As a senior I have been looking back on when I started the pr track at UNC Charlotte. There were some things I wish I understood before I got into my major courses. Going through the communication department’s orientation of the different tracks left me unknowingly in the dark of what it means to work in pr. These are my top ten pieces of advice for all upcoming pr students:
- Public relations is not an easy major. There is a misconception that pr is all about following celebrities and going to fancy parties. It takes a lot of hard work and resilience to work directly in pr, and that includes networking, experience, and innovation. For this major, you need to concentrate on enhancing your written and oral communication skills. Without perfecting both, you will not be successful. Being successful in this major is determined by the amount of time you put into your courses and gaining experience as an undergraduate student.
- Take your classes seriously. It’s always hard to think about what will be useful in your future endeavors, but its better to take your classes seriously while you can. This includes reading your assigned textbooks; hopefully if you’re in the right field, reading the books will not be difficult. The effort that you put into your classes will affect your readiness for the real world.
- Make your classmates your friends. Your classmates are the future professionals of pr, just like you, and it would be wise for you to get to know them. Plus it’s easier to conquer your classes when you have friends you can ask for help. With this, I have learned it’s better to get to know the classmates that are taking their classes seriously. These are the ones that will get jobs after college, and they can help you grow in your academics and professional life. Additionally, these should be classmates that share the same career goals as you.
- Get organized now. The key to being successful in pr is to adopt organizational skills. If you can’t stay organized, than pr is not for you. Juggling several projects at a time is common in public relations. Its best to start practicing good organization now before you enter the real world.
- It’s never too late to start networking. Whether it’s through Linkedin or PRSA luncheons, it is never too late to start those networking circles everyone keeps talking about. Just remember to be confident and humble. Its best to see every opportunity as a chance to network. Networking is easy, all you have to do is get to know a person while letting them get to know you beyond your perfected resume.
- Be proactive. If you don’t know something, learn it. Take the extra step and look for extra resources that can enhance your productivity. Being proactive can carry you into future job opportunities because it will show your desire to succeed. (I recently started a blog!)
- Go for the internship. We have all heard it before- experience is everything. Apply for internships early and try to land more than one before you graduate. But if you only have one to put on your resume- make the most of it. Work you butt off and try to get your hands on as many projects as you can. The more you help, the more experience you will gain. Ultimately that is the goal of participating in an internship.
- The internship director should be your best friend. Internship Director for the Department of Communications Staci Kuntzman is definitely someone you will want to know. She is effervescent and compassionate. She will help you find the best options for you in terms of internships and your career goals. The internship director knows the most effective internship programs. The more you share with her on the type of experience you want and your career goals, the easier it is of her to help guide you into the right internship.
- Meet your teachers for office hours. College professors are hired for a reason. They are experts of their field and its beneficial for you to get to know them. Meeting them outside of the classroom allows you to further investigate your field. I have learned that if you are willing to seek professors for extra help, they are more willing to help you with scheduling, perfecting your resume, or help you understand the course material better.
- Get involved. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Find an organization or two that you share the same goals and values as you. Whether it’s PRSSA, Greek life, or an Honor Society, the experiences you gain from these organizations can prove to be invaluable. My personal development has grown a lot by being involved in several organizations on campus.
These pieces of advice are not the only things that help you become successful in pr. But they definitely will make it easier for you to conquer your career goals. As I am about to graduate, I hope these words can help someone learn how to be a stellar pr student.
Nathalie is graduating in December and is ready to see the world while developing a public relations career in Charlotte, NC. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter (@natlopez23) or follow her blog.