Crippling mistakes made by students, and how to avoid them

Deakin University PR graduate Alison Coffa reflects on her time at university, and the mistakes she, and others, make. Follow Alison on Twitter: @AlisonClareC

Students need to think outside the box. Photo:

Students need to think outside the box.

SINCE graduating I’ve had time to think about some of the misconceptions I, and classmates, had at university. Let me explain two.
1. Counting yourself out too early.
As I left my first PR class at Deakin  in 2011, I panicked.
Where was I going to find work experience? How should I bolster up my resume? How was I going to make myself stand out from several hundred PR grads across the state – let alone the country – so that someone would employ me when I graduated?
I immediately felt under-qualified and nowhere near ready to approach anyone for a position. That was mistake number one. Students are too easily fooled into thinking that they have nothing to give until they’re qualified. As a result they often discount themselves for opportunities that arise.
Learn to market your own ‘personal brand’. Discover where your strengths lie, and sell them. You may not be an expert in communications strategy, but are you a team player/a good writer/a creative thinker? At the same time, be upfront about what you still have to learn and your eagerness to do so. Most internship and work placement programs are just that – learning experiences. No one engages an intern expecting them to know everything. They just want to know that you’ll do your best and will continue to grow.
2. Not looking outside the box
So you didn’t get that prestigious internship position with Edelman and you weren’t successful in getting into the work placement program at Holden. You’re done, right? Wrong.
These programs are of course highly contested and highly beneficial. But there are plenty of opportunities that may not be advertised – or even exist yet.
As a lover of theatre and musicals, I saw an ad from my favourite national theatre website looking for someone to assist in shooting and editing videos. It wasn’t exactly my area but it sounded like a good way to get involved, so I applied. After a 45 minute interview with the Business Manager, I came away as the site’s new Communications Manager – a position created especially for me, to better use my particular skills and experience. I’ve now held the position for over two years and as well as giving me some good experience, it has been a great conversation point on my resume.
Look at where your passions lie and investigate opportunities there – you never know who might be looking for someone just like you.

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