All those summer jobs? They'll help you in PR

By Sara Cullin, APR

The birds are chirping. The Reds are warming up. It’s spring in Cincinnati. Some public relations students have their summer internships lined up, but I’m here to tell the others not to worry.

Sara Cullin is a copywriter and social media    specialist for the Hubert Co.

Sara Cullin is a copywriter and social media specialist for the Hubert Co.

Go for an internship again in the fall. In the meantime, you can make the most of any summer work experience to shape your future career. Take it from Fred Cook, the “unlikely CEO” of global PR firm Golin. His book, “Improvise: Unconventional Career Advise from an Unlikely CEO,” reads like a memoir of global adventures. His hilarious story shaped the professional he ultimately became through a series of jobs that were sometimes strange and did not always end well.

It certainly got me thinking about my own experience in new ways. While not quite as interesting, my prior experience—especially all those things I leave off my resume—have helped mold me. Here are a few examples.

The fruits of labor

My first taxable income came from a grocery store where I pushed carts in from the parking lot and bagged groceries. It was in this spectacularly unglamorous setting I learned how following the rules and being on time can be the ticket to working your way up in some organizations. As a cashier, I learned to grow a thick skin, which I’ve needed for every job since. And as a bonus, to this day when I see a banana I think, “4011.”

May I take your order?

Asking questions is essential to understanding what is expected from you, but it also helps you grow for future experiences. Learn from your customers as well as your co-workers. If you don’t fully understand a process, ask why. By the way, I have worked in at least a half-dozen eateries, but my favorite serves chili and rhymes with byline. Ask me about it sometime.

How to press buttons

Speaking of asking questions, at some point during high school I was lucky enough to find a job in a marketing research call center. This experience was valuable in learning how to frame a survey, but more importantly I think it pushed me outside my comfort zone. Cold calling Iowans at dinner time to ask about their recent deodorant purchase will do that. You learn to adapt your script and your tone for the audience.

Getting your hands dirty

Working hard and completing a job the way it’s expected will pay off.

Possibly the best summer was the one I spent outside, toiling away on a university golf course. With no prior experience I surprised everyone and learned how to operate all the mowers that summer. I fully intended to learn golf as well, but I never took advantage of the cheap green fees. Again, I worked my way up, from weeding to mowing the greens, by proving myself worthy of the responsibility.

Sometimes plans don’t go the way we want, but they always put us in the direction we should be going. What will your next chapter be about?