What to do After Graduation

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What do I know about graduation? I’m just a student myself, making the decisions we all make. So, I started asking people for advice. After talking with several professionals, I’ve compiled a few steps for you.

Define your options

Imagine you are at a buffet. You stare at three different food options, read the reviews, research them. The best way to know what they taste like is to take a spoon and grab a bite.

Your career is an endless buffet of options. But at the end of the day, you should get out your silverware and take a bite.

Lauren Holbrook, a recent public relations graduate, says “that’s the double-edged sword of PR and communications; you can do a lot of things with it, but that means you can put off decision making.”

To help you get started, answer the following questions and note the options you like.

Q1: Are you ready to go right to work in the field?

If yes or maybe, you’re in luck. According to a recent study on the Great Recession, the economic recovery has added 2.9 million “good jobs” to the economy. Meaning the market is good.

The following list contains some communications job search sites to get you started:

Then, read job descriptions. Holbrook explains, “it’s sound like an odd thing, but It has helped me identify the jobs that I ultimately want to be in. It helps me identify what I want in an employer. If it sparks joy, then it’s probably something you should be pursuing.”

Show me the money. 

Public Relations Specialists (right out of college) made on average $59,300 annually in 2017. Public Relations Managers (with 5 or more years of experience) earned $111,280 on average in 2017. Additionally, the job outlook shows that the demand for these types of jobs will increase at least 10 percent annually until 2026.

Q2: Are you considering becoming a graduate student?

If so, when do you want to start? Holbrook says, “I want to be very intentional in going to grad school. You should know more about the wilderness before starting a grad program.”

Jeffrey Dodenbier, an SEO and Digital Marketing Specialist at Big Leap Agency, says graduate school can also be a transition into management. “When I first graduated I was like I’m never going back [to school]. However now, as I’m progressing and thinking of management positions that grad school sounds a lot more attractive… If I went back to grad school, it would be to help me advance my career.”

You will also need to take a college acceptance test, usually the GRE or GMAT exams.

Here are a few resources for top PR grad programs:

Show me the money: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that demand for people with an advanced degree in public relations will rise 9 percent over the next nine years. However, the cost of grad school can range from $15,000 at the University of Georgiaand Michigan Stateto $40,000 at George Washington University.

Q3: Would earning a certificate or membership in a professional communications society help you?

Certificates or memberships can help you stand out. But only earn one if it advances your career. “If it’s intentionally helpful for you, do it. If it’s just to bide time or fill time, maybe it’s not the best thing.”

Dodenbier advises, “Whatever specialization that you choose to peruse, find those things and get certified.” He suggests getting certifications while in school, since after graduation life gets more hectic.

Certificate in Public Relations90% of students who earned their certificate said it helped distinguish them from the competition and 80% landed a PR job within four months of graduation, according to a representative. To get one, simply study for it and take the online test, which you can do from six months before graduation to six months after. The drawback—it costs $125. 

PRSA (Public Relations Society of America)The main advantage of joining a professional society is networking. Additionally, you can travel to conferences to hone your skills. PRSA also has a job board. The drawback—it costs $65 plus $260 a year to renew.

Use the process of elimination

So now that you have options narrow your list down to your top three. Then make yourself a nice t-chart with pros and cons. Then, continue to the next step.

Talk with mentors

Take your list to your mom, your friends, professors, professionals and anyone who will listen. Ask them about your strengths are and where you would succeed most.

Amberly Assay from Method Communications explains that mentors have helped her the most her career path. “In agency I have like 30 mentors all the time. There’s a mentor I have here and any time I have a question I talk to him.”

Adjust as you go

“The whole making life decisions is kind of a lie,” Holbrook says, “you just play with the opportunities that come your way and actively seek opportunities.”

Realize that your path will change. As long as you are flexible and actively seeking opportunities, you will do great!

If this article was helpful to you, share it with a friend!

Amelia Mecham studies Public Relations at Brigham Young University. She serves as Chapter Firm Director and will serve as President next year. In her free time, she enjoys photography, intramural soccer and cooking. Follow her on twitter @ameliamechamor Instagram @ameliamecham27 or connect on LinkedIn.

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