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College is said to be some of the best years of your life. It’s a time full of football games, new friends, late-night cramming sessions and massive amounts of stress eating. College is a time to grow, learn and maybe even redefine yourself. Now that I’ve graduated college and landed a B2B tech internship at Weber Shandwick, I’d like to share the top five things I’m glad I did in college to prepare for a PR internship.

Do an internship… or three

Internships boost your resume and show your future employer you have valuable work experience. They are opportunities to learn new skills and decide what kind of PR you actually want to do. I planned to start my career in sports communications, until I served as the marketing and communications intern for a golf tournament. I had a great experience, but I learned that sports marketing wasn’t the right fit for me. Discovering things you don’t like is valuable and helps you narrow your career path.

Did I mention that I worked for free? Don’t rule out unpaid internships if you can swing it. The experience and knowledge gained from internships can be worth far more than monetary compensation.

Do something that makes you different

Are you a rock-climbing wizard? Video games pro? Great! Play that up! When your resume goes into a pile of 25+ candidates, distinguish yourself from the pack by joining a club, volunteering, blogging or even backpacking across Europe­. Use your existing experiences of doing what you love to position yourself as a proactive, well-rounded applicant.

Join PRSSA

Western Washington University became a Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA) chapter in April 2014 and I took over as president that fall. My time on the Western PRSSA executive board provided visibility to opportunities that ended up being imperative to my post-grad success. On top of that, I was matched with a mentor who helped me navigate the industry as I grew my network. They even prepped me for my internship interview, which helped me nail it.

Find a mentor

Speaking of mentors, I’ve found mine to be invaluable assets and important people to have in my network. Mentors are people you admire for one reason or another. One of my mentors is my former PR professor and head of the Journalism Department at Western. As a mentor, she guided, supported and connected me with her vast network of professionals across the country. Even though I am no longer a student, we still check in periodically.

Take non-PR classes

PR pros are experts in different fields beyond communications because we represent clients across many industries. I was a sociology minor, and the time I spent studying different groups of people has allowed me to relate to a variety of audiences.

My experience here at Weber Shandwick has been amazing, and I attribute a significant part of my success to the preparation I did while I was in college. Have fun and enjoy college, but remember, you’re there to prepare for your future. Make sure you take advantage of everything you can, while you still can.

Stephanie Kirk earned a BA in journalism with an emphasis in public relations, and a minor in sociology from Western Washington University in March 2015. She has now entered the tech world as a B2B technology intern at Weber Shandwick. Follow her on Twitter @stephaniekirk4 and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Photo credit to Redd Angelo via Instagram.

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