Published on February 20, 2017, at 8:18 a.m.
by Lynn Brantley.
If you’re anything like me, you have gone through (or are going through) a stage in your life where you have no idea what you want to do with your major — let alone your life.
As the end of my junior year winded down, my nerves and doubts began to arise as people asked “What are you going to do after college?” or “Where are you interning this summer?” These questions pressured me, and I started to panic when it came to applying to internships. I began applying to random openings, not knowing if I would enjoy the work I would be doing.
Pursuing a public relations degree can be vague in description because it covers a variety of work. There’s a wide range of skills and interests from design to writing to community relations. It wasn’t until after my communications internship with a nonprofit that I realized the PR route I wanted to go, but I thought I was late in the game getting involved in my major. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
People always told me to get to know my professors, get involved and take classes I was interested in, which in reality is a lot easier said than done.
Well good thing for you, I found (a little late) that it is easier than you might think. There’s always a way to connect with the communication school through peers, professors and a little bit of self-motivation. Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful while establishing my public relations path at The University of Alabama.
Connect with peers.
We all have a friend who’s really into their major. They are part of numerous organizations, if not the president, and their schedules and résumés are filled with experience and extracurricular activities. Reach out to them and ask how you can get involved in any way possible. Those most involved are the ones wanting to recruit other great PR practitioners to work with.
Find a class that best interests you.
Ask your adviser what classes would help you pursue a career path you think you’re tailored to liking, whether it be creating a PR campaign, public speaking or even an online magazine class (like Platform Magazine). Classes can assist with hands-on experience and create components for a portfolio to share with potential employers in the communications industry. I found that my PR campaigns class is what helped me to determine what I wanted to do in my field of study and eventually led me to registering for classes that had a similar structure.
Join a club and or an organization.
The communication school has a diverse number of clubs and organizations that focus on specific skills such as public relations, telecommunications and even public speaking. Stop by the department’s main office to get a list of all the groups you can join or even set up an appointment with an adviser who can help you get plugged into something you would find enjoyable. Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapters are versatile resources for networking events, career tools and meeting new people pursuing the same major as you. Clubs and organizations are not only great for networking, but for résumé building as well.
Plug into the PR world.
Find a blog or daily news feed that specifically caters to the PR world. Plugging into the PR industry can help spark interest in a certain aspect such as rebranding, social media or crisis management. Being up-to-date can help you stand out when applying to a job or internship, being able to reference a specific case study when asked a question. One of my favorite daily news feeds, besides Platform Magazine, is PR Daily because it’s constantly fresh with stories about corporate PR and tips for the aspiring PR practitioner.
As an upperclassman, other peers may seem more ahead of the game than you, but don’t let that be a discouragement to your path. Step out of your comfort zone and engage in something new, even if it’s at the beginning of the race because in the long run, it’ll be well worth it. At the end of the day, it’s all about having a positive attitude and knowing that you have the potential to be the best PR practitioner out there, whether you have the four-year extensive experience or not.