There are so many things I am thankful for as a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). This organization has provided me with plenty of networking opportunities in career tours and small guest speaker events. However, five years from now if I have to think back to my time as a student, the highlight would be my attendance at PRSSA conferences.
When you’re surrounded by people in your profession who are all unique in their own ways, there are so many possible outcomes depending on who you talk to. Conferences are far from the only means for you to network, but consider the opportunity presented by these events. When you have so many people to meet, it’s your chance to make networking mistakes and to work toward networking success. If you meet someone important outside of a conference, you’ll already be well prepared to make an impression.
Sometimes you even learn things at these events without having to say a word. You can obviously acquire knowledge from the speakers. However, there is also value in noticing what is being asked of them by your counterparts. Everyone who attends such events has a slightly different motivation for being there. They may ask questions you would never think of and the answers may very well be relevant to you.
Sure, your presence at a professional gathering isn’t necessarily essential for networking and learning when you have digital platforms such as LinkedIn at your fingertips. At the same time, LinkedIn is just as accessible to anyone else and you can be sure that they’re attempting to connect with the same people as you are. Increase your chances of a connection by meeting professionals at events in which you have a mutual interest. They are much more likely to connect online with someone they have already met. Your digital portfolios speak for themselves; now take some time to tell your story to a live audience.
The life of a student managing academic coursework concurrently with internship projects is fulfilling. There is so much knowledge to gather in. This is particularly true for public relations students, as I have personally come to learn. I have found that PR is a dynamic profession. It changes with the way people mass communicate. This has opened up an abundance of opportunities for us students and future professionals to take.
In my experience, internships provide much more than what is described on applications. All of the internships I’ve taken on over the past year have offered tasks I didn’t see coming. None of the classes I’ve taken at CSULB have covered (extensive) graphic design, video editing or retention marketing. My coursework has only skimmed advertising via Facebook and Google Adwords. I was given those duties anyway and I took the responsibility and ran with it. This has led me to great development as a PR professional in training.
It’s not a stretch to closely associate these skills with PR. We are communicators, and we need to use all appropriate mediums of communication. We need to communicate visually because people are stopped by visuals. We need to use digital marketing tactics because our audiences are increasingly found on digital platforms. We aren’t becoming less of what we’re learning to be in class. We’re building on that.
In allusion back to the title of this post, you shape what you experience, meaning you shape what you learn. When you secure an internship, be appreciative of what is handed to you. If the majority of things you do aren’t relevant to PR, you’ve taken the wrong internship. Assuming you have the right internship, you have a canvas and all kinds of materials to work with. You can make something remarkable out of it.