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5 Tips to Get Ahead of the Pack

3.8.09

Being a public relations student can be pretty competitive, and it always feels like you can never keep up. Professors are constantly throwing new things at you that you must perfect: You must have perfect grammar, a perfect plan, a perfect media kit, a perfect resume, a perfect portfolio, etc. Now with social media as a crucial public relations tool, we Gen Y-ers must also be proficient “social medialites.” How are we students really supposed to have it all under control? It’s a lot to handle!

Though some of these things you really must have under control (like grammar), you can still succeed by having these 5 things. Not to say I have everything under control, but I have found that these tools help me with some of the PR student must-knows:

1. Learn, Live and Love Twitter
Ok, I know starting out with a social media tool is not very encouraging, especially if you are unfamiliar with Twitter. Really, it is fairly simple to figure out, and it is an excellent networking tool. There are many people on Twitter who really want to help students be successful PRs. Impress potential employers by linking articles about their firm, or join conversations about PR. A few topic chats where you can contribute your ideas, get PR advice or look for PR jobs are #entryPR, #PRintern, #PRadvice and #journchat (on Monday nights). I warn you, Twitter is addicting once you get the hang of it.

So there you go, two must-knows out of the way: social media and networking.

2. Build an Online Portfolio
An online portfolio is crucial in this day in age. Not only is it an easy way to have Web site content, but it also will get you hired! Typically the only opportunity you have to show a portfolio is at an interview, but with an online portfolio you can send a link to a potential employer and your resume and writing samples are right there. You don’t have to get too fancy with it, I mean we aren’t all Web designers, so get a cool template from a hosting Web site. There are plenty of places to get a free site, such as Wetpaint, Weebly or Designerfolio. You can pay extra to get your own URL, but it is not necessary.

3. Get to know your Top 5
How do you know you really want to work at Edelman if you don’t know anything about the company, their cases or the management structure? Before you send in an application do some research on your top 5 PR firms (or in-house, non-profit, etc.). Go the extra mile and contact your ideal job. Set up an informational interview to talk to someone who works there; you can only get so much information from the company’s Web site. You shouldn’t just cold call someone and try to set something up; you need to network. Use Twitter, ask teachers, go on the PRSA Web site, find someone on LinkedIn.

(BTW if you aren’t registered on LinkedIn, DO IT.)

4. Get some internship experience
Now you don’t have to try to jump into a competitive global agency internship, start small. If you are balancing school and a full time job you don’t have time for the perfect internship. You can save that until after you graduate. Instead, intern at a local nonprofit or for a University group. Occasionally a businesses won’t publicize internship opportunities if the internships are unpaid or won’t offer college credit, so seek these people out. Offer to write press releases or manage their blog. Do anything to get some portfolio clips and some experience.

Sometimes it isn’t easy finding a small internship if you are in a smaller city, so get some experience through your local PRSSA chapter or your school’s student run PR agency.

5. Bloggy Blog Blog Blog
This weird word has been quite prevalent in your PR classes, hasn’t it? Well your prof is saying it for a reason, so get one. I may not be the best person to be giving this advice seeing as I am not the most active blogger in the blogosphere. Trust me, I’ll be using my own advice. Blogs are the best way to show that you not only understand and know what the blogosphere is but that you have an opinion. Starting your blog is the hardest part, so take Darren Rowse’s advice for beginner bloggers on his blog.

There you have it, folks. Follow these five tips and I promise you will be 10 steps ahead of most PR students.

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