'Tis the season to commit to improving. So, here are a few suggestions for all the promising public relations students still in school.
1. Read the Trades: The best way to learn what's happening in the public relations field is to read the top journals, blogs and trades. Try PRWeek, PR Tactics, PR Strategist, O'Dwyer's, Public Relations Review , Journal of Public Relations Research and PR Daily.
2. Invest in Your Wardrobe: Sure those designer jeans are nice and so is that shirt. However, you can't wear them to work. You need to begin to build your professional wardrobe one piece at a time. Start now.
3. Don't Burn Bridges: I've heard so many horror stories from students who forget that they must make as many connections as possible. Don't get anyone at your internships angry. You will need them for a reference, and stay on the good side of your teachers, counselors and deans. They often are the first to receive emails about jobs, internships and scholarships. You want them to think of you first when an opportunity arises.
4) Intern: Find an internship related to your field or interests. Some of my students graduate with more than five internships. Believe me. If you want to compete, you need to intern as much as possible.
5) Clean Up Your Online Image: You already know you need to do it. So, make 2012 the year when you commit to fixing that risky Facebook profile picture, you delete those not so professional tweets and you keep the blog about something other than your weekend exploits. Oh, and once you do it. Keep it clean.
6) Google Yourself and Set Up an Alert: You should always know what is being said about you. Have you googled yourself lately? Do it, and see what the results are. Now, decide what you can do to fix the results or maintain them. Also, set up an alert to ensure you know when something else is uploaded.
7) Create an Online Portfolio: Hopefully, you already have a great traditional portfolio filled with all of the right elements, right? Well, it is time to take advantage of technology and make an electronic one. There are so many options and reasons to do it. Start exploring the best options, and don't forget to try the free sites. Some have a money back guarantee.
8) Improve Your Writing: Yes. It is obvious, but you need to do it. Take a creative writing course. Read more. Write more. Get someone to critic your writing, and don't get upset by any negative feedback. Instead, take the criticism in stride and use it to improve.
9) Find a Mentor: If you don't have a mentor in the public relations field, find one. It is the best way for you to get career advice and guidance from an insider. Plus, consider getting a younger professional mentor and a seasoned one, too. You'd be surprised by the difference in views and opinions. You will get an understanding of how things work on the technician and management levels.
10) Create a 5-year Plan: There's no better way to meet your goals than by following a road map. Figure out what you want to do, and how you can do it. Be flexible, but be focused.
Good luck, and I hope you have a successful and prosperous 2012.