A Guest Post by Sedale McCall, Digital Analyst, GPG
When I attended graduate school in 2016, I was also working at a Porter Novelli in Washington, D.C. Beyond the exhaustion of working and going to school, it was fantastic to be able to see what I was learning in a real-world environment. However, after graduating, I noticed that many students around me did not have that luxury and it made the transition into the workforce more difficult.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are a few things you can do while in school to put yourself in a great position to become a rockstar digital professional as soon as you start your job. These tips will also help you stand out in interview and applications. Check out these five things you can do to make your courses more life-like:
- Pick a client. Pick an organization you are interested in, even if your teacher does not tell you to. Envision all your work supporting that client. If possible, make every assignment you do that semester work in service of that client. If you have to write a research report, how could that research help your client’s business? If you have to read a case study, what ideas could your client take from it? It could be a real client you hope to work for in the future, or just a company you admire. The more practice you can get understanding how a client thinks, the better.
- Treat every assignment like it’s live. Similar to #1, do not just work to complete the assignment, check all the boxes on the rubric and get a good grade. Make your assignment solve a client’s problem. When you submit your assignments, you should feel like it could go out into the real world and have an impact on the followers of your organization. The benefits to your assignments should go way beyond the grade you get at the end.
- Ask for real feedback, not just a grade. Speaking of grades, push your teacher to give you more feedback than a few sentences and a number/letter. Especially, if you have a relationship with them, ask them how you could improve the assignment and what a real client might say about it. School can be a great testing ground for ideas, but sometimes you need to nudge your professors to help you get there.
- Ask for more of what you want. Most of your courses will attempt to give you a broad overview of a topic so you are prepared for a variety of scenarios. The problem with that is that often you will not get the depth necessary to be good at any specific thing. One way to build that is to ask for other resources. If you are taking a social media class that talks about paid advertising, ask your teacher where you should go to learn more about advertising. If you’re in a research class that briefly brings up social media analytics, find out how you can get more practice with analytics. Most teams in PR agencies are organized by specialty. It’s easier to get jobs when the company knows what your skill set is.
- Use your teacher’s network. If you’re at an institution that relies on adjunct professors (which is most of them) you are already talking to someone in the industry you want to be in. Talk to your professor about meeting with either him or her, or someone he or she knows. The more you can talk to experts in the field, the more information you will get about what you need to do to become a professional. Use your professor as that first step.
Here’s a bonus tip. If you use #1 and pick a client, reach out to someone who works there and ask them if they would read your work. LinkedIn is a fantastic networking tool and most professionals in the field would be very happy to help you learn more about their company. This will give you more of the real-world advice you need to get ahead before you start applying to jobs.
These tips are designed for anyone who wants to stand out in applications and interviews for social media jobs. Many students will graduate with a degree in communications, a high GPA and some internship experience. But few will have the insight and examples that employers can use to understand the student’s skill set and fit for the company. When you treat your work like live client work, it will help your employer see how you will handle their work at the organization.
If you’re not sure how to start, feel free to use me as a test case! I’m available via LinkedIn or Twitter (@SedaleM) or you can reach out via my blog at www.todayonsocial.com. Happy to help however I can.
Best of luck and see you at the water cooler!