PR Major vs. PR In Real Life

As I approach my senior year at the University of Georgia, I observe some of my peers and wonder if they are aware that the end goal of college is a career. Unfortunately, you cannot earn a degree in beer pong or Greek life involvement. It may come as a shock to some, but your four years in college are meant to prepare you for a job in the field of your choice. The way I see it is that you can take advantage of what your university offers and utilize the information you’re paying for or you can simply coast by until graduation.
I’ve always wanted to be a public relations major; there was no wavering on that choice. If you’re going to pursue the most competitive degree in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications, you must commit to it from day one. I wasn’t always sure how much of what I was learning would translate to the “real-world.” For some classes, I slaved in the study room over an event plan or a PR proposal, I questioned if I would be able to utilize the skills I was developing at a public relations agency. At UGA, they teach the tools needed to produce meaningful content but it’s you alone that must wield those tools for whatever agency, client or company you work for.
My time as a summer intern at Hope-Beckham Inc. has supplemented my education in the Public Relations field tremendously. It’s been a “learn as you go” process and has given me the opportunity to assess how well-equipped I am for a career in PR. My beloved university has not let me down in this aspect, yet there are certain lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom.
  1. Work comes in waves. For me, this was a surprise. When I first accepted this internship, I mentally prepared myself to be drowning in work 24/7 for the entirety of the 2 ½ months. I expected stress, strict deadlines and nonstop assignments. I’ve learned that the craziness and chaos that is PR comes and goes depending on projects, which is typical of a PR agency. The down times should be appreciated and taken full advantage of before the workload goes up a few notches before an event, an announcement or the beginning of a project.
  2. You’re never done learning especially when it comes to writing. I’ve always taken pride at being able to write somewhat eloquently and cohesively. I feel useful when my science major friends ask for help with essays. Generally, I receive positive feedback from professors on my written work in my PR classes. School work is one thing but to incorporate the right jargon, key points and distribute a targeted message for a specific client is a skill that needs fine tuning.

  3. Network. Network. Network. If I’ve learned one thing from Bob Hope, it’s that a strong network is essential as a PR professional. Everyone drills this concept into you all throughout college, but I didn’t realize how many doors networking can open until I was exposed to it through this internship.

  4. Professors know what they’re talking about. Although much is different comparatively, the general formats taught to us for press releases, media alerts, coverage reports and PR plans are accurate. I will never complain about the excessive practice press releases assigned again because it prepared me for the work I’ve done here at Hope-Beckham.

  5. Clients come and go. For a small private PR agency, the influx of clients is what keeps Hope-Beckham afloat. The list of clients and project work is constantly changing as new opportunities arise. Although there are constant clients that have been on retainer for years, one must be able to adapt to different and sometimes unfamiliar companies.

  6. Ask questions. Being confident in your abilities is a must in the industry, but if I was unsure of what I was doing, I always asked for specification or more information. It’s a waste of both my time and my supervisor’s time to produce work that is completely off-base when I could’ve been better guided by asking questions.

  7. Make mistakes. This may be the most cliché intern insight of all, but it might be the most valuable. In college, you are given directions for an assignment and were most likely taught a unit that relates to said project. As previously stated it’s always best to ask questions if you are unsure of what is required but even then, mistakes will be made. It’s the corrections I received from those that have experience in the business that I value most because I will remember NOT to make the same mistake moving forward.
This summer has provided me with the experience I so desperately craved as well as giving me a sample of the adult world. I encourage any PR student to intern as much as possible. Not only are internships what employers want to see on a resume, but they are supplemental to a college education.

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