionally when you are 25? 30? 40? Make a list. Next, make a list of your goals you want to complete by the end of college and a list of goals you want to complete by the end of the school year. You know how good it feels to cross off something on your to-do list? Make your goals happen by finding out what you know and what you need to know. You need to be a sponge and absorb as much information you can.
The following are merely suggestions, everyone has to take their own path. You won’t get land an awesome internship or job after college by being the same as everyone else.
When you are a freshman or sophomore, join student organizations that align with your interests and sign up to join committees. Try to be as active as you can. You are still learning how to manage your time and live on your own and with roommates. You want to learn early on what you like doing and what you don’t, especially if you still are unsure what you want to do after college. Chances are if you are new to a group you won’t get to work on the most exciting projects right away, but you will fill some space on your resume that may help you land your first internship experience. Find things that motivate you to do your best work and explore them to their fullest.
When I was a freshman, I was told you need at least one internship to get a job when you graduate. Economic factors aside, this is no longer the case. You need as much experience as you can get your hands on and you need to be able to demonstrate on your resume and in the interview that you made the world a better place because of what you did. Visit the Career Center and the lovely peer advisers will assist you with this. Send your resume to someone you look up to and ask them for input. Some people may give you conflicting advice, but you have to make it work for you. Find as many mentors as you can.
There are a number of resources outside of the university that will help you. I recommend referring to the national PRSSA resources, Careerealism, Entry Level Careers Examiner, Come Recommended, and setting up a Twitter account if you don’t already have one to follow career experts and recruiters at companies you are interested in learning more about. It’s easy to keep track of a lot of information in one central place and it’s always evolving to include more features that will make tracking information more efficient.
By the time you are a junior or senior you should have at least one or two internships under your belt and have substantial information on your resume from your experience with PRSSA or with another organization. Some people may think it’s too much to handle working a job or internship during the school year, but I will tell you this: the semesters in which I took the heaviest class load and worked part time jobs and internships while being active in PRSSA were my most productive semesters and I earned the best grades I’ve had throughout college. There is always more you could be doing with your time and when you feel ready to take on more challenges, don’t sell yourself short by going the easy and comfortable route. Nothing worth having is easy to come by.
When applying for jobs and internships, the time you spent tirelessly researching the company by reading their blogs, following their Google alerts and following their company Twitter feed, you will have a wealth of knowledge about their business practices. Stay on the company’s radar by reaching out to recruiters and HR people along the way. Demonstrate your active interest and engage them by asking questions about their recent media campaigns. Show them why you care so much about their company and why you would be a good fit there. When it comes time to write the cover letter and update your resume, borrow language from their company web site. Should you get a job with them, you will be expected to adhere to their writing style, so your cover letter and resume should be the first indicator to them that you will be able to handle that.
Searching for a job is a full time job in itself. Always keep your eye out for opportunities on the horizon, and be prepared for any that may come your way unexpectedly. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
Written by Caroline Jones
Former Firm Director and Social Media and Web Editor