Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Guest Post: Ashley Funderburk - Tips from an enthusiastic student

Over the past year, I have realized that getting a degree in public relations is not just about going to class and learning, but also about gaining experience. To me experience means so much more than just textbooks. You are gaining something that you cannot learn just by having perfect attendance in a class here and there. I am not saying don’t go to class, but I am saying take every opportunity that comes your way for “real life” experience.

I can gladly say that if I had not done that this past semester I would not have the knowledge I do as of now.

Becoming the firm director of our on-campus student-run PR firm (@CatComWCU) has opened my eyes to so many things. I have been able to apply the skills I have learned in class to the real world. I have only been the firm director for three months now and I have already gained knowledge that a teacher could never teach in a class. Yes, what I learned in class was very helpful. However, my teacher never said that dealing with clients takes patience, especially if they do not understand how PR works.

PRSSA is another great on-campus organization to become involved with. My first semester of majoring in PR I attended a few meetings, but stopped going because I was caught up in other things. The next semester I decided I would not miss a meeting unless I absolutely had to because the research I was doing kept pointing fingers at PRSSA and how important it is. I became PR Jobs and Internship Director of the Chapter at my university (@WCUPRSSA) and now I am Vice President. PRSSA has definitely opened my eyes to opportunities and conferences that I would not have known about if I were not involved.

Needless to say, I probably take on more than the average college student. Recently I became the Social Media Director for Kratz PR and Management (KratzPR). I also intern at two non-profits and love every minute of it. My main point of this blog is to stress the importance of involvement and experience.

Do not wait until you graduate to become involved!

Here are a few tips I have for fellow PR students:

1. Ask professors how you can become involved around campus.
PR can be found everywhere, so even if you do not have a student-run firm you still have opportunities to gain experience. Have a theater department on campus? Ask the director of an upcoming play if you can do PR for them.

2. Intern. I cannot stress how important an internship is.
I have gained so much knowledge from my two internships in one summer than I have gained in a school year. Start looking months in advance to when you want to actually intern because sometimes it is difficult to find an internship. Both of my internships are with non-profits and they really appreciate what I do for them and I love how fulfilling it is to help a non-profit accomplish something. Internships are everywhere, just open your eyes and look!

3. Freelance.
While I have not personally had any experience with freelance PR, I feel like it is a great way to gain experience when you are still in school. Speak with a faculty member, or someone that has had experience with freelancing, and ask if they will mentor you while you do freelance work.

4. HAVE FUN!
All work and no play= no fun. Every now and then you need a break from all of the hard work you do, and trust me we PR people know what hard work is! Go out with friends once a week or grab dinner with your roommates. Never forget your personal life!

6 comments:

  1. Great post, but I wonder how much this post is relevant in the UK. In the US, Internships have been normal and necessary for many careers for decades, while in the UK they're a recent thing and far from necessary for many students. Because the UK is considerably smaller, freelancing may also prove to be more challenging here

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  2. Hi David.

    Thank you very much for your comment.

    I understand what you are saying David and agree to a certain extent. I think one of the main point's to get across was that is was a good idea to be enthusiastic, throw yourself at every opportunity and don't just rely on your qualifications.

    I welcome comments to the blog as it's brilliant to get other points of view. So keep them coming :-)

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  3. Carly, you are exactly right with the point I was trying to get across: opportunities! Take on every opportunity you can. While I do not know a lot about how the UK is with experience and internships, it is very important in America. If you do not have the experience most employers will not consider you. However, opportunities are something everyone, everywhere, should take on. If you have a great opportunity don't pass it up! What if you never get one like it again?

    David, I can also see where you are coming from with freelance being a challenge considering the UK is smaller. Then again, who would not want some PR help? :)

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  4. These are exciting times to be a PR student / young PR practitioner. For one reason, a time of change throws up many new opportunities.

    Yours is the right approach to seizing these opportunities.

    To add one (I don't need to tell you this, but it might be new to some of your blog's readers), I'm always on the look out for ideas, articles and writers for Behind the Spin magazine (www.behindthespin.com).

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  5. True Ash, even I want some PR help. But personal PR help - which I'm sure Carly would be kind enough to provide me. She's looking at publicising my youtube channels at the moment.

    Richard - I'd be happy to write for Behind the Spin, but I'm a) not in PR and b) a regular freelance writer, so I charge!

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  6. Thanks for commenting Richard. I know as well as many other students how useful writing for Behindthespin.com can be - and would recommend it for everyone. I know how happy I was the first time I had an article published :-)

    And yes David - I don't think there are many people who wouldn't want personal PR help. I think your website touches on that slightly..

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