Alison Coffa completed a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) this year, majoring in Public Relations and Journalism. She is now working as an Account Executive in a boutique Melbourne PR agency. Follow her on Twitter at @AlisonClareC .
A – Aim high. The phrase ‘Ps get degrees’ gets thrown around a lot at university. While it’s true you can technically graduate by simply scraping through each of your subjects, you will set yourself up for a better theoretical knowledge and practical understanding if you knuckle down and do some reading every now and then. It will also help you keep on the good side of your tutors and lecturers. Making yourself noticed among a cohort of 100+ students can be difficult, so having a faculty staff member recognise your efforts can be a huge bonus.
Aiming high can also be extended beyond your grades. In everything you write or publish, particularly online, own it. Take a moment to proofread, check for errors, or re-consider your angle. Even in a simple tweet, think “is this helping my image?”, “is this presenting the image of the professional I want to be?”, “would I be happy with this in a month’s time?”. Aiming to go beyond the basic and taking care in all aspects of your work pays off.
B – Be proactive. PR is an ever-evolving industry and there’s a lot more to it than you’ll find in any text book. Follow some blogs, subscribe to some newsletters, read up on current trends and even try to write some articles yourself. Find out what channels work for you. Building a working understanding of the industry doesn’t have to mean reading pages of research and statistics – that’s what infographics are for!
Utilise the most valuable resource you have at your disposal: your lecturers. Often they’ll be current or ex-practitioners themselves and their own personal experience will be a lot more relevant and than an outdated prescribed reading. You will most likely also find them to be a great starting point for your own personal networking, and even a channel for finding out about internship and work opportunities.
C – Communicate, communicate, communicate. Incorporating both A and B, if you’re going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Immerse yourself in the business you’re going in to and actually practise it. Write a blog, start a Twitter account, create and maintain a LinkedIn profile. Write articles for your university’s magazine. Contact a blog you like and pitch them an idea for a guest post. Get out in person and attend networking events, conferences, workshops and forums – and then write something summarising the event afterwards!
It’s important to take your learning out of the theoretical. Learning to put what you’ve studied into practise and actually following it through is vital, so you can enter the workforce after graduating with a set of practical skills – and a growing online portfolio to boot.