As wise as Focault, Shakespeare, and Durkheim all are, studying their work does not equal a career path. I’ve spent five years completing my degree at SFU, and as much as I loved it and as incredibly worthwhile as it is, there is only so far a BA can take you. Yes, you gain critical thinking skills that are incredibly important, but these skills need to be paired with work or life experience for you to be considered a more enticing hire. That, my friends, is the beauty of a practicum.
I recently completed the SFU PR Certificate program, which pairs six weeks of class work taught by industry professionals, with a three-week practicum. After spending a few weeks at Elettra Communications, I can assure you that my practicum experience was a very worthwhile for the following reasons.
1. A Chance to Get Your Feet Wet
Are you absolutely sure where your career is going to go? Do you know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life? I can tell you that I do not, and having a practicum at a PR agency is a great way to figure out what you excel at, what you need to work on, and what you might like to do in the future. This is a chance to completely soak in the culture of the organization, to meet some new people in the industry, and to really get an insider perspective on what this career path might look like.
In this case, the practicum for the course is only three weeks, and whether you like the job or not, it’s something that does not force you to stay anywhere because there is an automatic expiry. You have an out. It’s like taking a career on a test drive. You don’t have to commit if you don’t want to.
2. Apply and Gain Skills
After six weeks in class learning from professionals that are in the PR field, it was really fantastic to learn skills that I will actually use. The specificity of the program is great because it gives you a clear idea of what skills you need to succeed in the industry. Not only do you learn relevant skills, but also after six weeks you can apply them in a real life setting. I found that a lot of the exercises that we learned in the PR program were directly applicable in my practicum. I must say, it’s nice to have direct skills rather than just transferable ones. It is also a great way to practice these newly honed skills for real projects, rather than ones that are just for class.
Of course, after six weeks no one is a PR expert, and the practicum is a great way to learn new skills too. In my practicum placement I was constantly learning, from working with Wordpress, writing recaps, and doing research for clients.
3. Opportunity to Shine
Your practicum is what you make of your practicum. Yes, your supervisor will assign you tasks, but you also have the opportunity to find ways to go above and beyond those.
For instance, in my first couple days of my practicum I was running low on things to do on my “to-do list”. But, my supervisors gave the team a brief overview on an upcoming project and let us know that there would be a brainstorm for ideas later on that day. Even though this was not “assigned”, I took advantage of my extra time and did a mini brainstorm on my own. I essentially prepared a little pitch for my idea, anticipated problems and prepared answers for those problems. When I presented this to my supervisors at the brainstorm that day, they invited me to not only be part of the project but they also asked me if I would like to be hired on after my practicum to complete the campaign!
Instead of waiting to be assigned a task, take the initiative and work to help the team!
If you are interested in an industry and you’re looking for a way to get your foot in the door, doing a practicum is a great way to go about it. Not only would it act as a nice balance to your lovely academic mind, but you will get to test drive a career, learn some skills and potentially get a lot of awesome opportunities to do well.
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Check out Natalie's Co-op Series, working for Allied Technologies!