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Tips and Tricks for Aspiring PR Professionals: Freshman Edition

Published on October 4, 2021, at 5:20 p.m.
by Lady Reynolds.

Undergraduate students who choose public relations as their academic and career focus often have the same question: What steps should I be taking to get involved in the PR industry now?

Crafted below is a quick guide with answers to the common questions aspiring PR professionals have.

What exactly is public relations?
Public relations is a communication process that creates beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics. Amy Bramlett, manager for the Career Services satellite office in The University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences, said she often meets students who come to college with no idea what they want to do. As she advises students during a time of exploration and discovery, she also explains to them the details of a public relations major and the opportunities available to students pursuing a degree in this field.

The University of Alabama’s School of C&IS (visual from LinkedIn)

In an interview with The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, PR professional Alicia Thompson stated, “My best advice to a student or a young professional entering the public relations field would be to have a strong passion for what we do.” In an article by Agility PR Solutions, several tips for cultivating a passion in PR are mentioned. The article recommends keeping an open mind by remaining optimistic when trying to discover a passion in PR, taking three minutes a day to reflect on the happiest moments, and embracing new opportunities that arise.

What is networking?
Young adults often hear the term “networking” when it comes to opportunities and paving a career path. Michael Little, an advertising and PR educator at The University of Alabama, defines networking as a credibility link. By introducing someone to another individual in the industry, a person’s job potential and employer’s consideration increase, he noted.

Little recognized networking’s significance as a top priority for students wanting to enter the PR industry. He explained, “Our field is hyper-competitive. There are a lot of great grads applying for the same jobs. If you have a connection in a company or agency, your odds of being hired greatly increase.”

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

By building relationships throughout college with peers and professors, opportunities present themselves. He stressed the importance of networking platforms such as LinkedIn, while Bramlett stressed the importance of networking events like UA’s Career Fair. Both routes allow college students to form relationships and exchange information with professionals, Bramlett said.

Why should an aspiring PR professional start early?
In an article by PR Couture, the most difficult part of gaining PR experience is characterized as the “vicious cycle.”How can a PR student find a job to gain experience if they do not have any experience yet? Luckily, many college campuses have organizations and entry-level opportunities for young adults to gain experience before entering the industry. On-campus professional organizations, such as PRSSA and PRCA, immediately introduce students to the industry.

Little cautioned, “If you’re a student in advertising or public relations and you’re not involved in at least one of these organizations, what are you doing?” By getting involved early, students also have the chance to hold leadership positions in these organizations.

What job-related platforms should an aspiring PR professional use?
LinkedIn, Handshake and Glassdoor are all popular platforms for online job recruiting.

Visual by LinkedIn

As an educator and professional with over 500 personal connections on LinkedIn, Little said it is the No. 1 tool for college students. However, he also emphasized that “it is important for students to remember that these platforms are professional networking services, not social networking resources.” Maintaining a clean and engaging profile automatically depicts a driven and motivated individual to job recruiters.

Conversely, Bramlett recommended Handshake to students wanting to get involved in the PR industry. She explained how Handshake is the only entry-level product on the market. She believes that other platforms such as LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter are effective tools for individuals seeking five-year and up experiences.

What résumé guidelines should an aspiring PR professional follow?
Résumé advice varies greatly between industries and majors. The job application process is constantly changing thanks to the advancement of technology. Bramlett explained that older generations relied on cold calling, printed résumés and unannounced appearances. She noted that larger companies now use application tracking systems.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

These systems scan résumés and applications for key phrases and terms. Using specific wording related to a job or internship’s responsibilities allows a résumé to have a higher chance of being seen by human eyes. Bramlett explains this process to students as “beating the bot.” Little also noted that PR professionals advise students to use résumé wording that highlights accomplishments rather than duties.

Implementing efforts in networking, pursuing on-campus involvement, using professional platforms and crafting effective résumés are all practices that can lead aspiring PR professionals in the right direction. Although these are only a handful of recommendations, they are essential building blocks to a successful PR career.

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