The catch 22 of all college students—find a job without experience. Some people can do it no problem. But most of us go through countless hours hunting down jobs, writing cover letters and updating resumes. Even securing an internship can be hard. You’re either too young (I started looking my sophomore year) or haven’t taken the right classes.
Now, I can sit here and type the usual clichés, but I won’t because clichés don’t get a job. YOU do. Scary thought, yes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. As a final semester senior, I can wholeheartedly admit I waver between terrified and excited for the “real-world.” So, I’ve compiled a list of hints and advice from my experience and those around me, including peers and mentors.
1. Know your story. Ray Kotcher (former CEO of Ketchum) recently became a BU professor, and in early-May and mid-September I had a chance to meet with him. He asked me twice, “What’s your story?” I gave a quick introduction the first time. It was the typical run-down the list: name, school year, major, and where I’m from. The second time he pushed me to give him a different answer. He kept asking about my past, about what lead me to public relations, about why I stayed in public relations, etc. I felt exposed, more vulnerable than ever—how had I not thought so deeply on this before? Then he ended this mini-interview with, “You need to know your story. In the field of storytelling, if you don’t know yourself you can’t sell any story.” So my advice, if you need help figuring this out, is ask these questions: Who are you? What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How are you doing it? Start simple and broad, then work on the fine details.
2. Take failure as a lesson. This summer I went through seven interviews for a summer internship and all were later met with the fatal ‘I regret to inform you that you have not been accepted to this position’ message. Sure, it hurt, but it made me think—okay, what am I missing? At my last interview, I was asked, “How do you deal with failure?” I remember pausing and my mind splitting into two. One side knew the answer I should give, but the other was shaken. How do I deal with failure? Like anyone I’ve thrown pity parties, I’ve shared the blame with people around me, I’ve even chalked it up as some higher power saying it wasn’t meant to be. But if I wiped away the excuses, what was I left with? Lessons. Interviews are not just for the company to meet you; they are also for you to learn from them. Phone interview etiquette and the importance of following the news are two of the several lessons I took to my September interview in London.
3. Listen. We are taught in class to speak, to participate, to generate discussion, but one of the hardest things for us during the transition between student to worker is listening. Not just to whom is speaking but to your surroundings. Follow publications or bloggers within your chosen industry. Listen to your professors speak to each other or to their TFs. Observe what is going on within your field, not just from class or clubs, to gain a wider perspective of the world you will soon be stepping into.
4. Join in. Taking elements of hint three, participation can begin from listening to those around you. Maybe you overheard a professor say something about a new trend and it made you remember an article you read—if so, share it. Joining in doesn’t just have to be for discussions, but for experience. No matter the size of the task, if it helps you understand an element of public relations, advertising, etc. take it. Clubs often have communication roles on the executive board to join. If you do, take the opportunity to morph it into your own. For instance, if you become a PR Chair for a club, improve internal communications by implementing a weekly newsletter or make the social accounts for the club more active and engaged within the community.
5. Seek guidance. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to ask for help. Getting or seeking help does not mean you aren’t good enough to find something on your own – it just enables you learn from others. Guidance is often given to enhance your skills or expand your network. Before sending off resumes or cover letters, discuss it with peers, professors, people already in the field, or even career services. You need a strong and bias-free pair of eyes to tell you if you’re going about it the right or wrong way.
Susana Pastrana, a public relations major, is concluding her time as an undergraduate at Boston University interning and studying abroad in London. With her big hair, loud voice, and smile you can find her strolling the streets of London and dorking out to its history, literary references and culture. Follow her on Instagram for a glimpse of her adventures.