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Guest blogger Megan Gibbs Talley is from Bossier City, La. She graduated from LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication in May 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in mass communication and a concentration in public relations. After graduating, she moved to Houston, Texas to begin her career in public relations as an intern at Edelman. She now serves as communications specialist for NRG Energy, Inc. focusing on external communications for the company’s retail brands, including Reliant and Green Mountain Energy. For internship and experience questions or advice, connect with her on Twitter or through email.

Megan Gibbs Talley, 2014 graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communication

Megan Gibbs Talley, 2014 graduate of the Manship School of Mass Communication

Throughout my four years at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, I can remember dreaming of one day walking across that stage to receive my hard-earned diploma and starting my career as a public relations professional. I dreamed about the work I’d be doing, the clients I’d support, my future work environments…even my future email addresses. And I’ll admit it…I’m a bit of a detail-oriented dreamer. But throughout it all, I ultimately knew there was one surefire way for me to achieve those dreams. And that was through experience.

When I say “experience,” I’m talking internships, professional organizations and extracurriculars. While it may seem tempting to spend your collegiate evenings at the local margz hot spot and your weekends at the bars or community pool, that time could be invested into your future. It may not seem like it now, but spending a few hours a week creating an organizational newsletter, helping plan an event, volunteering for a great cause or doing some time-consuming, nitty gritty work for one of your internship’s clients will pay off. And when it does, it will be worth it.

Dive In

Don’t lean here, dive. Dive head first into all of the professional, academic and student organizations that interests you. And yes, it’s important it interests you. Don’t waste your time doing something you don’t enjoy or know won’t help you reach your ultimate goal, which I’ll assume is that post-graduation job you have your eyes on. For those that do interest you, go out of your way to carve your path in the organization. Help lead a committee, take ownership of a project, provide your opinion, make lasting friendships and have fun. Gaining valuable experience that will set you apart as a well-rounded leader, team player and worthy career candidate can indeed be fun. And it should be.

Explore the Possibilities 

Internships are vital in the PR world. They do wonders for your career. Wonders. So no matter if you’re a freshman or senior, explore the possibilities by applying for each and every internship that appeals to you. You never know what that employer may be looking for at that moment. And you never know what a seemingly small internship can turn into. Or how many doors a large internship can open. As someone who had many internships, ranging in type, size and scope of work, I truly believe this is what will ultimately set you apart from your peers as it prepares you for the real world in so many wonderful (and sometimes not-so wonderful) ways. From learning about client relationships and budget limitations to brand storytelling and the business bottom line, it’s a great opportunity to learn a lot in a short amount of time. Internships can be fun, boring, demanding, lacking, challenging or easy, but no matter what, they are valuable. Take the lessons you learned there and find a way to apply it to your current or future job. Those experiences you gained will help propel you forward.

No matter your age, gender identity, grades, connections, race, size, location or any other factor, valuable experience is key to post-graduation success in the PR world. Go into an interview, own your experiences, be confident (yet humble) about the knowledge and skills you took from it, and I promise you’ll land the job. Now get out there and make it happen.