As June graduation approaches, I start to look back at my four fabulous years at the University of Oregon…mmm (smiling and chuckling). Then I start to look at the next four years of my life and my career…AHHH (anxiety attack, short breaths). Okay, so it’s not quite that bad-I’m notorious for being a worry wart. While I feel that I am prepared for the real world, there are definitely some tricks-of-the-trade that I have learned along the way that would have been helpful for me to know from the beginning and maybe would ease my anxiety a little bit for the future.

I recently read a blog post from The Spinks Blog titled “7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now.” The author listed 7 tips of advice, which got me thinking of the things that I have personally learned and feel that would benefit me and other young aspiring PR students. While some of the advice I give is repetitive of some of the things listed in that blog post (all of it was great and very true), I feel that there are some things that I wanted to share that I have learned first-hand.

1. Have confidence

Since I was a freshman in college, I knew I wanted to do PR. I also gradually found out that internships are basically an essential requirement, yet I never actually applied for them till late. I always doubted myself, thinking I didn’t know enough and wouldn’t get the position because I had never taken a PR class or had an internship before. Plus I was nervous about putting myself out there, scared people would judge my lack of experience and young age. Consequently, my senior year has been busy, busy, busy and stressful. I have been trying to play catch up and gain as much experience as possible on top of school and work . Not that I don’t love it, because it is definitely teaching me to be organized, but if I would have had the confidence in myself and my abilities I wouldn’t have passed up some amazing opportunities. I have also quickly found that I could have done  these things all along because I have always had the basic skills (writing, communicating, good work ethic, etc).  People are also always willing to  help you learn the rest  and they also understand if you don’t know everything. You have to start somewhere!

2. Network (both online and in-person)

Whether you know it or not, everything you do in your life is a networking opportunity.  Building relationships with people in your classes, your professors or even random strangers can all come back to be helpful in the end. Who knows, that person you had class with freshman year could have a dad who works for your dream company and could introduce you.  So start talking to people; make friends! Get involved on every social media site. This is not only beneficial because you will understand social media (which is practically an essential in PR now), but you can meet and follow other people  in the industry from whom you can also learn a lot.  I have also heard of numerous stories of people getting jobs and internships through Twitter. It’s not just what you know–it’s who you know!

3. Know your news

Knowing current events and trends is essential for a PR professional. You need to be aware of what is going on in the world at all times, so get in the habit now. Maybe first thing in the morning (or night, since I  know morning for young college students usually starts at 1 PM) check online news sites and your favorite blogs. You can even do this on your phone now, which is especially nice for those long, boring lecture classes (Note: I am not encouraging phone usage during class!)  You never know, five years down the road you might be working on a non-profit campaign and it might be helpful to know what that other great, non-profit organization did five years ago that made headlines.

4. Reeelllaaaxxxx

Public relations is ranked 8th most stressful job in the US in 2010.  Discovering ways that help you relax now will benefit you immediately and also later on. Being a college student is stressful too, and if you are a PR student it seems to only gets worse as time goes on (unlike some majors I know).  I discovered exercise to help me relax. Even though it takes time out of my busy day, it is totally worth it. I blow off steam and clear my head.  Make time to hang out with your friends, or you can even try short, breathing exercises if you don’t have time. But I do not recommend crazy nights out full of binge drinking. The all day hangover only sets you back, among other things… trust me.

5. Get Started..Now!

It is never too early to start  any of these things, especially looking for opportunities to build your resume and portfolio.  Writing that totally awesome article in the student newspaper can become a great piece for your portfolio. Start finding other ways to build experience, whether its an internship or a job shadow.  Meet people and build relationships. Learn about the industry.  Attend events.  Whether you end up doing PR or not, I promise you that you will learn great things that will benefit you no matter what you do.

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