Gain industry experience while in school

One of the special sessions that I attended was the Student-Run Firm Workshop. For those of you who aren’t aware, we have our own student-run firm, Heelprint Communications. Heelprint was started in 2009 by members of Carolina PRSSA and the UNC Ad Club.We are a strategic communications agency that handles everything from traditional public relations and social media to research and branding. I was one of the original co-founders for Heelprint, and currently serve as their Chief Executive Officer.

Our agency runs a little differently than a lot of the other firms, but I still learned a lot of great information from the panel. I won’t go into the logistics of running a firm (you can talk to me about that later if you’re interested), but I did learn a few things about the benefits students get from being a part of a firm.

First, treat you work with Heelprint as INDUSTRY experience, not an internship. You have a lot more autonomy in a firm than in an internship, so make sure you highlight that. If you’re one of our Junior Associates, you still have a supervising director over you, but you have a lot more say in what projects or campaigns we take on for our clients, and how we execute them. You get to experience the whole process – research, planning, execution and evaluation. When applying for jobs or internships, make sure you highlight your work with Heelprint – take credit for what you did and emphasize how much you contributed to the campaign.

Also, make sure you emphasize TEAMWORK. We have a total staff of 38 students who all work together on a daily basis to get work done for our clients. Most of our specialty teams (public relations, design and copy, and marketing) have around six to eight students working under a specialty director. Together, you have to come up with tangible materials for clients to use in their campaign. In addition, our specialty teams often work together to make sure the campaign is strategic and integrated. Potential employers want to see that you are able to work with others effectively, so show off what you’ve done.

Use your experience with Heelprint to NETWORK. Not only should you look to other students on staff for mentorship in support, but you can also use your position to make a name for yourself in the community. We are lucky in that we have so many professionals in the Chapel Hill-Durham area. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them. For younger students, take advantage of our older staffers. They’ve all been through this before and are more than willing to help you as you learn the ins and outs of strategic communications.

If you’re not involved with Heelprint already, I encourage you to e-mail me our check out our website. We’ve already accepted new associates for the fall semester, but we may be looking to hire again in January. Let me know if you have any questions!

Amy Dobrzynski, Vice President

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