It's worth putting in the effort: You do the math

Deakin graduate Jeszlene Zhou does the math on finding time to attend uni, study, work, have a social life and put together a killer ePortfolio. Follow Jeszlene on Twitter: @firstcommsjob

There are ways to find time to fit everything in whilst at university.

Sometimes it can be difficult figuring out how to find time for everything at university. Photo: (tkamenick)

YOU have 20 contact hours, 20 work hours, dinner with the boy/girlfriend, partying on Saturday night, brunch with the family on Sunday plus three upcoming assignments due next Monday and Ross (aka @themediapod) say we have to build a portfolio before graduation? Is he kidding or are public relations lecturers that bad at math? (Ed: Yes we usually are)
Having graduated with distinction from Deakin University earlier this year while building a humble yet credible portfolio, here’s my two cents worth of how anyone can become a master juggler.
Time Management
Time management is often stated by many leaders as their key to success. Here’s a few time management tips from Creating Time, an article I wrote for UTimes as an undergraduate.
Choose Your Assignment Topics Wisely
One of the best things about Deakin University and majoring in Media and Communications is the flexibility to choose your assignment topics. I spent most of my time researching on social media, with a particular focus on Twitter, so by the time I reached those third year classes, I have a backlog of facts and statistics to my claims. Even for units, such as Marketing Communications, where the topics were pre-determined, I could slant my promotional efforts to digital media and lean on my previously acquired knowledge, saving time on further research.
Maximise Efforts by Recycling Your Knowledge
So you spent 10 hours churning out an assignment for your communications class. Why not add an additional hour to edit key facts into a blog or a guest post or a magazine article as part of your portfolio? While it’s unethical to republish articles without prior permission from the publishers involved, nothing stops you from repackaging information. In fact, that’s a survival skill necessary in the field of communications!
Tweet and Blog on the Go!
Do you commute to uni via public transport? Could you read a PR article and retweet it with a comment in under 5 minutes? Waiting for a mate to show up for dinner? How about posting up a YouTube video with a 3 sentence comment on your WordPress app? Not one for writing on your smartphone? How about “liking” tweets or blog posts for later? Building an online presence can be done in under 15 minutes a day!
Secure Paid Work
This is a tough one for most students, and I personally only managed to secure paid work in the last month of my final semester. However, there are paid internships available if you look hard enough, and if you start interning as early as your first year, you might secure a part-time/freelance/casual paid offer before graduation, in order to ditch that 20 hour per week cafe gig.
Maximise Your Internships
Besides course credits and a blurb on your CV, why not strive for a professional portfolio during your internship? While most students spend their internship working on media reports, research and other tasks that can’t be showcased without breaching confidentiality, nothing stops you from volunteering to work on press releases, uploading online listings and creating social media content. Express the desire to build a portfolio in the early stages of your internship and continue to ask for more responsibilities beyond your basic job scope.


Ultimately, ask yourself, do you have a passion for media and/or public relations? If you enjoy something, you are more likely to find time for it!

Why  aim for good grades at University?

A degree never gets anyone a job in PR right? After all it’s all about your portfolio and networks, right? And if you’re currently studying PR, “Ps make degrees,” right? So what’s the point of doing well in a public relations or a media degree?
Career Opportunities
While Ps make degrees, many multinational corporations do prefer candidates with excellent academic results and often request for grades during the online application process. A strong academic background also opens up possibilities for graduate programs and journalism cadetships with larger organisations, which are extremely competitive. Finally, if you are interested in pursuing overseas opportunities, especially in Asia, it is common for hiring managers to request for a copy of your university transcript during the recruitment process.
Further Studies
While you enjoy public relations or media as an undergrad, will you feel the same in a few years? What if the job market is terrible during your 3rd year at university? Having good grades mean that options such as honours year or graduate school will be available to you. If your grades are amazing, you might even score a scholarship and graduate school does open up additional opportunities such as as academia or teaching media courses at TAFE.
On the other hand, if you decide that being a public relations, communications or media practitioner is the right career path for you, an MBA might provide a career advancement in 5-15 years, so don’t let unsatisfactory grades affect future possibilities.
Job References
As a fresh graduate with limited work experiences, your lecturers could potentially be one of your references. Who do you think will receive a stronger reference from their lecturer, a distinction average student or a credit average student?
Boasting rights on CV and Job Interviews
While it’s only a single line, graduating with distinction or honours is a great way to position yourself as a top student, implying strong understanding of core communication theories. Awards and honours such as getting on the Dean’s list, being a member of the Golden Key or winning a scholarship could also set you apart from the sea of applicants.
While juggling uni, finances, life and building a portfolio is a challenging task, it can also be heaps of fun and potentially one of the most rewarding journeys in your lifetime.
Jeszlene Zhou is a recent Media and Communications graduate from Deakin University. She has been admitted to the 2014 Master of Strategic Public Relations class at University of Sydney and is currently freelancing as a digital communications practitioner. Feel free to tweet her, check out her portfolio, or visit her blog, FirstCommsJob, for more tips on how to jump start your communications career!

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