Q&A: Finishing College and Beginning in an Agency

If your college career is coming to an end, naturally your mind will be moving a million miles a minute. Will I move back home or will I see what it’s like to live on the other side of the country? Will I take a gap year and do philanthropy work or will I apply for my dream internship?

If the questions running through your head have led you to starting the next chapter of your life in a public relations agency, congrats! At this time last year, I was in the same position you are now and while I was excited to start my PR career, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Here are some answers to the questions I had when embarking on this adventure:

How do I start researching agencies to apply to?

When looking for agencies to apply for, it can be difficult to know where to start or what it is you are looking for. To start this process, take advantage of your network and reach out to connections you have in the industry. They may have recommendations of agencies for you to research or could connect you with someone for an informational interview. If you don’t have connections yet, don’t worry! Research if there are any network events, job fairs or symposiums happening on campus and in your city where you can gain insight through talking with or listening to PR professionals.

Additionally, take advantage of LinkedIn to discover agencies and, if it is really important for you to be doing PR for a certain industry, make sure you consider this in your research. Don’t spend time researching agencies that focus on B2B tech clients if you want to be working on a consumer lifestyle.

How can I best come prepared on my first day?

If you are starting as an intern, there won’t be much preparation required before day one. However, working in an agency, it’s so important to understand what is going on in your clients’ industries at any given time. Get news through following relevant publications on Twitter. For example, for general tech news, following accounts like TechCrunch, Wired and Recodeis the perfect way to start exposing yourself to the industry. Begin reading these early, so when you start your position you already have familiarity with current news cycles.

What should I expect once I start?

If this is your first experience in an agency, you are in luck because you will have many great learning experiences! Every day will feel like you are hearing new acronyms, discovering new publications, learning new applications, meeting new people… it’s safe to say everything will feel new. To keep track of all the things I was learning my first couple months, I created an ongoing excel sheet where I noted everything from the little mistakes I needed to correct to my successes. By doing this, I could reflect on the progress I was making. Since each day moves so quickly, you don’t want to lose track of your small wins or the big ones that happen over time.

What advice do you wish you had received?

It’s all going to be okay! Enjoy the last couple months you have in college and slowly start preparing yourself for a great change. When you start your job, don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions and be vulnerable to things you don’t know. Everyone you are working with started in the same place you did and your teammates don’t expect you to come in as a PR master. In an agency, you have the advantage of being surrounded by comms professionals you can learn from at every step, so enjoy it all and take it day by day!

Lastly, if you are looking for an internship, the SHIFT Communications SHIFTern Program provides an excellent opportunity to experience the public relations industry first-hand and to learn from seasoned professionals in the field. We’ll be looking to bring on our next group of interns in June. This is a 6-month, full-time position and it’s paid! Make sure to check out SHIFT’s Career Page in late-Spring to see our next available openings.

Shannon Steffen

Account Coordinator



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