With a new school year under way, thousands of freshmen are beginning the inevitable journey of choosing a future career. While some may become doctors, or teachers, or CEOs of an up-and-coming Silicon Valley startup, there will always be those blessed people who pick the path of Public Relations. To help aid the transition, below is a list of 10 Do’s and Don’ts for a budding PR professional:
1) Do build a resume: This one’s a no-brainer. If you don’t have a resume, you won’t have a job. Be sure to include your major, minor, and expected date of graduation, to prove that you are a bonafide college student. Oh, and K.I.S.S. — Keep It Simple, Stupid. No need for fancy frills; a small pop of color will do just fine. Be concise but get your message across.
2) Don’t include your high school job at Burger King on your resume: Newsflash: you’re in college now and high school no longer matters, especially your minimum wage stint at a local fast food joint. You want to include meaningful, relevant employment experiences on your resume — something you can talk up in an interview. No relevant experience to speak of? No worries, refer to list items #7 and #9.
3) Do create a personal brand: Your “personal brand” will follow you for the rest of your career, and it will help you differentiate yourself from the other 300 applicants vying for your dream job. Be sure to include hobbies like traveling, reading, blogging, or ballet dancing. Even better? Squish it all down into a 140-character, Tweetable blurb.
4) Don’t include hot pink, unicorns, or Justin Bieber in aforementioned personal brand: Professionalism is key. I don’t care if hot pink has been your favorite color since the first grade, if unicorns are your secret obsession, or if you have an extreme case of the Bieber Fever. Your personal brand should focus on all personality aspects that make you a unique, memorable person…. but in a good way.
5) Do have a LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is the single best thing you can do for your future career. As we all know, we live in a virtual world where anybody can become a personal investigator with a little help from Google. That being said, the first thing a potential employer will do is search for your name on the Internet. You better have something awesome to show them. Not to mention, LinkedIn is the ultimate professional networking guide.
6) Don’t upload a picture of you with a beer and your best friend as your LinkedIn headshot: LinkedIn does not equal Facebook, and it never will. Think of LinkedIn as an electronic extension of your resume, and treat it with the same level of professionalism. That being said, no booze or besties allowed. Make an effort to connect with professionals in the PR field, but be sure to always include a personal message with each invitation — otherwise you’ll just look like spam.
7) Do join your local chapter of PRSSA: If you’re in PR, you’d better be in PRSSA. The Public Relations Student Society of America is an excellent resource for budding professionals looking to break into the vast and often confusing world of PR. With weekly speakers, national conferences, Twitter chats, networking trips and a slew of Chapter bonding activities, PRSSA is key for the development of your mind, body and spirit. Not kidding.
8) Don’t half-heartedly attend meetings: Get involved! “Active member of PRSSA” on a resume might look great, but you won’t have anything to talk about when a potential employer asks you to elaborate on your membership with the organization.
9) Do get involved: I don’t care if that means volunteering to write for an on-campus environmental magazine or offering free social media services to a struggling restaurant uptown. Just do something that relates to your future career field.
10) Don’t be TOO involved: You’re in 5+ organizations? Good for you, now explain how you personally benefited from each individual club. You probably can’t. Quality over quantity is a good rule to live by, in all aspects of life and especially in PR. Don’t over commit, and never stretch yourself too thin. Choose 2 or 3 organizations that you’re really passionate about and give them your all. Join committees, attend networking events. Make a name for yourself and people will notice.
When all is said and done, Public Relations is a versatile and rewarding field that will continue to grow and develop with the times. If you’re an ardent individual with an endless thrive to succeed, if you work well in creative environments and believe in the limitless power of words, if you flourish under pressure and dream of changing the world, then PR is for you. Good luck, now get started.