From the Intern's Desk

thoughts, tools, tips, and tricks from the perpetual intern

Advice for the Recent College Graduate

Here is a blog post I wrote a few months back for PR Breakfast Club (you can find them on their homepage and more about them on their facebook page) about not just public relations, but everyone experiencing the shock of being thrown into the “real world” after college:

May 26

Everyone’s talking about the harsh realities of the real world these days, and now that I finished my first year of college and I’m beginning the process of building my future career, I’m starting to listen. Is the real world only for grownups? What is this “real world” exactly? I’m trying to find out, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

The real world isn’t something you get into after graduating from college, facing the daunting task of getting a job and supporting yourself. Financial independence is a scary thing, and no one has the answers as to how it can be achieved. I definitely don’t know, but what I do know is that I get “I’m so jealous of you for having three years of college left” and “you get to spend all that time just enjoying life and living it up” a lot. And I’m sick of hearing it. Truth is, the way you can feel more secure in graduating, ready to begin your new life and career, is by starting early. No, the real world is something you live in, all the time, constantly seeking out opportunity, making connections and networking without even trying.

I just completed a five-month internship at a PR firm where I was the youngest intern there. I loved my experience – not at first, but eventually when they started trusting me with more responsibilities and tasks that a more seasoned intern would breeze through. But I spent my time poring through the intern handbook, reading blogs and other first-time intern accounts of their experience. I chose to write my paper for a journalism class on internships for fun. So when they gave me more challenging tasks, to say I was prepared would be an understatement.

With social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn at my side (contrary to a Criminal Minds episode, they’re not just places where creepers hang out waiting to kidnap you if used effectively) I’m setting out to establish my place in the public relations world years before stepping off the stage as a college graduate. Internships are getting increasingly competitive, not to mention the overwhelming scarcity of entry-level jobs, so I’m looking to have as much experience in my arsenal as time allows. But I don’t want just a laundry list of places I’ve worked and minimum wages I’ve made. How do I expect to have a packed resume plus some achievements that will stand out to a future employer? Again, by starting early.

I see college as a really powerful tool in building the house of my career. Internships are like the raw material: the wood, the plaster and the concrete that puts it all together. College makes it into something that can be used productively, like a drill or a hammer and a nail. Both things together will allow me to get comfortable in my house and have a good job that’s fulfilling and open for advancement. Right now, I barely have a roof over my head. But someday, I hope to have a big mansion. Maybe some recent college graduates have a shack that will barely withstand a thunderstorm. That’s OK. Just keep working at it and getting more experience and soon you’ll have a cozy abode that will get you to the next level.

I’m expecting that college graduates of the future will do nothing but follow the “starting early” philosophy. My advice for current college graduates is to take the time between finishing your degree and getting a job to really fine-tune your resumes and portfolios. What makes you stand out? It’s easy to deny that you’ve been living in “the real world” for your entire life, and not so easy to look at your work and ask yourself what you did with all those years. Maybe you won’t have to look too hard to find something that would make you an exemplary employee. Things that you do for free are a great start – volunteer positions, internship work, apprenticeships, job shadowing – all of those things will make you seem dedicated and engaged in your community. Highlight those things and if you don’t have them, start doing them. It’s never too late to start building your mansion.

Read more: The Real World: Stop Avoiding It and Start Early : PRBreakfastClub

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Why I want to be in PR

As a journalism major, I often get asked why I’m choosing public relations as my specialization. Why don’t I just major in advertising or communications or special events management or marketing? Am I selling out?

Absolutely not. I don’t want to major in any of those other things because I want to write first and do PR second. A classically trained journalist learns the ins and outs of AP style, politics, media and how to be aggressive to get a story. At least that’s what we do here at the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Comm at ASU. I don’t want to sound clichéd, but isn’t there that saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?  While I’m not calling journalists the enemies of PR professionals, I do think there’s something to be said about their tumultuous relationship. The only way I can think about being the best at my profession is if I learn how the other side works. Being submersed in a school full of journalists will open my eyes to their practices, their strategies and how we both can benefit in the future.

Not only am I learning to write, but I’m learning how to deal with people. First and foremost, PR is about relating to people. Relating to the media, relating to the public and finding a balance between the two. Journalists have refined the most expressive forms of communication. It’s not so vague that when I graduate I won’t have something reputable and specific to fall back on, but it leaves the door open enough that I’m not going to be stuck being a reporter for a floundering newspaper, or an anchor of the five o’clock news. Future employers will know that I know what I’m doing in a newsroom, so if they send me there to defend their company to the public, they’ll know I’ll be able to hold my own.

But why PR? PR is being an advocate without getting into politics. It allows me to take a stand and do public speaking, which I’ve always loved. It makes me spend time on Twitter and Facebook and blogs, which I do anyway. Plus I get to see both sides of the coin – the intriguing big business people and the familiar man on the street. Somebody needs to be a liaison between the two or else the world would be a pretty confusing place. I want to be that link that allows both to function. PR gives me the flexibility to work for basically anybody – whether it’s the federal government, a big box company, a hotel chain or even a local boutique firm. There’s agency PR, there’s corporate PR … the opportunities are endless. What I like changes daily, and with PR I don’t have to be locked into accounting, forensics, psychology, Spanish or hospitality. I can pick one or all of them, and still the options are wide open.

I’m looking forward to exploring these options, now while I’m still in college and after I graduate with hopefully a bunch of experience in my back pocket. And although I may not be ready to choose what I like just yet, at least I know I can always be a journalist.

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