Three PR skills they don’t teach you in college (and three skills they do!)

College-Classroom-stockbyte-592px-304Whether you consider college the glory days or workhorse days, one thing is certain: You sure learned a lot.

But, once college is over, new pros quickly discover that the learning has only just begun. Real world success requires a mix of on-the-job lessons and your years of college training.

If you’re in the early stages of your PR career – or you’re a seasoned pro looking to enhance your experience – here are three skills they didn’t teach you in college that you should add to your toolkit.

  1. Be proactive. For most students, college is all about procrastinating. But, once you enter the real world, procrastination could become your worst enemy. Instead of waiting until the last minute, set personal project deadlines a few days ahead of your actual deadline so you can review and deliver your assignment early. Proactivity also extends beyond deadlines. You should constantly be looking for new growth opportunities within your workplace, asking for assignments that challenge you and build your career. Getting ahead of deadlines and demonstrating your desire to learn all things PR will help you stand out to company leadership – and who doesn’t want that? 
  2. Be flexible.  While in college, students usually know all assignment deadlines and tests dates from day one. The syllabus rarely changes, and when it does, the change is followed by complaints and chaos. But it’s different on the job. You must be flexible and open to last-minute changes and adjustments. This may mean you have to stay late to finish a project one day, or you must work through lunch to finish a last-minute presentation. Don’t get huffy about it. Adapt with a smile and get the job done. Your supervisor will notice and remember it. 
  3. Be engaging. This tip is two-fold. First, try as they might, it’s tough for professors to teach students how to be engaging on social media. You have to be natural when you engage with followers on behalf of a client, and it takes time and real world practice to build the right tone and develop your brand’s voice. Second, you need to develop interpersonal relationship skills early on. Whether it’s client relationships or interacting with superiors, the more comfortable and confident you are engaging, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

With so much to learn, the first several years on the job can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you did learn quite a few important skills in college that will come in handy down the road. You must remember and leverage these skills from day one. Some of these include:

  1. Research, including the SWOT analysis and communication research,
  2. AP Style, a requirement for pitching and writing in the PR world, and
  3. Public speaking in front of your peers and professors.

As you enter and thrive in the real world, don’t be intimidated by the amount you have to learn. Embrace it. You’re being paid to learn from some of the brightest leaders around – your co-workers!

What did you learn in your first year on the job? Share your thoughts below!

Stephanie Vermillion headshotStephanie Vermillion is a senior account executive at Wordsworth Communications, a public relations agency in Cincinnati. She is on the PRSA Cincinnati Leadership Team and is part of the PRSA Cincinnati New Pros Committee. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn and Twitter (@SMVermillion).