The next step may be one of the most difficult. This is because knowing the skills you need to succeed in PR is not enough. The old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ is something we should all remind ourselves of, because this is how you improve and learn skills. Have you ever wondered how someone can be so good at something and make it look effortless? It is safe to say that those people practice their skills everyday so that they can be the best they can be. The individuals who are most successful in the field no doubt have a stellar set of skills that they work hard to develop. As a beginner, knowing and listing the skills that you have isn’t going to get you very far. It is essential to practice. Backing your skills with hands-on success stories is something that can help you convince employers that you are more than an average PR grad.
It is pretty obvious that practicing skills ties in to education. Take the skill of writing for instance. In order to improve your writing skills, you need to challenge yourself and go outside your comfort zone. For most of us university can be the perfect opportunity to practice your writing skills. I don’t know how many written projects I wrote that seemed so daunting at first, but once done were masterpieces (as small and insignificant as they may seem). And employers acknowledge that university graduates in general demonstrate a better quality of writing. So education is practice.
The problem is you may not be able to practice all the skills that you need for PR at school, even in a PR program. The solution is to seek experience that is readily available. Past work experience is a huge asset. With every job that I have had I have gained some skills that are applicable to PR (even if the job position itself wasn’t). The other great thing is that no matter what jobs you had (even if it’s in retail or something completely non-PR) you demonstrated that you are a hard worker by maintaining a job. This is good news for people like me, since I didn’t know that I wanted to do PR until most of my way through university and my summer jobs. Fortunately the PR program at Mohawk includes an internship where I will be able to practice PR skills (I will fill you in on this part later).
In the meantime, I have decided that the best way to practice my new skills is to volunteer. Not only do employers look favourably on volunteer work, there are a great number of opportunities because of the growing need for volunteers. In particular, not-for-profits are even willing to take the time to train volunteers in new skills! Lastly, with so many different kinds of organizations seeking volunteers, there is a wide variety of opportunities to suit different people’s personalities and skill needs.
As of right now I am volunteering with the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and I think that these have been excellent choices for me in honing my PR skills. While volunteering for the CPRS I am a student representative on the Hamilton board of directors in a student liaison committee and we are organizing and running a student networking event. Talk about great event planning, teamwork and organization practice. While volunteering at the CNIB I will be part of a community engagement team in promoting and increasing awareness of volunteerism at the CNIB Hamilton.
Despite practicing my skills, it is still daunting to think of what I need to accomplish before I land my first PR job. I feel like my biggest critic is me. I feel like if I can produce something that my future self will remain impressed with, then I can say I am good at something, or that I have a certain skill. But at the end of the day, sometimes my fear of not being good at something is what makes me try. And I can say right now I am trying with every fiber of my being.
Chances are as my skills do actually develop I will come back to this topic again and fill you in on how my never-ending practice is going.