Declaring a major is hard enough as is, but once you step foot on campus and realize you only have four years to gain as much experience for a future career as you can, things get stressful to say the least. I’m in my third year as a PR major, and I’ve experienced the stress that all lowerclassmen feel — that “preparing for the rest of your life” kind of stress. However, I can attest that once you get in a rhythm, it only gets easier from there. Here are three quick tips to get you started as a PR major:
1. Find your strength
Excelling in one aspect of public relations will be SO much more beneficial to your success than being capable of handling whatever a company throws at you. In other words, being above average at a single task is more appealing to a company than being average at multiple tasks. Public relations is a team-oriented practice, and if you don’t possess a quality that’ll help the team, then you won’t be hired. Therefore, start to focus on a skill of yours! Pick your greatest PR skill, and master it — whether it be graphic design, writing, social media, etc. — because once you do, companies will know exactly what you bring to the table, and in turn, you’ll be confident in your own ability, too.
2. Put yourself out there
After your four years at The University of Alabama, you should have enough experience for employers to be confident that you’re prepared for a future in public relations. But, this doesn’t just mean whatever fills up your résumé. This might seem strange, but employers aren’t searching far and wide for students who’ve been solely involved in PR organizations throughout college; employers are looking for well-rounded humans, not just well-rounded PR practitioners.
And yes, that’s cheesy, but it’s true. Your résumé can only help you for so long. When you’re in the real world and practicing public relations, you won’t have to convince others of your PR abilities; you’ll have to come across as a personable human who can hold a conversation—in meetings, on phone calls and in the workplace. Therefore, the bigger the range of organizations you’re involved with on campus, the more prepared you are to speak with clients from all walks of life.
IBM’s CEO Ginni Romerty once said, “I learned to always take on things I’ve never done before. Growth and comfort do not coexist.” Don’t be afraid to get uncomfortable.
3. Secure your first internship with a PR firm
Yes, I’m sure you know how important it is to land an internship as early as possible, but do you know how important it is to land an internship that best suits your needs? For most beginning PR majors, the No. 1 concern is figuring out what to do with a PR degree after graduation; however, as long as you intern at a PR firm, choosing a career path is less stressful than you think.
If I’m being truly honest, there are way too many fields of public relations to choose from (entertainment and sports, hospitality, pharmaceutical, nonprofits, government sector, etc.), and it’s understandable for lowerclassmen to have trouble narrowing down a career path. But by dealing with a wide range of clients that only PR firms can provide, you’ll experience multiple areas of public relations and be more informed when it comes to choosing a specialization. So look at possible PR firms to intern with, and study their client lists like crazy — the more diverse the better.
These may be broad bits of advice, but they should help you get started toward an eventual degree in public relations. My advice is simple for a reason; if you can do these things, then every other step in your development becomes easier to take. Try to remember this, and understand that college isn’t a competition! Improve yourself day by day, and you’ll not only be a better PR practitioner, but a better person for it. Good luck!
By David Palmer, Publications Committee Member