I remember sitting in my first public relations class and having the wind taken out of me when my professor told us the average public relations student graduates with 4-6 internships. You know how many I had? Zero. I only had three semesters of school left and I needed to somehow find a way to be competitive when I graduated in just over a year.
Depending where you are going to school, internship opportunities aren’t abundant - especially not good ones. If you find yourself in a similar situation like me, don’t panic, there are things you can do to help you prepare for a career in public relations.
Work Customer Service – Whether as a cashier or a server, customer service can help prepare you immensely. In our field, people skills are huge and I’m not just talking about being able to talk to people. I’m talking about learning how you to treat rude customers, arrogant customers and customers who are simply looking for an argument. When you get into the “real world,” some of these type of customers will become your clients and you’ll need to be able to handle them.
Blog – During school, my professors kept telling us, “You need to learn how to write well.” No matter what, you need to be able to write and in this technology friendly world, there is no excuse not to write. With WordPress and Blogger, you can set up a completely free blog and blog away. Don’t worry if you’re not getting thousands of views a month; that’s not the point. Truth be told, the number of blogs that get a lot of views compared to how many blogs exist, is extremely minimal. The point of your blog is to write. Writing is like any other skill; you need to practice. Also, remember to write about whatever you want. It doesn’t need to be industry related. Do you know how many PR and social media blogs are out there? Have fun.
Leadership Roles – Personally, this is how I got started. I couldn’t find an internship because I didn’t have any experience, but then how was I expected to get experience if no one gave me a chance? Leadership roles is how. I got involved with my university’s chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and became the director of marketing. This was huge! I know the reason I got my first internship was because I was on the board of the PRSSA because the person before me was on the PRSSA board before me. I hate to say it, but it is about who you know in this world and getting involved in leadership roles will introduce you to plenty of people.
Read – This should be self-explanatory. You need to read. A lot. Industry books, “for-fun” books, magazines, blogs and whatever else you can get your eyes on. As a public relations specialist, you honestly need a little bit about everything. When you walk into the room, you need to be able to relate to everyone in the room and you can learn a little bit about everything by reading. Reading will also help your vocabulary and writing. Reading can also give you material to blog about whether it is a review of some type or it simply inspires you .
These are a few ways to gain experience to get ahead. Some of these might seem simple to you, but I promise you, not everyone does them. If you are doing these things, you are ahead of the game. If you can do these things AND get internships, that’s awesome. Just remember, if you can’t find an internship, there are ways to gain experience and knowledge.