By: Shane Teklits, Account Associate
By our junior year in college, we have had heard the word “experience” hundreds of times from family, friends and professors alike. But how do you get this so-called “experience” if you’re taking your first steps into the PR field? If you’re anywhere near how I was last spring, it can be an incredibly unsettling feeling watching your friends and classmates speak about their second, third, or even fourth internship while you haven’t even obtained your first! It may not feel like it, but time is certainly on your side and there are plenty of ways to impress a potential employer in order to land your dream internship opportunity. Here are five of the best things you can do.
1. Network! Network! Network!
This is the most important thing you can do to market yourself! It’s vital in PR that you make long-lasting, meaningful connections. If you want to work in fashion, start looking for Penn State graduates working in the industry. Want to work in sports? Begin searching for Penn State alumni working for major sports teams or sports leagues. For me personally, I have always wanted to do PR for a professional football team. I was able to get in touch with Penn State graduates who are in the communications departments of four NFL teams. What I found is that Penn State alumni always want to help you. Even though I didn’t land an internship, I was able to plant a seed and practice marketing myself for the first time. It’s important to keep in touch with those you reach out to, as you never know what may open up down the line.
2. Create a LinkedIn profile
In many ways, this is an extension of number one. Going into the spring semester of my
sophomore year, I barely knew what LinkedIn was, much less have a profile. What I’ve learned is that having a LinkedIn profile allows employers to see your experience they would otherwise not see. After you create your profile, search for connections such as fellow classmates or professors to grow your network. It’s also important to add your most important skills and to have your connections ‘endorse’ them.
3. Look for additional ways to gain experience
Even if you didn’t land that dream internship, there are still plenty of ways to get involved and make an impact on a future employer. Penn State is one of the best universities at offering students different ways to get involved. Perhaps, you can join one of the many communications-related clubs on-campus or take a class you didn’t even know existed. When I spoke with one of the NFL PR pros, he suggested I get involved with Penn State’s athletic department. I applied three consecutive semesters for what I considered to be my dream position, but ultimately didn’t get in. However, this summer I found about COMM 478 (Sports Information), which is a class geared toward Sports PR majors. I was able to cover a Men’s Basketball game and write a game recap, work on writing game previews, and even learned new skills like using Adobe InDesign,
Photoshop, and Premiere to make a Heisman campaign for Saquon Barkley. These are skills I would have learned if I interned with the athletic department, but would have missed out on if I didn’t add COMM 478 as my 18th credit. I had to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Getting involved shows a potential employer you took initiative and that can sometimes be important than experience itself.
4. Make your social media profile look professional
Social media is about being yourself, but don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your employer to see. According to a 2015 survey by CareerBuilder, 52% of employers check the social media profiles of job applicants before hiring them. This means you should be professional on social media. Don’t post embarrassing photos of yourself or use offensive language. If you’re in PR, there’s a high probability that you’re obsessed with social media. You should know more about the impact of social media than your friends, so don’t hold yourself back! Read more about employers and social media here.
5. Stay confident, and as my Philadelphia friends would say “Trust the Process”
Even if you aren’t as fortunate as some of your classmates with three or four internships, there are always ways to gain experience. Don’t be discouraged and stay confident. Whether it be through a club, class, or internship, there are always multiple different ways to get out and impress a potential employer. Step out of your comfort zone, take risks, and be professional. It’s up to you to unlock the doors to your future!