What's in Your Professional Toolbox?

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Posted At: September 19, 2012 2:38 P.M.
by Leighton Brown

What does it mean to be actively involved? Is joining an organization enough? Does it look more impressive to have five different memberships on your résumé?

It’s common these days to hear about people who aren’t getting hired. They are confused because they have impressive résumés with all of these diverse organizations listed. They have been under the impression for the past four years of college that they are set. They will get a job. “They’ve done a lot in college.”

The idea is not to join five organizations just to have five different memberships. The idea is to strategically join two or three, and actively be more than just a member.

“Ten years ago joining organizations used to be enough of a novelty to employers,” Ron Culp, director of the Graduate PR and Advertising Program at DePaul University. “That’s not the case anymore.”

With the ever-changing job market and the competition constantly getting tougher each year, Culp suggests that joining organizations just to join is not impressive. What did you specifically do in that organization to set yourself apart from the rest of its members? How did joining that organization make you a better practitioner in your field?

Culp often receives hundreds of résumés weekly — that’s intimidating! How exactly would your résumé stand out amongst all of those?

For those seeking to add important components to their professional toolbox, Danika Daly suggests in a recent blog post that you should revamp your social media appearance, be a more proactive student and better your overall chances for success as an aspiring PR professional!

Similar to the importance of being actively involved in student organizations, getting internships that are relevant to your desired major is likely one of the most important things you can do for yourself in your college career. When Culp interviews prospective employees, the first thing he looks at is their major. Then, he immediately looks for experiences one has obtained that are relevant to that major.

Practical experience in the field is a must. Geri Evans, president and CEO of Evans PR Group said, “Experience is crucial because it makes you a more well-rounded person. You don’t really know exactly where you’re going to be in four years, so the more diverse, but strategic experience you can obtain the better your chances are. You have to prepare yourself for the wonderful array of the unique possibilities out there!”

It’s important in your college years to experience a diverse amount of opportunities and internships. Every opportunity helps you develop as a better professional. “Find your place where your passion and talent is and make a difference! Every experience counts toward your professional tool box,” Evans said.

Another common assumption is, “I am an A student; I’m bright, so I’ll be okay.” Yes, making high grades is impressive, but that’s not enough. Both Culp and Evans said they would much rather hire a B average student who possessed a diverse amount of relevant experiences, rather than the A average student who just made straight A’s.

Both also expressed the importance of professional development while being a student. If you can maintain strong grades, indulge yourself in a diverse amount of experiences, and keep up with a strong network, you pretty much have a golden ticket for life after college.

Ron Culp’s advice for new college students:
-It’s never too early to focus on your career. You think you have four years, but you really don’t. The time goes by fast.
-Get involved as early as you can. Start being a leader. Start making a difference.

Geri Evans advice for new college students:
-Seek out an upper-level classmate in the field you are interested in.
-Make an appointment with your adviser to discuss possible career paths. Ask them how you can be successful in college and out of college.
-Take the initiative and ask questions early.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for your college involvement. It’s the choices that you make in the four years you are at college that will help shape the beginning of your career.

The last thing you want to do at the end of your four years is say, “I wish I would have done more.”

2 Comments

  1. Benjamin Lowe

    To begin, great piece and well written. The false idea that someone can pad a resume simply by stacking membership titles has been perpetuated for too long. It is a mistake that many people make and I am glad you have taken the time to inform more people of it. The only thing I would hope to add would be the idea of working toward something that has meaning in your life. Sometimes there are certain directions you should go if you enjoy a certain hobby, vehicle or product. Working toward involving yourself with that specific activity or idea can give you valuable insight into the professional world that surrounds it and hopefully one day allow you to work directly with it. As I have always been told, you never work a day in your life if you are doing what you love.

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  2. Caitlin Vaiskauskas

    I agree that just joining several different organizations is not enough–you must be active within the organization. I also think it is important to be active in a way that relates to the person’s major or their desired work within a specific profession. While managing the financial side of an organization is impressive, it might not necessarily have anything to do with landing that PR job a person has been dreaming of. I think it is also important to be involved within specific parts of an organization because it can help a person stand out to the faculty sponsor or leader. This can help a person create a more personal relationship with the faculty member(s) and may lead to job or internship opportunities, or at the very least, a strong resume reference. I also think it is important to be involved in organizations that mean something to the person. It is much easier to not only speak about and be passionate about an organization when the person has some sort of connection to or support for the organization, but also to truly enjoy what they are doing within the organization.

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