ICYMI: 9 Tips for Students Who Are Looking for Careers in PR


By Corrie Benfield

FPRA Tampa Bay recently hosted a Business Card Bingo night at the University of South Florida, where a group of PR professionals with various backgrounds networked with students to build what we hope are lasting relationships.

In case you missed it, here are some of the words of wisdom our PR pros shared:

Every handshake is an investment. You never know where it will lead.”

– Estella Gray, Government Affairs Program Manager, Southwest Florida Water Management District

You never know when you will meet someone who is a future co-worker, boss or business partner. Always be ready to make new connections.

Really research the company you want to work for to make sure it is a good cultural fit.”

– Liana Lopez, APR, Chief Communications Administrator, Office of the County Administrator, Hillsborough County BOCC

A company’s culture can have just as big of an impact on your job satisfaction as the work itself. Ask people who already work there, look for employee reviews online and ask about the company’s culture in your interview.

Everybody should be doing an internship.”

– Aileen Rodriguez, Senior Manager for Executive Affairs, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (Tampa International Airport)

Internships give you valuable insights into the type of work you enjoy, the type of work you hate, and how the real world operates differently from a classroom setting.

Read and write. That means get published.”

– Jason Medina, Communications Consultant, U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base

Building your brand on social media is important, but actually having real-life published writing samples is imperative toward establishing yourself as a professional.

Develop your writing skills as much as possible.”

– Chad McLeod, APR, Principal, McLeod Communications

Superb writing skills can mean the difference between an employer reading through your cover letter and calling you versus reading the first paragraph and moving on. When it comes to writing (and pretty much everything else), practice makes perfect.

Be open to a different path than what is in your mind right now.”

– Karen Morgan, APR, CPRC, Manager of Public Policy, AAA – The Auto Club Group

Plan as you might, you never know where your career path will take you. Be open to new experiences and change.

Do internships. That’s really where you’ll find out if this is the right career for you.”

– Nancy Gay, APR, Public Relations Account Services, Moffitt Cancer Center

You never know if what you want is the right fit for you until you try it.

I’m a big advocate for working in an agency. It’s like getting your master’s in PR.”

– Heather Grzelka, APR, Owner and Principal, Madeira Public Relations, FPRA Tampa Bay President

Working in an agency environment gives you a chance to learn from PR pros who have honed the craft and are completely focused on it.

Work for free.”

– Jo Newton, APR, Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety

You get paid in experiences and connections. The people you meet and the things you learn when you volunteer or intern may open doors for years to come. Also, always ask for a letter of reference, in a hard copy on letterhead.

We have to give a special thanks to USF’s PRSSA Chapter for showing such great support for this event, as well as the USF Zimmerman School of Advertising and Mass Communications, USF KnoBull PR and Professor Wendy Whitt.

If you are a student who wants to improve your networking and make more PR contacts, consider joining the Tampa Bay Chapter of FPRA today. We’d love to see you at our events!