My Diploma Says “B.A. in PR,” but Am I Ready for What’s Next?

It’s hard to believe, but graduation season is already upon us and this means there are a lot of students ready to pursue careers in PR. In college courses, students are generally taught PR in a big-picture sense—skills such as how to perfect writing by following AP guidelines and even how to write a PR plan for a client. But the reality is that when it’s time to start an internship or entry-level job at a PR agency, the work can be quite different and can entail more than just mastering what is taught in school.

In many PR departments—my college included—professors and advisors urge students to build their resumes with various internships in order to get a feeling for what a job in PR will be like. And when it is time to graduate, they encourage pursuing a position at an agency because they say you’ll learn more when you’re surrounded by colleagues doing the same job that you are. For all soon-to-be grads: this is so true.

One SHIFTer who is a recent college graduate said, “All the PR courses I took during college were great, and I certainly learned a lot about PR on a macro level. However, I would say that I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of what the day-to-day work at an agency is like. Media lists, editorial calendars, speaking and award calendars, briefing documents, etc. are all now things I am familiar and comfortable with, but there was certainly a lot of initial learning to do when I started.”

So what should students do if they are anxious about what to expect when starting a job at a PR agency? Don’t be nervous! You’ve received a great education and you have a solid understanding of what PR is, so just keep an open mind and be ready to keep learning new things. Here are three tips for success that I’ve found helpful since starting at an agency:

  1. Become good friends with your calendar. By taking advantage of your calendar, you can better plan your day and week so that you have ownership of all the activities you are working on and can meet deadlines. This helps tremendously with time management. Especially for someone like me who previously only used a hand-written agenda to plan my days in college, this was a bit of a learning curve, but it has been so helpful.
  2. When in doubt, write it down. Although you may think you can memorize all of the things you are tasked with, everyone forgets things sometimes. Especially when starting at an agency, there will be a lot to absorb, so by jotting down things like guidelines for projects, suggestions from your teammates and deadlines, this will ensure that you’ve got it all under control and have notes to reference if you need an answer to something.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your teammates know that you’re new to this, so by asking questions about a specific project, the way things are typically done or the expectations, it’s a good thing. Your co-workers want to see you succeed, so they’ll provide you with the tips and resources you need to do your job well.

Although the responsibilities you’ll be tasked with as an intern or account coordinator will, for the most part, be different from what you’ve just learned in your final PR courses, your company will have plenty of resources for you to continue learning and become a savvy PR practitioner. At SHIFT we have a learning and development program that holds regular trainings for SHIFTers at all levels—not just the newbies. Working at an agency is a constant learning experience no matter how long you’ve been in the business. So for those of you who are anxious about the end of your college career, the learning doesn’t really ever end, and hey, we have a keg in our office too, so there’s that!

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