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ExPRessions :: Guest Post :: Busy Life of an Undergrad: Tips for Getting Ahead

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Guest Post by: Hannah DeMilta (@HannahDemilta)

Attending classes and doing your homework is often not enough to secure a job after graduation. You have to be proactive and constantly networking, willing to take on multiple internships perhaps even a post-grad internship before landing that entry-level position. While the job market remains competitive, there are several things undergrads can do to help get ahead. I speak from the experience of a public relations major, but most of these tips could be applied to any major.

Learn from the best: If you are interested in public relations and healthcare, you should probably know who the leaders in this field are. This might require doing some research. Follow them on twitter and read blogs and articles. If you aren’t sure who the leaders in your field are, don’t be afraid to ask someone to point you in the right direction. Always be looking ahead to those influencers and learn from them because one day you want to be them.

Intern as much as possible: One internship experience is great, but 10 internship experiences are even better. I’m NOT suggesting you intern for the sake of interning, but if you can continue to gain skills and make contacts, you definitely should. Take your four years of college to really learn what career possibilities are out there. I’ve gotten something different out of each of my internships. Multiple internships also teach you to work for different people with different style of management. Learn what styles work for you.

Network at events that are not “networking events”: It’s great to attend networking events, especially if they are geared toward students. These are often set-up to be focused on the students and they can help you “get comfortable” chatting with professionals. However, I would challenge you to seek other events not just for students. Attend tweet-ups and popular meet-ups in your area. Meet professionals that aren’t expecting to see a student. It may be more intimidating at first but you’ll also gain a lot of respect for being professional and thinking on a larger scale.

Ask questions, ask A LOT of questions: This is something I regret not doing at my first internships. I wouldn’t want to bother people so I would sometimes limit my questions. I’m not referring to just asking questions about projects you are working on, I mean any questions. If you want to know why your boss is pitching to one news station but not another, ask. Be polite, but remember you are there to learn. Small details matter and you should always be curious to learn.

Send thank you notes: It’s a known rule to send a thank you note after an interview but I think there are other times a thank you can be issued. Definitely thank someone for a written or verbal recommendation. You don’t have to write a message, you can send an email or direct message them on Twitter. Sometimes you can just thank someone for their guidance or mentoring. Be genuine, and don’t thank everyone on your contact list to suck up. Give thanks where thanks is due and it will be remembered.

What other advice would you give to an undergrad to get ahead? What are some ways young professionals can achieve success?

Hannah DeMilta is a senior Public Relations major at Otterbein College with a minor in Deaf Culture and Language (ASL). She is the site manager and PR coordinator for SportsNetworker.com and current communications intern for Al Jamiat Magazine. Hannah is passionate about community service and working with others. Feel free to connect with her on twitter.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rachel M. Esterline , Rebecca Odell. Rebecca Odell said: RT @rachelesterline: Check out this post by @HannahDeMilta: "Busy Life of an Undergrad: Tips for Getting Ahead." http://ow.ly/NkRj […]

  2. I definitely agree with pretty much everything said here. I really love the part about internships. I have only had one, however it led to an amazing job at an agency I love. Though I would not be opposed to doing another internship at some point before I graduate, because you can never have too much experience.

    The other part of this post that I have learned and cannot stress enough is the portion on networking. If you can get in the habit of networking with other professionals in your area, landing that internship or post grad job will be all the easier. I like to attend local PRSA meetings and presentations. Our local chapter is very good about inviting PRSSA members to attend meetings. This gives me a great chance to meet as many PR professionals as I can in the area, which is great even if it does nothing else than give me more people to engage with on Twitter :)

    In any case I really love the post, and think anyone can take quite a bit out of this. Have a good one!


  3. Besides looking for internships for experience, I’m also a big believer in getting involved in leadership roles in student organizations campus. Besides PRSSA, there are usually tons of positions on campus you can apply for that will give you great PR experience.

    I am currently president of UW Oshkosh’s largest programming organization, Reeve Union Board. Not only has this position helped me network, but I’ve gained tons of experience managing events, running meetings and improving my communication skills.

    Even if you have an internship, try to get involved in a student organization at the same time, you can gain experience and have lots of fun doing it in a not as serious environment.

  4. […] Busy Life of an Undergrad: Tips for Getting Ahead […]

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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.