It’s back to school season for many students, but not for recent college graduates like myself! As a young professional working in my first full-time position, rather than attending classes, I feel driven to share my experience with those who might be navigating the same period of drastic change that I am.
From becoming a public relations (PR) student to entering the real-world PR industry, I have learned the true value of self-care and internship experience.
It’s important to find activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as reading, walking or watching sitcoms, to recharge and prevent burnout. It’s also essential to make plans during the week to either go out to dinner with family or catch a movie with friends to avoid working just to live for the weekend.
Although these insights are critical to ensuring success in your personal life, the most beneficial experience in my preparation for post-grad life has been my PR internship. This real-world experience during college served as a helpful halfway point in the transition between college student and young professional.
Make Mistakes in a Safe Space
An intern position can offer an individual a chance to dip their toe into the PR industry. Internships give students the opportunity to test their skills and knowledge and offer a safe environment to make mistakes. Under the guidance of real PR professionals, students can easily learn from their mistakes and gather important lessons that will help them improve their performance as they begin their careers.
As an intern, I once tagged the wrong business in a social media caption for a client’s account. Immediately after the post was published, my supervisor caught the error, deleted the post and reminded me to conduct my due diligence and confirm that the information in my captions is correct before posting. Learning from this mistake has prompted me to triple check my captions before publishing client posts on social media. It’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes as an intern so you can learn how to improve if you find yourself in the situation again once you begin your actual career, where the consequences of a mistake may be more severe.
Strengthen Your Skills
The value of an individual’s PR skills is measured by a variety of abilities. An internship can help students develop real-world PR skills, that cannot be learned from a textbook. For a generation of college students who grew up on the internet, many enter the PR industry with vital social media insights but lack relationship management talents. While many Gen Zers like me have personal social media accounts, most people don’t think about leveraging their account as a strategic communication tool. We generally know how to use social media platforms, but we may not know how to increase our content’s reach. Developing skills in areas such as content strategy can prepare you for creating and perpetuating strategic content in your future career, that advances client goals.
The internship experience gives PR students the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues and clients in a real, professional work setting. A student’s participation in an internship can also help them develop time management and multitasking skills that will be crucial when working in the fast-paced environment of a PR firm. While communication courses at universities can lay the groundwork for the working world, nothing compares to what can be gained from working in the professional PR setting. During my internship tenure, I was entrusted with running the bi-weekly meetings with one of our clients. This experience was instrumental in improving my communication and leadership skills that would eventually help boost my confidence for developing future client relations.
Build Your Professional Brand Through Self-Discovery
In the world of PR, it’s important to have your own professional brand. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Throughout college and beyond, you should be conscious of your professional brand to ensure that you have a decent online reputation and consistent messaging across your platforms. Both education and internship experience can help you on your journey of self-discovery to find what makes up your unique professional brand. According to Forbes, developing an effective personal and professional brand, “will differentiate you from the competition and allow you to build trust with prospective clients and employers.” An internship can give you the opportunity to work on your personal branding by creating a PR strategy to get your story out there. Make sure your story shows future employers and clients your professional and personal skills and goals.
One great way to develop your personal professional brand is to create and manage a LinkedIn profile. When I first developed my LinkedIn profile, I was instructed to do so for a class. However, I have grown my LinkedIn community over the years and made vital connections with former classmates and PR professionals. Over time, it has allowed me to develop my professional brand by taking online training courses and adding my certification to my profile to boost my resume.
As a helpful steppingstone in the transition from student to working professional, an internship can provide an invaluable experience in your career field. While the transition can be a difficult time of questioning one’s identity, you should feel confident in the skills you’ve crafted and take time to relax and recharge to stay productive and efficient.