Back to School? Time to Get Involved

PRSA National Committee, 2017
PRSSA National Committee, 2017

With a 20% increase in students attending American colleges and universities over the past 10 years, there is no wonder competition for the best jobs continues to get more and more intense. When hundreds of applications are sometimes received for each opening at major agencies, what can you do to get recruiters and hiring managers to spend more than the average seven seconds typically devoted to scanning your resume?

Hint: It’s not the GPA, although a 4.0 is noteworthy. But unless you got straight As, don’t include your GPA since prospective employers are more interested in what you did beyond studying and having a good time.

Recruiters confirm extracurricular activities immediately differentiate you from other job applicants.

“It’s imperative for students to get involved in job-related groups and activities that will enrich their professional acumen,” explains Julie Biber, MD global recruitment, Edelman. “I always recommend stretching beyond your academic trajectory by joining an organization such as PRSSA which will cultivate valuable relationships. Not only will an example like that prove beneficial for your resume–it may also help launch your career. In the spirit of collaboration, any level of participation within a group is optimal for one’s growth outside of course specific team activity.”

DHR International Managing Partner Smooch Reynolds agrees. “As a recruiter, I am always evaluating how involved a professional is with organizations that help advance a profession, and ultimately your career, such as PRSSA, IABC, etc. Involvement in these organizations creates a terrific networking platform and helps to build relationships that will endure throughout one’s career.

Andrew Gagen, founder of MVP Recruiters, adds: “Involvement in industry associations and local community organizations shows intellectual rigor, a sense of curiosity and confidence.”

Underscoring the importance of PRSSA and other campus activities, recent graduates often credit early career success to networks they built through these experiences.

“The best thing I did for my PR career was saying yes to opportunities for on-campus involvement and leadership,” explains University of Alabama graduate Taylor Shelnutt, new account executive at Fleishman Hillard’s Dallas office. “I met countless people in the industry who still serve as mentors today, and the hands-on experience I acquired was extremely important to landing my post-graduate fellowship and full time job. Jumping into the deep end of PRSSA and other extra-curricular activities gave me an incredible experience at UA and prepared me so well for the ‘real world.'”

Recent University of Florida graduate Josh Ferrari is now a junior communications specialist at Synergy Enterprises, Inc., a government relations firm. Josh says joining PRSSA was a “defining moment” in his college career. “It opened my eyes to the world of communications beyond my state, letting me travel around the country to learn and network with the pros. PRSSA was the key to understanding the intricacies of the industry for me, and my involvement in the society pushed me to become a better student and professional.”

Wes Richter credits PRSSA for providing him with leadership experiences that deepened his on-campus engagement at Northern Illinois University. “”PRSSA played an integral part in getting an internship at Zeno Group after graduation. Before joining the organization, I had no idea what I wanted to pursue as a career and didn’t even know what public relations was until a friend recommended I join PRSSA. Three years later, I moved my way up to President of the NIU chapter taking full advantage of the networking and learning opportunities offered by the organization – attending national conferences, local chapter events, and arranging workshops for my own chapter.”

In addition to PRSSA, Wes says he became actively involved in Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, plus he was a member of NIU’s student-fan organization Red Riot, and he interned at a nonprofit called the Glidden Homestead. “These involvements were key talking points in my interviews at agencies, but my leadership and involvement in PRSSA was what really grabbed the attention of employers,” Wes said.

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2 thoughts on “Back to School? Time to Get Involved

  1. Hello! I am a student at Southeast Missouri State University majoring in Advertising and Public Relations. I was wondering if you think campus affiliation and volunteering is looked upon differently than off-campus volunteering, such as at a humane society or for a local charity.

    Thank you!

    1. Depending on the opportunity, I encourage students to find at least one off-campus work or volunteer experience each year in college. Such opportunities greatly expands your network beyond classmates and professors. Plus, the issues and activities provide different learning opportunities and experiences.

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