That frustrating question… How do I get experience while still at university?!

Written by Emma Maciaszek, 2018 PRINZ Student Ambassador, University of Canterbury

Photo: PRINZ Christchurch event - 'Crème de la crème from World PR Forum and PRINZ Annual Conference'

One of the fantastic things about the Media & Communications industry is the opportunities and different directions that it offers for our careers. Whilst our degrees can take us down so many different paths, it can often be extremely overwhelming to know exactly which path to take.

If your university experience was anything like mine, you would have had the opportunity to learn about many aspects of Public Relations and Communications. Ranging from media audiences to communication ethics, independent media and research skills, I was lucky enough to venture into every corner of the industry and gain knowledge and perspectives that I didn't even know were possible.

Despite having such an in-depth education and being inspired daily, I still found myself in the same struggle that all university students know too well; the vicious cycle of applying for jobs that require 'at least one or more year of experience in the industry’. But how are we supposed to gain this experience while still being at university? It was a question that puzzled all of us.

As 2018 began, I found myself starting my 5th year of university and was enrolled in finishing my Master of Strategic Communication degree. I was not only excited to learn more but also relieved that I still had another year to figure out the industry and how I could gain that experience while still studying!

In March, things began to fall into place, and I realised that the only way I was going to gain any kind of experience or insight into the industry was if I just put myself out there. I quit my retail job of 4 years and began applying for any and every part-time industry job that related to communication in some way. In this time, I also applied for the PRINZ student ambassador role, not thinking that any of it would actually work out.

Another month down the track, I was surprised and excited to find myself in a new Marketing Coordinator role for a large South Island Company, on the PRINZ Southern Division Committee as a Student Ambassador and helping a smaller company out with their social media channels. All alongside my coursework and thesis for my Master’s Degree.

Whilst being extremely busy, my favourite part of the year was being a part of the PRINZ Southern Division Committee. Despite being a small committee, I have been able to meet and network with many individuals in entirely different sectors of the industry.

We have held a few events already this year. The events that I have attended so far put me completely out of my comfort zone as I didn’t know anyone! However, they were extremely beneficial in helping me to meet other professionals and learn about their experiences. The event I enjoyed the most was held on 4 th July and called 'Crème de la crème from World PR Forum and PRINZ Annual Conference'. This involved a panel of speakers who all attended the PRINZ annual conference earlier in the year. They passed on their highlights of the event, and important points that they took away from it. This was great for people who couldn't attend the conference as we still got to understand a bit of what it was about and learn some top tips about Public Relations!

Despite being thrown into the deep end and having a full-on year, I would not change one thing. Through my experiences of the industry this far, I have been able to meet so many influential people, and further gain great insight into what the industry can actually offer. Whilst it takes a lot of time and effort to keep up with them all, I have been able to set myself up to confidently step further into the industry next year.

The best advice I can give to someone in a similar position to me is to just go for it. Apply for that job, or the committee position, and take on any small or large media jobs that are offered to you! It is honestly all beneficial in the end. Before you know it, you will be finishing your degree and somehow have managed to complete a year or two of part-time work in the industry. And the most important part is, you will have answered that frustrating question… how do I get experience while still at University?!