What I Did in College

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  • February 10, 2011
  • Starr Million Baker

I was recently asked by a college student what I did in college that helped prepare me for my career in PR. Thought I’d share with all of you – and get your answers to that question too as I’m sure we all had different paths to getting where we are today, all relevant and interesting. Here’s what I did:

Worked on the college newspaper. No question, this was hands-down one of the most helpful things I did to prepare me for my PR career.

Took sociology and psychology classes as electives. In this career, it’s a great thing to have insight into how groups work together and how people work, period.

I should have interned more. I worked two jobs to pay for school (in retail and banking) and while that prepared me for hard work, responsibility, juggling priorities and working with different people, it didn’t give me a PR internship on my resume that is pretty much a requirement these days, at least when I’m on the hiring end.

Oh and I didn’t go to school when it rained. I live in Austin, TX, so this wasn’t that often – if you live in Seattle, I would advise against this. 😉

Please reply with your thoughts – I’d like to give the inquiring student as much feedback as possible!

7 responses to “What I Did in College”

  1. Allison Glass says:

    Definitely INTERN! I know the last thing you want to do in the summer is work, but use this time to narrow down your interests. I spent my first summer in our local Channel 4 (ABC-TV) newsroom and crossed off anchorwoman after the summer was over. The sooner you know what you DO like, the sooner you can start climbing the ladder 🙂

  2. Jennifer says:

    I did a few things that helped me prepare for my career in PR:

    – I took a class specific to learning the AP Style Book like the back of my hand. I’m a little rusty now, but it definitely helped build a foundation for writing style.

    – For my PR Campaigns class, I was given the opportunity to be on my university’s Bateman Case Study Competition Team, PRSSA’s national case study competition for public relations students, which gave me an opportunity to apply classroom education and internship experiences to create and implement a full public relations campaign for a national client.

    – I interned at a global PR agency that gave me the type of education a classroom couldn’t provide.

  3. Blair Poloskey says:

    This is kind of inline with interning, but take advantage of your student title to learn about different professions – schedule informational interviews with leaders in the industry you want to pursue, shadow someone for a week, volunteer at industry shows.

    Specifically for PR, take a creative writing class. Or take three. And read every paper you can get your hands on (or download the app for).

  4. Helen says:

    I didn’t decide to pursue a career in PR until my senior year of college. At that point, I got a job in the external communications office at my university and then followed it up with an internship at a PR agency that eventually hired me. I agree with you Starr – having internship experience is really important. Our current INK intern, Rachael, works at Texas Tower PR – a student-run PR firm at the UT Austin. The school-sponsored PR firm gives students hands-on experience that they can leverage into an agency internship or a job. I am guessing other large universities with communications degrees may have similar options? Other advice: don’t sign up for an 8am class. Worst. Idea. Ever.

  5. During college, I never dreamed of a career in PR so can’t cite any examples of things to do from my own personal history ;-). Do let me depart a little “what I know now advice”.

    Make sure you have a strong (and professional) online presence. Get the beer and bikinis off the Facebook page ;-), consider a personal blog highlighting what a smart and creative individual you are, get active on Twitter and make sure you are up to speed on all the social media tools of the day. Recently, we have been impressed with candidates that have created their own website featuring their resume, blog and links to their other social media channels.

    Join student professional organizations (like Texas Tower PR or the student chapter of PRSA) and take on a leadership role. You’ll gain good experience, network with contacts you can leverage in the real world and have one other impressive item to put on your resume.

  6. Kari says:

    Not to sound like a broken record here but definitely my internships were what helped to prepare me for my career in PR, as well as help me determine what type of PR job I wanted. I think you really need to get a feel for the day-in-day-out job before you can make that decision. For me, it was love at first sight with high-tech agency PR. I interned at Shandwick International in Houston and had to be at the office at 7 a.m. to physically go through newspapers and cut out daily coverage for Compaq and fax it to executives (wow, I’m dating myself here). Considering that, I’m surprised I didn’t turn and run. But I loved the team environment. I loved the energy. And I loved learning about the client, the technology and the media. I was sold.

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