Last week Weber Shandwick Seattle afforded my colleague and me the opportunity to relive the most cherished of times…

We woke up in the morning, grabbed our coffee cups and headed off to school—college to be exact! The University of Washington ‘Intern Thursdays’ program invited Weber Shandwick to come chat with a few rising communications stars.

Spending time with these eager-to-learn, soon-to-be graduates reminded us of a few tips and tricks that helped us land our dream jobs at Weber Shandwick!

  1. College studies are critical to building a foundation of historical and theoretical background. Classes ranging from public relations to business and journalism taught us invaluable skills and a deep knowledge-base. Experience, however, is critical to honing practical skills. You have to get your hands dirty and actually practice what you’ve been preached. So, find an internship. Find one at a large firm, a boutique agency, a company, a start-up or a non-profit. The employer doesn’t matter nearly as much as the portfolio you build, the skills you practice and the relationships you cultivate.
  2. Know yourself inside and out. Start thinking NOW while you have free time (trust me, you HAVE free time in college) about what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to learn, what your strengths and weaknesses are. YOU must have a clear understanding of what you can bring to an organization; don’t depend on the organization to identify your value!
  3. Think about how you can further develop deep understandings of the interests you’ve identified. If you’re a techy-type, you should probably be reading Mashable.com on a daily basis. If you’re interested in healthcare, maybe you’d consider interning at a hospital communications department and keeping tabs on Ragan Healthcare. If you’re digging the journalism classes, take a local reporter out to coffee to pick their brain!
  4. Networking matters. In a competitive but growing field, you need to have a network of advocates and mentors to help guide you through the job-search process. Making connections and fostering and leveraging mutually-beneficial relationships will prove invaluable throughout a career. Hint—keep in touch with your professors! They have years on you and want to see you succeed, so are likely willing to help get you there.
  5. Cover letters, resumes and emails are often the first impression organizations have of applicants. It’s also the first writing sample organizations see. So, listen very carefully to this one, take your time and think about every single word you use in these introductory documents. “Hi I’m Joe and I love PR and I’m so good at communicating” is a complete waste of 13 words. PR professionals and HR teams are too busy to spend time reading fluff. Get to your thesis. Pitch yourself. Why are you valuable? What do YOU bring to the table? What should we know about you? Why should we care? Tell your story—but tell it quickly and powerfully—lest your introductory documents find themselves in the Outlook black hole.

It refreshed our souls to be back in the sacred land of university hoodies, laptop bags and bustling student groups. What a thrill to know that just a few short years ago WE were the university-hoodie-wearing, laptop bag-carrying, bustling students; and now, we call ourselves public relations professionals at
THE Global PR Agency of the Year. Maximize college years—both professionally and personally—because I promise, it will be over before you know it!

*We’re hiring! If you think you’ve got what it takes to become a Weber Shandwick intern please send your resume and cover letter (see tip #5 above) to seattleinterns@webershandwick.com.

Image courtesy of j.o.h.n. walker.

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