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From Class to Clients: Grad School Lessons for PR

When I began working at Stratacomm as an intern in August 2016, I also began my journey in pursuing my master’s degree from George Washington University. Now almost two years later, I am an assistant account executive and completing my master’s in strategic public relations. Communications is not a field that necessarily requires an advanced degree, but I found more than a few ways furthering my education is beneficial to my day-to-day work.

Time Management

At school: Working from 9 to 5 everyday and going to class at least two nights a week in the evening is not for the disorganized or easily distracted. I quickly learned how to manage and balance my time to ensure my work tasks, school projects, self-care routine and some semblance of social outings could be present in my life. While certain areas faltered at times, I found a way to strike a balance, learn how valuable time is and how to make the best use of it.

At work: Time management is useful in every aspect of life but learning this lesson early on strengthened my work in the agency environment. On an average day I can touch anywhere from three to five clients and without time management skills, I would not be successful. Much like how I managed my time between school and work over the past two years, it is important to find a balance between clients and projects at work.

Collaborative Work

At school: When there is a grade on the line in school, group projects are despised by all. However, working collaboratively in groups is essential to success in just about any field, especially public relations. Throughout my time at GW, I learned the necessity behind being able to work with different personalities, work styles and perspectives. From presentations to papers, I found out the benefits of working with others, as well as the challenges.

At work: These lessons in grad school group work directly carry over to our work on client accounts at Stratacomm. There is no one person responsible for every client need. Instead, we work in varied teams that provide different perspectives, strengths and ideas to make our work for the client the best product possible. I was also able to address the challenge of finding my place on each client team. Teamwork is a key value to Stratacomm’s company culture and my group experiences in grad school complimented my ability to work on a team here at the firm.

Writing

At school: While time management and collaboration are “soft” skills needed in the communications field, writing is a “hard” skill that is necessary for success. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but my time in graduate school showed me ways I could improve and refine my writing that undoubtedly are serving me in my work. The curriculum of the Strategic Public Relations program at GW provided the practical experiences of writing for different audiences, mediums and purposes that armed me with the toolbox necessary for public relations, rather than the highly academic form of writing often seen in graduate level coursework.

At work: I write every day on the job at Stratacomm. From emails to pitches, there is always a form of written communication that needs to be completed for a client or the firm. Graduate courses like advanced writing or digital communication aided and improved my day-to-day writing. Learning how to tailor communication for digital platforms enhanced my social media posts for the firm. Being taught that every word should have a job and “carry its own weight” gave me a new perspective on how to write both concisely and creatively in memos or research documents. The benefits of the practical coursework in my program are obvious to me whenever I tackle any form of writing.

Having the ability to work while completing my graduate degree was an invaluable experience. It may have been tough at times, but I was able to put the skills I learned in class to practice at the office and vice versa. I found it extremely rewarding and beneficial to the beginning of my career here at Stratacomm to pursue a graduate degree, especially since the firm was so supportive of my journey. There’s a lot to learn through higher education and those lessons can easily complement your career if you find the right program.

Amber Garnett is an assistant account executive in Stratacomm’s Washington, D.C. office. She works on a variety of clients, including those in the infrastructure and transportation sectors. Are you a recent PR or communications grad? Don’t miss “You’re Hired! Now What? Four Tips to Succeed in Your First Year in PR.”