Making it in the Real World Starts Before Graduation

If you’re a millennial like me, you’re probably getting pretty sick of other generations’ criticism. We’re too cocky, have talent without any work ethic and haven’t the slightest clue about how to fit into the “real” world. Sometimes I find myself throwing my hands up and saying “YOLO,” while other times I find myself on “their” side shaking my head at what our generation is doing. Politics aside, let’s get down to what you have to do to kick-off your career.

Disclaimer: if you have decided your mediocre GPA and lack of college activities is going to get you a position that pays $100,000 and lets you travel the world and drink on the job like a Mad Men episode, please stop reading here. If you want to get your foot in the door at a public relations (PR) or marketing agency, roll up your sleeves and expect to start as an intern.

The birth of your career: college

Don’t focus so much on what a college ranking list tells you. Rather, focus on what you can do at your college. No one is going to turn you away from a job if you started at a community college, but have a 3.7 GPA, were the president of a club, a teacher’s assistant and did freelance work on the side. On the other hand, if you went to Princeton and had a 2.5 GPA and have absolutely no relevant career experience outside of school, pack your bags, millennial – you’re moving home!

The point here is this: what you do in college matters – specifically, outside of class. I learned some of my most relevant leadership, professional and applicable career skills by doing PR for the University Programming Board (UPB) at James Madison (Go Dukes!). These career skills enabled me to successfully network my way to meeting an employee from CRT/tanaka. With my foot in the door, I then had to complete a thorough written test and an extensive interview process in which my experience working at UPB proved even more valuable.

Finding your internship/job

I made this mistake and no one told me not to do it: get off of job search engines. All they are going to give you is some awkward phone calls with some shady companies.

Start in college. Go to every career fair, alumni day and “major” day. The earlier you start, the easier it will become. The first time you may be so nervous you pee your pants and have to leave. Fine (as long as no one noticed) – move on and go get ‘em next year, champ.

Networking events don’t just happen post college. If I hadn’t decided to attend another major’s alumni conference (on a Friday morning none the less) I wouldn’t be a CRT/tanaka intern today. Do whatever it takes. Go to resume workshops, practice your PR writing skills (press releases, memos, etc.) and prepare yourself as much as possible because no reputable PR agency is just going to hand you an internship – you have to work for it. Start reading and commenting on industry and company blogs as soon as possible. Build your social profiles and get to know people in your field by sharing and retweeting interesting industry information. These minute details help you stand out tremendously.

Another tip: do not settle. I turned down full-time salaried positions. Wait – don’t stop reading! I turned them down because those opportunities weren’t going to open doors in the career industry I was passionate about pursuing. My dad about lost it when I did that (sorry, dad) but look how it turned out now. Never say, “at this point, I’ll take anything.” I was there – keep on chugging and get your foot in the right door.

At your internship

Congratulations! Now get to work.

If you’re at an internship where you’re making copies for a half an hour a day and sending Snapchats the rest of the day, rethink that company or better yet get serious and prove what makes you valuable. Be a pro at helping out with office duties (I am an expert at changing the water filter), but make sure you are pursuing opportunities and participating in work that is actually advancing your knowledge and benefitting the company.

Here are a few other quick tips:

Whether you’re still in college, on the job hunt or about to start your first internship, I hope these tips have helped you. Remember, there’s no one way to start your career, so take these suggestions, let them simmer and use them in a way that will benefit you.

Have any more tips? Please share in the comment section below!


Guest post by Liz Rea, Account Coordinator, CRT/tanaka’s Health and Healthy Lifestyle Practice

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