DePaul Diaries: Life as a PR & Media Relations Intern

By: Lucil Macwan, DePaul University public relations and advertising major ‘17

DePaul Diaries is a day-in-the-life blog series written by DePaul students. The series unveils DePaulians’ experiences as interns in their field of choice. Students share their honest thoughts about their experiences, what they learned as an intern and advice for students who are interested in the same field.


A professor once told me that public relations is what keeps the world informed. During my last four months as a PR intern for DePaul, I learned that this is quite true. So, what do PR professionals do? Let me give you a glimpse of what you can expect when you begin your own adventure.

As a transfer student coming into DePaul, I didn’t have much time to apply for internships before graduation. Fortunately, I was offered a position at the very university I attend; from the time when I started working in the DePaul Office of Public Relations & Communications (OPRC) in September to now, I have grown to have much respect for the profession.

Being a PR intern, I quickly learned to create engaging and interesting content for the DePaul community by writing about upcoming events, feature stories and press releases. In the beginning, I was writing press releases that informed the public about exciting campus events. Our goal at the office is to provide public service by keeping our audience informed and spotlight DePaul’s great professors, students and achievements. This experience allowed me to research and strengthen my writing and communication skills.

As I adjusted to the company culture, I was given more responsibilities that provided opportunities to conduct one-on-one interviews with people whom I was writing a story or press release about. This was my favorite part about the job because it allowed me to become educated around topics I previously didn’t know much about. In the four months that I have been a PR intern, I have written about Shakespearean plays, medical research, movies and more.

Though PR consists of a lot of writing, refinement and research, you also have to have good communication skills; being able to talk to team members about ideas, feedback and planning is important. Each one of us at the office works as a unit to ensure DePaul is represented in the best way possible.

From my experiences, my best advice would be to not worry so much about having all the skills when applying for internships; you will learn and acquire skills as you progress through your career. When I was applying for internships, I often felt very intimidated by long job descriptions, but I soon learned that work ethic and a willingness to learn goes a long way with employers. As a PR intern for DePaul, I learned to effectively communicate with a team, to conduct research and to navigate the ins and outs many software programs used in the PR world. Not knowing everything is okay, but curiosity to know more is what matters.

I also highly suggest creating a portfolio of writing material that you have done in or out of class, as it’s a good starting point for recruiters to get a sense of your writing style. Remember, when you write, your audience may or may not know much about the topic at hand, it’s your job to make it as accessible as possible.

Now that you have an idea of what it’s like to work in PR, are you ready to take the next step?

 

In Between Netflix Binges: Making the Most of Winter Break

By: Gracie Covarrubias, DePaul University organizational and multicultural communication major ’18 and Career Center communications assistant

Among the many perks of DePaul’s quarter system is the six-week winter break; an opportune time to fast track career success by revamping your personal brand and tying up career-related loose ends you’ve put off all quarter. With that said, we’ve compiled a list of four simple things you can do this break—in between rounds of Netflix and holiday get-togethers—to maximize your free time.

Polish your LinkedIn profile

Being a LinkedIn superstar is a title not many can claim. There’s always something to be added, edited or endorsed. As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to LinkedIn, if you initiate, others will reciprocate. For example, if you go through your connection list and begin endorsing your peers for the skills you know they possess, they are likely to respond by endorsing you in return. The same goes for recommendations; if you’re not already connected with previous and current employers and coworkers, connect with them and write a recommendation on their behalf based on the work experiences you’ve shared. Get into the holiday spirit by giving as much warranted praise as you can on LinkedIn, there’s no doubt it’ll come back to you.

Visit the Career Center

Just because school is out for winter break doesn’t mean that the Career Center is; in fact, the Career Center operates from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, throughout break. In one simple visit you can chat with peer career advisors (PCAPS) to get your resume looked at or you can meet with your advisor to discuss upcoming job opportunities and go over job and internship search strategies. Won’t be in the city over break? No problem, PCAPS are available for online resume reviews. Plus, the Career Center website offers a unique online chat forum to connect with PCAPS.

Please note: The Career Center will be closed during the holidays, from December 23rd to January 1st. Regular office hours will resume Monday, January 2nd.

Build a digital portfolio

Admit it, free time during break usually means extra screen time. Well, what better way to maximize your favorite online platforms than by developing a digital portfolio? You get that screen time you desire, all while doing something majorly productive—win-win, right? If you’re willing to invest a bit of time upfront to build your digital portfolio, you’ll see long-term payoff. Register for a personal site with WordPress or Wix, for example, and start organizing a comprehensive list of your work for potential employers. Check out Career Advisor Michael Elias’ beginners guide to crafting digital portfolios for more tips.

Take personality assessments

Looking for a productive alternative to BuzzFeed quizzes this break? Take a crack at common personality assessments that are actually used in the workplace. One of the more well known assessments utilized by human resources gurus is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). A condensed version of the assessment can be found at 16Personalities. Other popular alternatives include Gallup’s StrengthsQuest and Marston’s DISC Assessment. Spend some time this break identifying your key strengths and personality traits. Remember, the more you understand yourself, the easier it is to convey to potential employers what you bring to the table.

Regardless of what you’re up to this break, be sure to squeeze in time for career development! Stop by the Career Center for more tips and tricks on curating the most productive break possible.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Digital Portfolio

Digital portfolios are terrific tools that can help you stand out in the application process. When you present employers with a portfolio, it provides them with tangible evidence of your skills and capabilities that a resume may only be able to hint at. Adding a link to a digital portfolio in your resume—or in an email to an employer—can help you stand out from the competition, even in industries where portfolios are not often required by hiring managers.

If you’re new to creating a digital portfolio, it can seem like a daunting task. The good news is that the crew at the Career Center can provide a wealth of knowledge to help you create and build a digital portfolio. More good news: You don’t need to be a tech whiz to create one.

Here are a few key tips to help you get started with building your own portfolio from scratch.

Gather Samples of Your Work

The purpose of a digital portfolio is to highlight work that you have produced in a past internship, academic course, extracurricular, or volunteer experience. So, the first step is to gather a variety of samples to include in your portfolio. A minimum of five samples is a good starting point, as you want to have enough samples to justify the creation of a portfolio; anything less than five samples can be easily emailed as attachments to employers.

Begin by reflecting on your work experience. Are there particular projects you worked on at an internship or job that you could include in a portfolio? These samples make a strong impression because it shows that you’ve utilized specific skill sets in a professional setting. Before moving forward with a work sample, though, make sure you have permission from your former supervisor to include it in a personal portfolio.

Next, think about some of the classes you’ve taken and identify papers, PowerPoint presentations, or other major projects you’re proud of. If you didn’t save your work, check with a past professor to see if he or she has a copy. Or, if you submitted assignments through DePaul’s online teaching tool, D2L, log in and see if they’re still available.

If you don’t have access to a particular project, see if a former supervisor or professor is willing to write a mini-recommendation for you. A portfolio is a great opportunity to showcase both your work and any positive written feedback you’ve received from professionals you’ve worked with in the past.

Finally, a great advantage of a digital portfolio is that you have the ability to include audio/visual components. If you took (or can be seen in) pictures or videos that pertain to any of the experiences above, these can make for great inclusions in a portfolio.

Select a Website to Host Your Portfolio

Once you’ve gathered samples, the next step is to explore different websites that you can use to host your digital portfolio. Many students prefer Wix or Weebly, as these are relatively user-friendly and do not require coding, HTML, or other skills of more technical professionals. For applicants with writing samples, blog platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr are great resources to post longer pieces of written work. Finally, there are portfolio platforms designed specifically for creative professionals who want to highlight a lot of audio/visual artifacts, including Carbonmade and Coroflot.

Many of these sites allow you to create a portfolio for free, but if you want to add a few more bells and whistles to your site—or have complete ownership over the domain name and URL—there is usually an annual fee. With this annual fee, however, comes greater control over your site.

Build Your Site

Now that you have chosen your samples, and a website to host your portfolio, it’s time to begin putting it together. While every portfolio template is different, there are a few categories every digital portfolio should include:

  • homepage that clearly articulates your name, your professional brand (e.g. “Aspiring Public Relations Professional”), and a visual that helps your page stand out. This could be a professional headshot, or a photo that has some relationship to the industry you want to work in. If there’s a quote that resonates with you and your work ethic, that can make a nice addition here, too.
  • A separate page that’s dedicated to your resume. This should include both the content of your resume directly on the page as well as a downloadable PDF or Word version, which will allow employers to see your resume in its original form. Just remember to omit any contact information you do not want to make public on your site.
  • Regarding contact information, you should include a contact page that let’s employers know the best way they can reach you. Many people will include their email, but this is a great space to also highlight any additional social media channels you take advantage of for professional purposes, such as a LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle, or personal blog.

Next Steps

From here, your digital portfolio will begin to take shape as a tool specific to your individual skills and goals. Take a look at the Career Center’s portfolio page to see samples of completed student portfolios across different majors. You can also meet with your career advisor to learn more about what employers really want to see in digital portfolios.

Personal Branding & Standing Out

By: Mariah Cowan, DePaul University digital communications and media arts graduate student ’16

You know you’re awesome, but how will you let employers know that you’re awesome?

Go to college, get a degree and land your dream job. As simple as it may sound, there is so much more that goes into developing your career. You can’t walk into an interview with only your degree and expect to get the job on the spot. Employers are looking for people who stand out. You have to present yourself in a professional manner in order to impress employers. So, how can you get employers to think you’re simply stellar?

Brand yourself! Think about it. Why do you buy the brands you use? Because they stand out from the rest? They present themselves better than others? So how will you? You probably know the basics: Nice and clean resume, professional dress, etc. But have you considered building a portfolio? Or a personal website?

In an article I read titled, “Do you need to build a personal website to land a job,” there are three professional benefits of having a personal website. They include the following:

  1. Sharing your expertise – What can you do? Share your accomplishments.
  2. Building your personal brand – Create a professional presence online.
  3. Establishing yourself as a thought leader – Establish industry credibility.

I believe the same benefits apply for a portfolio. Portfolios allow you to showcase your skills and experiences. It shows that you not only can talk the talk, but you can walk the walk.

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Here’s what our professionals, Sarah Highstone and Micheal Elias, had to say about the topic:

“Students who show employers, through digital portfolios, their work online have an advantage over students who do not.” – Sarah Highstone, former Career Specialist for Computing and Digital Media

“A digital portfolio allows applicants to expand on their brand beyond resume data, a business card, etc., by promoting concrete evidence of their work and school accomplishments. If employers can point to artifacts that support the content on a students’ resume, it can give them an advantage in the application process over applicants without concrete evidence.” – Michael Elias, Assistant Director, Career Specialist for College of Communication

But is this true for all students? What if employers do not require a portfolio? “I would think it can help an applicant stand out even in traditional fields where it’s typically not required, since it presents something new to the hiring manager,” says Micheal.

I agree with Michael. Whatever helps you stand out, I say go for it!