From the classroom to the office

Rebecca Isbister | February 25, 2019

I still vividly remember the excitement and nervous energy as a recent graduate in public relations. Looking back on my first year as a communications professional, I want to ‘spill the tea’ on what it’s like to head into the “real world”.

In times like these, you need to start job searching NOW. Yes, that means while you’re knee-deep in assignments; you need to be job hunting.

So how do you do both? Below are ways I prepared as I was finishing up school and beginning my career.


Have a plan


We all have 24 hours of time a day. It’s how you use that time that makes a big difference.

Track your time with an agenda. What has to be done today, tomorrow, next week? By keeping your time organized, you will be focused focus, reduce stress and likely get more done.

I use both a paper book and a note on my phone to keep my life in order. For the relevant date, I will write out the task, how long I am allocating for that task and other relevant information. Here’s my real example:

Saturday February 8

Job Hunt – 1 hour

-Check websites such as Indeed for job listings and save relevant postings.

 Update resume – 1/2 hour


Look inwards


Here’s some tough love: when you’re starting the process looking for that internship or job, at the very least, you need to know what you bring to the table and what gets you out of bed every morning. Having perspective on these below questions in place, will initially take some time, but save you much more in the future when you’ve thought through these questions:

  • What am I interested in? *Develop a clear idea not just about the type of company, but actual work environment you thrive in.
  • Where do I want to take my career? Think of the 5-year plan. What do I want to be doing in 5 years? What do I need to get there? *You don’t need to have every little detail figured out, but when you’re building your foundation, it will help to know where and how you can position yourself in the future. This is why having the above answered is so important. No matter where you complete your first internship or job, this is place you are laying the foundation of your career.
  • How do I work? Knowing not only how you manage your time and tasks (see above) but how you work with others or alone, are important – you will spend 40 hours a week at work.
  • What skills do I have? While you’re in class, you are developing a plethora of skills. All those assignments you had? You had a double win – your writing and planning skills got a big boost.
  • Which do I need [for that posting]? How can I go about learning that?


Channel nervous energy


You might be reading this and freaking out. I would tell you to stop, but I know that would never happen. You are a human and all your feelings matter. So what do I recommend?

  • Take time to relax and reset. You have everything written in your agenda, you’ve thought through who you are, but for any reason, you’re not on you’re A game. Which is perfectly OK. We all have days where things don’t go right. When that happens, take time to yourself and recharge your batteries. There is always tomorrow –after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Work through what you feel – Talk to someone you trust. Often, the people around us, have great insight and a different perspective that can help you.
  • Channel your anxiety into productivity – I work through mine by setting a goal of what I want to and can get done, in a certain time frame. After I’ve completed that job search and written that paper, I feel phenomenal.


Practice makes perfection


Cliché, yes. But true. Among other things, career planning and preparing, are a lifelong process. Even one year into a communications career, I’m repeating and refining the above as my skills develop and interests shift.

The interview is your time to shine. As soon as or even during, you work through the above – start interview preparing. Again, here is some tough love. You NEED to walk into that interview feeling confident – be in it to win it.

  • Think through and write out answers to common interview questions. This will prepare you to answer questions, in your own words AND confidently, during the actual interview.
  • Know your “why” and PRACTICE – what is motivating you to apply for a position at this company? Say it a 1000 times. I’m serious. By engraining this into your head, you will say it naturally at the interview. As well as when you’re starting that new position – people will ask you what brought you to company X.
  • Review articles with interview tips, such as these tips that will prepare you. I know I did when I was in your shoes.

Starting your career can be daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. It is through my time at MacEwan, involvement with IABC and these tips that I’ve work through over my life that have helped me. If you have any questions, or comments, let’s chat. 

Written by: Rebecca Isbister - Director, Student Development – Contact her any time at isbisterrebecca@gmail.com

Rebecca currently works at the Government of Alberta and has experience across government, not-for-profit and legal industries. She is an alumni of the MacEwan Public Relations program.

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