Having a portfolio to take to interviews is a clear advantage for any budding graduate.
Having a portfolio that is brimming with great examples of work is no doubt better.
But when you are a student undertaking a Bachelors or Masters qualification on a course that doesn’t provide the opportunities to participate in a student-run PR firm, building a good portfolio can be a task which is easier said than done. For any student, finding the opportunities to gain experience (not to mention pieces for your portfolios) is a challenge, so I thought I’d put together a post containing a few potential starting points to consider.
1) University departments Every university (especially in the last few years) has made staffing cuts. However few are willing to let these cuts infringe on the quality of their marketing Therefore, is there a department looking to start (or that needs to start) using social media, or one which is actively searching to increase course/event attendees? Consider asking your lecturers or the Head of your course if they know of anyone who could benefit from your services.
2) Campus organisations Every university has a Student Union; a fact which every student becomes aware of after the first week of attendance (also known as Fresher’s Week). The Student Union is student-led (or graduate-led), and organises often bi-weekly (or even tri-weekly) events which require promotion. Similarly, university societies are always seeking to increase their membership and promote their events. Both are of course limited in terms of capital and so are often going to be jumping at the bit for support from someone who knows how to market and promote beyond the basics of Facebook and Twitter. Offer your services for free and use university tools to promote the event, and you’ll soon be both indispensable and with a portfolio brimming with good copy.
3) Small businesses Check out organisations in your area that you like or which have just opened to see if they could use some help. Not only are you building your experiences and portfolio, you’re also giving back to the community and helping support local business.
4) Not-for-Profit organisations Also giving back to the community, you could research local charities seeking to raise their public profile and increase support and/or donations. Create a list of organisations and contact them about the services you can give them, such as creating a media kit, writing press releases, or even improving their social media presence.
5) Public Organisations It’s pretty easy now thanks to the Internet (God bless you, Google!) to find the names of people working in the Communications Departments or Media Teams of public organisations such as your local Police station or Town/County Council. Make some enquiries and see if you can arrange a meeting to discuss whether there might be an opportunity to volunteer or intern within their team.
If they have the space (not all do) and you seem fairly capable of being of use, they’ll often help you figure something out; or at the very least, be able to point you in the direction of someone who can.
When arranging a specific project though, keep in mind that you need to:
- Set up expectations right away including: what they require of you, how often you will be in communication with them/meeting times, and clear deadlines.
- Don’t overcommit to work you won’t have the time or energy to do, as it can damage your (and your peers/university’s) reputation.
The main point I’m trying to make is:
A) Be proactive.
B) Think outside the box.
C) Get in early.