How to Break Into an Industry Once You Break Out of College

By: Sara Kosior, Director of Membership

young professional

Throughout the spring 2016 semester, I have been interning as a junior public relations associate for a PR agency based near Philadelphia.  In addition to the internship being remote (which is great if you’re a homebody like myself, or if you find an opportunity that’s too far to commute), it was a great opportunity to gain experience and work with some amazing PR professionals before I graduate in May.

I’m learning so much more about what it’s actually like to work in PR than I ever have in a classroom, and I’m challenged daily with projects and assignments that have really helped me to grow.  There isn’t much to complain about.  However, there is one thing about it that makes me nervous to this day: it’s solely financial PR.

I’m a stereotypical college kid— I let my parents do my taxes, I knew next to nothing about my student loans until I did my Loan Exit Counseling (which didn’t really help), and the term “401(k)” is something that’s not really in my vocabulary.  Ironically, the first piece I ever wrote for my boss was a writing prompt about taxes, and it took me four hours to complete.

Despite my initial reservations I’m learning more and more each day, and it’s very fulfilling to be able to see your own progress. So, whether you want to try something new or you’re debating over whether a job or internship is going to be the right fit, here are some things I’ve picked up about breaking into a new PR field.

It’s okay to be scared, but do it anyway

The clichéd phrase, “You won’t know unless you try” that your parents tell you all the time applies here.  You might have your heart set on a certain industry or type of PR, and that’s great. Keep working hard and you’ll probably get there eventually.  But don’t sacrifice a great opportunity because it’s not exactly what you want to do or it’s out of your comfort zone.  It’s important to find a job or internship that makes you happy, but it might not be exactly what you envision it to be.  Keep an open mind and allow yourself to have a wide variety of experiences, especially if you’re not completely sure where you want to be or what you want to do yet.

Do your research

Although you’re not expected to be an expert immediately, especially if it’s for an internship, accuracy is still extremely important in public relations.  There are several times that I have been given an assignment and the first place I go after reading my instructions is Google.  My internet history is overrun with searches like “Retirement planning for dummies” and “What is an IRA rollover?” And that’s okay.  When drafting articles for clients, you don’t want to use jargon that you don’t understand.  Take some time and read up on what you’re working on.  Also, adding sources through hyperlinks throughout your articles is actually really great for increasing credibility.  Having done a lot of research and being able to incorporate similar thoughts from other professionals into your work shows that you’re diligent and know what you’re talking about.

Don’t panic

Sometimes, I’ll receive an assignment or project and as soon as I start reading it over my palms will get sweaty and I’ll have minor heart palpitations.  It doesn’t take much to make me nervous, but I’m also a perfectionist.  I always want to submit my best work, and I want it to be done correctly.  It’s important to not let the fear of not knowing what to do immediately get in your way.  Take a second to look over your resources, do your research and think about what you’re going to do logically.  Ask for help if you really get stuck.

Ask questions

I’m constantly asking questions, even if I think I might already have the answer.  This is how you learn.  You’re also better off asking about something you’re not sure of than spending time completing a project that’s completely incorrect or not what your client or supervisor wanted you to do.  Asking questions also shows your interest and dedication to your work.  By becoming as familiar as possible with a client, industry or assignment you’ll be better able to go above and beyond with your work.

I knew what type of PR the internship was before I took the position and while I was worried about my lack of expertise in the subject of finance and wealth and retirement planning, I was ready to take the plunge and treat it as a learning experience.  This field of PR isn’t one I had ever imagined myself being in, but it’s surprising how much you can grow to like something when you completely open your mind to it.

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