Guest post by Elizabeth Grace
As a 5th year communication and public relations major, I have learned a lot from PRSSA and PRSA mentors. I have also seen many friends go through the graduation process of finishing school and finding a job. Lately, I have been hearing college graduates blame the economy on why they’re not working yet and when asked about what they did in school and what they’re doing now, I was surprised by their answers. A majority of them had maybe one job in their field, if any, and have only applied to a couple of places in their current city. Today, my professor asked us if anyone planned what car they want to buy after graduation and only one student said yes. It shocked me realizing that a lot of students are not planning for after graduation. I know my fellow dedicated PRSSA members are all amazing about their careers but what about everyone else? Do they think college lasts forever? News flash: Your future is coming whether you want it to or not. Here are a few basic things that I think every college student should be doing before and after graduation to help them get started:
Gaining experience while in college is always stressed at PRSSA Conferences and meetings. It is VERY
important. Join various organizations and societies. Have a new internship every semester. Work on projects for teachers or do freelance work. Do anything you possibly can to learn outside of the classroom and the reward will pay off. Future employers want to know what you spent your time on while in college. If all you have to show for your college experience is your GPA, retail experience and a beer gut they may not be too thrilled.
Explore The World.
While you have the chance in school, take every opportunity to travel that comes your way. Whether it is an internship, working for your church or all the many conferences out there, take it! I have traveled to so many cities and it has taught me a lot. I know exactly where I can and cannot live after graduation. I’ve met wonderful people along the way and they are so inspirational and amazing teachers. I would not be the person I am today if I stayed cooped up in little ol’ Ohio.
Pay Bills and Save Money.
My first two years in college I splurged a little too much on credit cards and I am finally done paying them off. Before you graduate, paying off all your bills is a must. Most of us soon to be graduates will have loan money to pay off the second we get our diploma, no point in adding credit cards to our list of expenses. Once you’re all caught up, figure out your budget for what you’ll need after graduation and start saving! It’s a great idea to have 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in your savings account. It is always best to be prepared.
Research. Research. Research.
Since you’re an amazingly outgoing student and have traveled around your favorite cities, pick your top five employers and research everything you can about them. Know their type of environment, what they look for in interns and entry-level applicants and all about the business they conduct. If you live close, ask someone in the company if you can shadow them for a day. You’ll learn a ton about them and it’s your sneaky way of introducing yourself. When your email and resume come into their office they’ll remember you! Figure out what could make you stand apart from other students and go for it.
Getting involved is very important before and after graduation. Find an organization you love and stick with it. PRSSA has been extremely helpful in my career and I cannot wait until I join a PRSA Chapter. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a couple different societies you love. Meeting new people before and after graduation can greatly enhance your career. They’ll help you find your first job and help you excel up that work ladder.
Yes, it can be depressing you’re done with college. At the same time, get excited for your future! The sky is the limit after graduation. Up until this point, the majority of our life has been decided for us. Now we can move anywhere we want. Start fresh. Learn new cultures. There are all these amazing experiences just waiting for us. As of right now, I can’t picture myself settling down because I just want to continue traveling the globe. There is so much out there that we haven’t seen yet. Now is a chance we get to decide where we go from here. So, what are you going to do with your one and only life?
Here are some other pieces of advice from a few of my favorite people:
- Kion Sanders: “Don’t stress, don’t give up and don’t settle for less.”
- Lauren K. Gray: “Always go after what you want and don’t be afraid to take any chance you see! Go outside of your comfort zone and do what it takes to get your dream job! Never give up.”
- Brian Price: “Set up informational interviews to find out first-hand what the organization is like and use what you learn to showcase your level of knowledge in cover letters and interviews.”
- Rachel Sprung: “Network, network, network. Even if the people you know do not have a job position open at their company, they will most likely know someone who does!”
- Ashley Funderburk: “Network as much as possible. Attend conferences and luncheons to meet future employers. Don’t limit yourself to specific locations because it will be much harder to find a job starting out.”
Make sure you follow all of those wonderful people on Twitter: Kion- @KionSanders, Lauren- @LaurenKGray, Brian Price- @BrianDPrice, Rachel- @Rsprung and Ashley Funderburk- @amfunderburk1,
Please leave more advice for soon to be graduates in the comments section! Let’s help each other reach our dreams.
Elizabeth GraceCommunication & PR Student, University of Cincinnati