Internships are probably the best possible way to network and get your name out there in your chosen field. As a 2011 graduate, I had many friends who secured a job solely because of their internships. Aside from networking, internships can give you a look into life in PR. In other words, if you can get an internship, you are probably ahead of most.
However, during my time in school I noticed that there were many college students who for a variety of reasons—children, finances, summer school, etc.—simply could not afford to spend a summer at an internship. Most internships are unpaid and take up a lot of time; therefore, a number of roadblocks can stand in a college student’s way.
For example, if a student changed his or her major, but still wanted to graduate in four years, he or she would need to take summer school, instead of taking an internship. For others, the ability to work 40 hours a week is a necessity, and a pay cut is not an option.
Fortunately, there are other things you can do if you hope to major in PR and an internship isn’t in sight. Make no mistake—if you can somehow make an internship work, this is the path to take. However, do not count yourself out of the game if “internship” will not appear on your résumé.
Here are a few things you can do before you graduate to help give you an edge:
Join a public relations group or fraternity.
For most disciplines there is a fraternity that you can join. While a fraternity often comes at a price, there are invaluable lessons and experiences that the fraternity can expose you to and this includes opportunities to network. If your college or university does not have a Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, consider starting one on campus. If you are majoring in PR, chances are you can get most of the major to join (and starting an organization looks great on a résumé).
Practice your interviewing skills.
Chances are you will have the opportunity to do a mock interview with someone in your field through a seminar, a class, or even with a professor. Seek out these opportunities so you get interview experience from someone who knows what employers look for in a PR employee.
Embrace social media.
If you haven’t already, start familiarizing yourself with social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These are great ways to network online and will certainly come in handy when you do land that first job. Reading and commenting on blogs—and, of course, writing your own—is another useful way to help you stay up-to-date on industry news and trends to better prepare you for an interview.
Attend seminars and conferences.
Go online and check to see if there are any PR seminars or conferences going on in your area. Seminars are great not only to learn about the hot PR topics, but to meet people and start getting your name out in the field. If the event isn’t free, try contacting the host to see if they offer a student discount—or even let you in for free.
Ask if there are opportunities to volunteer with a local PR agency. Volunteering is great because it is not as time consuming as an internship, but allows for very similar networking opportunities.
Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to document management software. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including document software to small businesses and entrepreneurs at Resource Nation.
A version of this story appeared on the PRBreakfastClub blog.