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ExPRessions :: College

Archive for the ‘ College ’ Category

With impending graduation, I wanted to share my list of the top gifts to buy new college grads who are going into public relations or marketing communications. These are just my suggestions, but I’d love to see yours in the comments section.


  1. The Art of Client Service
  2. Pitch Like a Girl (useful for both girls and guys)
  3. The New Rules of Marketing and PR
  4. For Girls: The Go-Getter Girl’s Guide
  5. PR Week subscription

Professional Life Items

  1. Samsonite Travel Dual Voltage Garment Steamer
  2. Mini Travel Lint Rollers (even if you don’t have pets!)
  3. PRSA Membership
  4. Padfolio
  5. Post-it® Notes (simple, but useful in so many ways)


  1. Adobe Creative Suite 4 (be sure to purchase while you can still get the more affordable student edition!)
  2. Flip Cam
  3. E-Reader, like the Kindle
  4. Wireless Presenter
  5. Bluetooth Headset

Reader Additions

  1. AP Stylebook (or the online subscription) – suggested by Raquel Gonzalez
  2. iPhone (or other smartphone) – suggested by Mikinzie Stuart
  3. Starbucks gift card to “allow a student to build meaningful relationships over coffee with at least 10 experienced professionals” – suggested by Mike Pilarz
  4. Gift card for a domain registration and hosting company and a Thesis license for bloggers – suggested by Mike Pilarz
  5. Books: The Elements of Style and Talent Is Overrated – suggested by Mike Pilarz

What’s on your gift list as a soon-to-be college grad, or what did you realize you needed after you graduated?

I’ve had several jobs since my freshman year. Now that I’m a senior, I’ve realized that each job has helped me learn more about myself and move my career forward.

Starting out as a student worker in a CMU department office, I learned how to fix copy machines and look the other way when the secretary made snotty comments about students. I honestly hated the job.

But, looking back, it was my first taste of office politics. I remember on my first day being told, “Sometimes we talk about people in here and anything we say is not to be repeated.”

Lesson #1: Office politics exist. Don’t get involved in the talk around the water cooler, but also don’t take offense to it. It’s not worth your time.

After my freshman year I worked as a carriage driver. Whether it was 98 degrees and humid, or below freezing in a blizzard, we drove the horses through the streets of Frankenmuth. My shift usually lasted about 13 hours and I worked five days a week (and we never were given weekends off).

Lesson #2: Work hard while there is work to be done, even if that means extra hours and weekends.

But, one of the most important things I learned during my time as a carriage driver was how to talk to people. Part of my job was to give a 20- or 40-minute tour of the city. In the meantime, it was necessary to get to know the customers and answer their questions. The more they felt connected to you, the better tip they left you with.

Lesson #3: There are many benefits to getting to know people, even if you only get to spend a short time with them. Be authentic and interested.

I was so excited when I got my first job in PR as the publications intern at CMU Public Relations and Marketing. I pretty much could write an entire post about what I learned while working with Dan Digmann and Cynthia Drake, both of whom remain my mentors today. I did everything from writing articles and shooting video to designing publications and writing ad copy. They helped me learn more by giving me advice and I took initiative by checking out books about PR and design.

Lesson #4: Take advantage of every opportunity, take each piece of advice to heart and strive to learn more about your field.

Next, I worked at Central Michigan Life, CMU’s student newspaper, as an account executive. I spent most of my time on the phone, making cold calls and pitching specials to clients.

Lesson #5: We might have e-mail, text messaging, Twitter and IM. But, phone skills are still key in your career. Work hard to develop them.

After awhile, I realized that advertising sales isn’t really my thing…

Lesson #6: If a job isn’t right for you, don’t feel like you have to stay for too long. You won’t do a great if you don’t enjoy what you do.

During last summer, I interned at Fahlgren Mortine. I learned a lot during my internship, but I also learned a very important lesson before I even moved to Ohio. In order to get the internship, I had to apply for their annual Founder’s Award and go through a phone interview. I was once asked if I thought I was lucky, but….

Lesson #7: It’s not about luck. You can’t get what you want unless you work hard and are serious about your career. From developing skills to networking, it all ties together and every aspect of your professional life is important.

When I returned from Ohio, I began working for Heather Huhman’s company Come Recommended. When the position was open, Heather sent me a direct message encouraging me to apply.

Lesson #8: Social media isn’t all about telling the world what you’re doing. There is great value in building relationships with those you know through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other forms of social media.

While working for Come Recommended, I worked one day a week at AGP & Associates, a marketing communications firm in Midland, Mich., for class credit. I loved working at the company, so I talked to the CEO about working three days a week during the next semester.

Lesson #9: It’s worth it to volunteer your time in order to get your foot in the door.

I’m still working for AGP and I absolutely love it. Between working more than 20 hours a week and being a full-time student, I’m not left with much time. I somehow manage to juggle being the press secretary for SGA, freelance writing for Vision Mid Michigan and other publications and blogging. Other opportunities to improve my skills keep popping up. This leads me to the last lesson I’ve learned over the past four years:

Lesson #10: It’s OK to say no to opportunities. It’s one of the hardest things to do, but it is necessary if you are already pressed for time.

What lessons have you learned?


Rachel M. Esterline works in public relations and marketing communications. Her blog, ExPRessions, contains her musings about PR, marketing, career and professional development, Gen Y issues, personal branding and more. Rachel also does freelance consulting and writing. She is originally from Genesee, Mich., and will graduate from Central Michigan University in May 2010.