Four Tips to Successfully Transition from Student to Professional

If you’re about to be a senior in college and have begun preparing yourself for the fall semester amid COVID-19 I can only imagine how all the uncertainty is making you feel. You’re likely already trying to imagine the world post-pandemic where you’ll begin your career. So, I want you to know that PRSA Detroit is here for you. And right now, more than ever, is the time to stay connected with friends, family, and people within your community.

At my time at Wayne State University, I was always seeking advice from professionals on how to successfully make this transition. From these professionals and personal experience, I’ve learned many tips and tricks that have helped me complete this smoothly and I hope they’re of some comfort to you during this time too.

Build Your Confidence

The first thing you need to do is build your confidence. As cliché as it may sound, believing that you can accomplish anything is one of the best skills you can have in this industry. This doesn’t come easy to everyone, but like any skill it requires practice and help. Here are some things that you can do to help yourself become a more confident, future professional:

  • Read books – A lot of good writers read constantly—for inspiration, for innovation, and for motivation. I suggest leaning towards self-help books (check out The Defining Decade and Girl Wash Your Face), or if you don’t have too much time to read, listen to some podcasts (I highly recommend Rachel Hollis, she’s a motivational speaker).
  • Write – To become a great writer, you’ll need to take the time to master the skill of writing. If you know your writing skills need some improvement, carve out some time to write every day (this can be journaling, starting a blog, etc.). When you’ve developed this skill, you’ll be comfortable with writing many different types of content (i.e. technical documents, articles, etc.).
  • Mentorship – It’s great to have someone to come to when you have a question or need a pick-me-up. Finding a mentor is simple, and they can be anyone you admire. It can be a professional in the field, a colleague, former classmate, or a current/former professor. You can always contact someone on LinkedIn (especially established alum) and meet up for lunch or coffee to foster a mentor-mentee relationship.

Take Initiative

Taking initiative is something you need to be comfortable with to be successful in the PR/comms world. Whether it be asking your manager how else you can assist on a project, suggesting new ideas (i.e. creating social media accounts for your organization), or joining a professional organization (i.e. PRSA, AMA, etc.). This shows your boss and organization that you care about your job and staying active in the field.

Attend Networking Events

You might hear this quite frequently from your professors, but attending networking events is crucial to meeting new people. At first, it can seem nerve-wrecking, but it gets easier. These events open the door to future opportunities. If you impress that one person on Zoom (or in the room – when we get back to in-person events), they’ll remember you and could potentially offer you a job in the future. Depending on the event (sometimes this may not be applicable), you’ll always want to bring the following:

  • Resumes – You can receive feedback from other professionals—they’d be more than happy to review and if you’re looking for a job, ask someone if you can email it to them. You never know who’ll call you from within your network or your extended network.
  • Business Cards – For in-person events, while you’re having a conversation with someone, hand them one of your business cards. It’s a great way to keep in contact with them—make sure to get one of theirs, and follow up after the event, so they remember who you are.
  • Previous Work/Portfolio – For in-person events, bring your portfolio to the event. If asked, show it off to professionals in the room, you’ll never know if an organization is hiring. It’s possible they may have an impromptu interview.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out your university’s website for events they’re hosting, research local networking events in your community, or seek advice from your manager about how they network.

Keep in Contact with Current & Previous Professors

It’s crucial to maintain positive relationships with your current and previous professors. They’ve worked in the industry for many years, and are the first to know when an organization is hiring. If you’re on good terms with them, and they know you’re looking for something, then you’ll be one of the first people that they recommended for the job.

At the end of each semester, grab your professors contact information, and let them know when you plan on reaching out to them. Keep in contact with your professors at least once every few months as appropriate. Additionally, you’ll want to keep in contact with professors that are relevant in your field.

As you approach your final weeks in college and get ready to graduate, remember to build your confidence, take initiative, attend networking events and to keep in contact with current and previous professors. Although there is a lot of uncertainty now, our Chapter supports you and knows that after you receive your diploma, you’ll be ready to handle anything that gets thrown your way!

Bianca Kashat is a graduate from Wayne State University’s public relations program and is the communications coordinator at the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust. She is a member of PRSA National and PRSA Detroit.