Survival Guide for the Public Relations Graduate

These past three months have been a whirlwind of assignment after assignment after assignment, a flood of deadlines, challenges that have elevated my skills, CPRS Hamilton events - all while balancing a job that I love, and my health and wellness. So, how have I survived thrived in the first half of the semester, and honed in on my perfect fit in the industry? Here are 10 tips from my Survival Guide for the Public Relations Graduate.

1. Get organized.
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Two words: Google Calendar. I am a firm believer in scheduling when assignments are due, upcoming events, and academic deadlines (e.g. when to enroll in courses and pay tuition fees). I also take advantage of the Tasks function, specifically using it to schedule homework sessions on specific days. I’ll admit I take great satisfaction in check marking off each task as I complete it. No matter how you’re scheduling, have relief in knowing that you’ve reduced the odds of missing a deadline or having to pull an all-nighter because you forgot you had an ethics quiz the next day.

2. Work smart. Not hard.
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Now that you’ve gotten organized with your Google Calendar or planner, you’ve begun working smart, as your planning your days as effectively as possible. To take it one step further, begin prioritizing which assignments need more of your attention, and which ones require less of your time and energy. For example, I schedule at least two days to work on assignments from my Graphic Design course, as I am brand new to programs like InDesign and Photoshop. However, I am very confident in my writing skills, and therefore do not have to commit as much time to PR Writing assignments. Prioritizing has resulted in consistent, high grades, instead of pouring copious amounts of time into each and every assignment, leaving me feeling drained and overwhelmed.

3. Take advantage of student memberships.
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As mentioned in my previous post, I joined CPRS Hamilton on a very affordable student rate of $30. Mohawk College PR students are also offered reduced student rates for IABC. Joining a respected and recognized professional industry organization elevates your experience as you complete your PR certification. You have the opportunity to network with others in the organization, attend workshops to improve your skills, and attend local events. As someone breaking into the PR industry, these are valuable opportunities.

4. Network.
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If going out to events to network with complete strangers and seasoned professionals leaves you feeling terrified, now is a great time to get out there and practice. This is one of those situations where you must do what terrifies you to overcome that fear. To ease your anxiety, join fellow students and go as a group to events; this is what several students at Mohawk College have done. However, once at the event, be prepared with your elevator pitch, business card, and the comforting thought that even the most tenured PR professionals have had to start where you are right now.

5. Connect with your professors.
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Don’t take your professors for granted. They have a wealth of knowledge in the industry and are there to guide you. Their office hours are a great time to not only follow up on assignments, but to get their advice on how to navigate the PR industry.

6. Don't sacrifice sleep and health.
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This is my number one tip. In order to go out into the world and conquer the industry, you have to take care of yourself. If you’re not well, then the world will have to wait. Because my week is filled with homework, school, and my job, I meal prep my breakfasts and lunches on Sunday evening, so that I can continue eating nutritiously throughout the week, without having to commit lots of time to cooking. Moreover, I faithfully go to bed no later then 11 p.m. each night, and I ensure that all my homework is finished by 9 p.m., so that I can successfully wind down and get the deep Zzz’s that I need for my next jam-packed day.

7.  Find a mentor(s).
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My mentors are my amazing boss’ at The Hamilton Spectator, and my CPRS Hamilton Mentor. All three are strong, successful women that I hope to emulate. John Crosby sums up the value of a mentor so succinctly: They’re a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.

8. Take what your learning and practice it in real life.
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Before Mohawk College, I didn’t have Linkedin or Twitter. Now, I use both regularly and strategically to build my professional image. I also had the opportunity to write and distribute a media release for a non-profit organization, which resulted in a published article! What are you learning that can be applied in the professional setting?

9. Recognize challenges as learning opportunities.
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This is much easier said than done. It can be frustrating and discouraging when you receive a mark you feel didn’t reflect the amount of work you put into an assignment. However, as a student, this is the perfect time to learn from your mistakes and fine-tune your skills before you step into the PR industry. Read your professors’ feedback on your assignments and implement their critiques in your next assignment. Then, watch yourself improve.

10. Remember why you chose this path.

At the end of the day, your putting yourself through this academic boot camp in order to achieve your dreams. Remember that, and I guarantee you’ll make it to the finish line before you know it.

Signing off,

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