As a PR student, or as a student of a similar major, it can be hard to grapple the million and one things we’re all trying to do to make ourselves competitive future employees. Below I have provided some great tips and tricks for students to take advantage of during their time on campus in preparation for “the real world.”
On Campus Resources
Some of the most important things you can do for yourself as a student is to take advantage of the multitude of resources your university provides you. As a Grand Valley student, I believe we have some of the best faculty and staff, as well as wonderfully expansive resources for students of all majors to use. Here’s a breakdown of my favorites.
Advisors - Getting into the habit of staying in constant contact with your advisor is something that SO many students are guilty of this (as am I). Not only is scheduling and planning classes a million times easier with their help, but if you show enough interest, you can also use your advisor as a great resource for future jobs and internships. A ton of advisors have many years of in-field work and real world experience alongside of instructing courses and advising that can lead to potential connections you may have never thought possible.
Professors - Making familiar connections and contacts with your professors is also extremely important! THIS CAREER IS ABOUT NETWORKING PEOPLE! It’s actually a shame how many students I see never making any further effort in their classes besides just showing up and doing the work. Professors are another “in” to those career goals and jobs. By making the effort to get to know your professors on a more on-on-one level, applying for your first post-grad job is going to be a breeze as you’ll be well equipped with amazing letters of recommendation vouching for your work ethic as well as your personality. Disclaimer: Please don’t think I’m telling you to be fake and get to know your professors just because you need future references. But by all means, if you find a professor that interests you and you like, pursue them. Ask your professor to get a coffee with them over at the library or talk to them about their office hours. - they’re here to help us! And based on personal experience, most professors encourage people to reach out to them. SO DO IT!
PRSSA/GrandPR - Wow, I really can’t say enough good things about what these organizations can do for you as a resource. Clearly if you’re here reading this, you’re most likely on top of this one. But again; go above and beyond. PRSSA is more than just a bi-weekly learning session. Make connections with other members. If you watch a speaker you enjoyed, go introduce yourself and express further interest by exchanging business cards or connecting on LinkedIn. Even a polite, brief small talk can lead to further inlets into a career in the direction you dream of going. Also; Go. To. Agency. Tours. I’m not just talking once a year. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to do these at least once a month, and you should really be putting forth the initiative to go to as many as you possibly can. There is no better way to incorporate yourself into the local community than seeing what is going on right now with real professionals. Agency tours help develop your network and connections, your personal career ideals, they foster the relationships of you and other members, and really help boost your professional social skills. PRSSA is a great source for people in every major from: AD/PR, Digital Studies, Writing, Graphic Design, Communications, Marketing, and so on. All of these majors are so intertwined in today’s industries that you really never know what kind of opportunity could be just cresting the horizon for you!
As future professionals, the more of a jack-of-all-trades we can be in 2019, the better. This means not only filling our portfolios, resumes, and CVs with in-class work, it means creating our own fantastic content that we share to our personal profiles and accounts. Future employers are going to go out of their way and dig a little to find the best candidate for their company. So learning different ways to boost your content creation game is going to come in super handy. With that being said, here are three top apps to help you curate till the cows come home.
Canva - As a Grand Valley student, we’re all going to be familiar with this one for projects and infographic creation. But remember that you can use Canva for many other things including creating an aesthetically pleasing resumes, cover letters, and even business cards.
Grammarly - This is probably one of the most wonderful creations in recent history. No longer will you be caught with fat-finger errors, or auto-correct inaccuracies. Grammarly is a great app and browser extension for you to use for everything you write both professionally and personally.
Adobe Photoshop Express - As a minor in photography, I am personally a tad bias towards all Adobe products. But I am also aware that Adobe, while a valued skill to have in the professional world, can also be intimidating for beginners; lest we not forget that suite packages tend to be a bit unforgiving on a college student budget. That being said, I highly recommend this app. In fact, I recommend almost every free app option Adobe offers. However, this is a fun one to help you get your feet wet in the deep pool of their software. Adobe Photoshop Express is an app that allows for quick workflow and ease of editing all in the palm of your hands. You can use this for everything from personal Instagram edits and Facebook posts to even creating quality collages and copy for things like blog posts and banners. Do yourself a favor and get this app.
Staying constantly in the know and learning from other people mistakes and successes is a huge part of this industry,and is a great way to add to your personal arsenal of knowledge to use in future endeavors. Here are my top apps and websites for this purpose.
Google Alerts - Wait…it’s 2019 and you still don’t have Google Alerts? I know. I know. You just don’t want to know all of the bad things going on in the world. Well suck it up, princess. These things are important. Knowing what’s going on around you plays a key role in being able to make successful life choice and career moves, along side of being able to help make changes that better our future world. Get the app, and get in the know.
Feedly - If you want a more curated list of information that pertains to your specific industry or interests, this is going to be a great source for you. Feedly allows you to choose the sources you get information from, as well as the subjects you want to hear about. I would say this is just as comparable and important to have on lock down as Google Alerts, but this app lets you filter down news to what is more applicable in your own life. But please don’t wait your time getting People alerts about the Kardashians. That’s what Twitter is for.
LinkedIn - This one is probably self-explanatory and I would hope that all of you at least have a profile filled out on LinkedIn at this point. If you don’t - put it on the top of your to-do list. LinkedIn is now your best friend. Seriously, use LinkedIn to your advantage. Create a network and make relevant posts for prospective employees to view further down the line.
Pinterest - You probably think I’m joking. But friends, this is an absolutely wonderful way to learn about anything you can possibly think of. I’m pretty sure I do more “how to” and “tips for” searches in Pinterest now a days than Google; having much better luck finding what I was looking for without having to dig through a multitude of pages to get to a legit, non-Google sponsored, top post. Need a template for a press release? Pinterest. Need tips on creating an outstanding resume? Pinterest. Do you want to find out more about a company or brand your interviewing for? Pinterest. Do you want to get your personal content out to a larger audience? Pinterest. Need help laying out a social media marketing strategy? Pinterest. Gone are the days of old when all we pinned were wedding boards and personal style inspirations. You can find some of the most relevant and useful information with on search in Pinterest as well as using the platform to help boost your own visibility.
There are so many things you can learn and do to advance yourself above the rest and stand out in the best way possible. Our industry is constantly changing and transforming. The sooner we (and I mean all of us - students and pros) can adapt, learn, and grow with these changes, the better. But that means going out of your way to learn about these new changes and not just waiting for them to be written down in textbooks for you to learn about in class. Do the dirty work, don’t sit still, and keep pushing to find that new-new. You got this.
Sarah Virkstis is a Junior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Advertising & PR with a minor in Photography. Sarah is currently an active member in PRSSA, the Programming Director for GrandPR and is also a competing member on the Grand Valley Equestrian Team. Sarah is an enthusiastic Disney fanatic, even having participated in The Disney College Program in Orlando, FL. In her free time, you can find Sarah out at Lake Michigan playing fetch with her dogs, or out at the barn riding her horse.