Ten things you should be doing now to prepare for life after college

Public relations can take you a lot of places. Whether you want to be hired at your dream firm or start your own business after you graduate, these 10 things will help prepare you to be successful in whatever you decide to do.

  1. Develop a marketable skill to set you apart from other candidates

PR professionals are expected to wear many hats in their careers. Having a skill that will benefit your company or firm will be an asset to you when you are competing for a position. The list of potential skills you could learn is endless, but just know that it will be worth your while to invest some time into becoming a professional at your chosen skill.

There is no set list of skills and talents that you need to have, but here are a few ideas to get you thinking about what could be the most beneficial for you:

  • HTML Coding
  • A second language
  • Adobe Suite
  • Photography
  • Analytics
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Social media

Andrew Cook, public relations student at Brigham Young University, knows firsthand how having skills like these can translate into big opportunities. Cook is the vice president of Diversity on the national board for the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).

“Knowing multiple languages has really opened up international opportunities in public relations that I had never really considered,” says Cook. “Through PRSSA, I’ll have the chance to travel to work with PR students in Peru. It really helps to be bilingual because you understand the nuances of each language, as well as the culture of different ethnic groups.”

For Cook, knowing a second language has already put him ahead in his career even before graduation. You can also experience similar benefits and opportunities if you are willing to put in the work to add to your skill set.

  1. Prepare financially

It is no secret that graduating college and starting (or searching for) a new job can be expensive. One of the best things you can do to build yourself up for success is to start saving money now. Take a percentage of each paycheck to invest in your future.

Saving everything you can now will guarantee you the freedom you will need when you graduate college and enter your career. (Photo source: Eliza Ellen)

Saving everything you can now will guarantee you the freedom you will need when you graduate college and enter your career. (Photo source: Eliza Ellen)

It can be really difficult to decide to save instead of spend your money, but there are ways to make it seem easier. The easiest way to be excited about saving money is to know exactly what you are saving for.

Think of where you would like to live after you graduate and the lifestyle you would like to have. Get online and research how much your cost of living would be, and then use that as a base for how much you need to set aside now.

Saving money with a purpose in mind will help on the days when your wallet is a little thin and your budget a little tight.

  1. Software knowledge

Some essential software tools were mentioned in the first point as a marketable skill. While being an expert in one is a marketable skill, most employers will still expect you to be proficient in many of these key software tools.

Edelman Communications is a large and popular PR firm. If you go to the Edelman website and

search under job listings, you will find that the firm has a long list of skills it expects potential employees to have. Of these skills, Microsoft Office and Adobe are almost always listed. It would be in your best interest to be proficient and familiar with the software tools that are used in the PR industry.

  1. Build connections

Many people find their first job after college from a personal connection. Don’t take your college networking opportunities for granted! There are few things that look better when applying for a new job than a glowing recommendation letter from an influencer in the industry. Use this time to build your list of references and make connections with PR professionals that inspire you.

  1. Be comfortable with who you are

Going through any big life transition can be stressful. Graduating college and starting a new career, or whatever you decide to do, can bring a lot of changes. It will be easier to handle if you are comfortable and secure with who you are as a person.

PR professionals and strong business leaders know the value of an employee with strong personal values. When you know who you are and what you stand for, you are then in a better position to help and assist others. People respect people who respect themselves.

  1. Do what you love

PR is everywhere. You will be hard-pressed to find an industry that does not have people who work in PR. This means that you are able to find an area of work that interests you. Make sure you intern or experience several different kinds of industries before you accept a job. Your job satisfaction and the fulfillment you get from doing quality work will be amplified if you also get to do it in a field that you truly love.

Test out your passion for sports, fashion, business or even the philanthropic sides of the PR world. If you find that you are most fulfilled by helping the right candidate get elected, look into political PR. If you love the excitement of a packed stadium, consider sports PR. It is important to gain experience in any field you are interested in so that you have a better idea of where you want to be when you graduate.

  1. Build your online portfolio

One of the first things an employer will look at when you apply for a new job is your resume and portfolio. The hiring process grows more digital every year as employers turn to the internet to research potential employees before an in-person interview. It is wise to have an online portfolio to showcase your work and personal brand.

Having a clean and crisp online portfolio can help potential employers know if you are a good fit for the position. (Photo of portfolio template option from Squarespace.com in style ‘York’. Source: Screenshot by Madeline Butler from Squarespace.com).

Having a clean and crisp online portfolio can help potential employers know if you are a good fit for the position. (Photo of portfolio template option from Squarespace.com in style ‘York’. Source: Screenshot by Madeline Butler from Squarespace.com).

There are many websites that offer platforms where you can create an online portfolio. My personal favorite is Squarespace. Squarespace makes it easy to design a beautiful landing page for you to display your work experience, resume and anything else you want people to know about you. Other companies that provide a similar service are web services like GoDaddy and WIX.com.

Having a strong digital presence will make it easier for an employer to get to know you and decide whether or not you’ll be good for the position before the interview process begins.

  1. Know how to take care of yourself
Staying active and healthy can positively influence every aspect of your life. Taking care of your mind and body will allow you to perform your best in the workplace. (Photo source: Jenna Kutcher)

Staying active and healthy can positively influence every aspect of your life. Taking care of your mind and body will allow you to perform your best in the workplace. (Photo source: Jenna Kutcher)

When you graduate college and begin your career, it’s critical that you don’t get too caught up in your work and you remember to take care of yourself. If you are at your best with your physical and emotional health, you will be better prepared to handle the stresses that life can bring.

Justine Tucker, exercise science major at BYU, understands the importance of being healthy.

“When you take the time to be good to your body and focus on your health it translates into every area of your life.” Says Tucker. “You are way more able to do your best at work or school, or anything really if your body and mind are well rested and taken care of.”

  1. Make time for fun

While working is important, you should always make time in your life for hobbies and things that bring you joy. Having a hobby or activity can be an outlet for stress and a way to clear your mind. The Huffington Post published an article in 2015 that talked about how hobbies like knitting and coloring can reduce stress.

Your college years are a perfect time for you to explore lots of different activities and discover the things you enjoy most. Whether it’s hiking or pottery, having a hobby will give you some time to relax and step away from work.

  1. Internships

We saved the best for last. Internships may be the most influential factor in you getting your dream PR job. Students who graduate with more internships are immediately more attractive to those who are hiring. The extra experience and things that you gain from a credible internship are qualities you’ll be happy you have when you start your first job.

Employers are more confident in people who have experience in the field and already have and idea of what to expect when they begin full time work. This makes the transition into a new job much easier than if you were to start with no prior experience.

Use the time you have in college to intern in as many different places as you can. An internship at a major firm in New York may seem more impressive but don’t underestimate the power of smaller, more local opportunities. Search your community to find internships that will give you experience in areas you feel interested in. Working in an internship will help you gain the skills you need and can even help you to build your references.

Your college years are a busy time, but I know if you are willing to take the time to apply these things to your life you will find that you are better prepared to jump into life after you graduate. Taking a little bit of time every week to prepare will make all the difference when you are out searching for a job or moving to a new city. Set aside the time now to invest in your future happiness and success, you’ll be happy that you did.

Maddie Butler is a Public Relations student at BYU pursuing her interests in strategic branding and social media. She has a passion for the work she does and loves the exposure public relations gives her to different industries and career paths. Maddie has a passion for social media and branding and enjoys every opportunity she has to learn new things.
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