Before I caught my breath to write about a great visit last week to the University of Florida, the UF PRSSA chapter beat me to it. While I would have talked more about the impressive students and faculty I met during my three days in Gainesville, their post pretty much sums up the key points from my two lectures and PRSSA remarks.

Thanks, Will Clewis, for writing this blog post.

From Chicago to Gainesville, Ron Culp, a veteran professional in the PR world, came on April 17 to speak to UF PRSSA members about the state of the industry, how to differentiate yourself from the crowd of resumes and applicants, and the importance of LinkedIn and other social media networks, among other topics. Culp, who is now an educator at DePaul University, shared his story and professional background and answered questions fielded from Twitter, those who attended, and his own students back at DePaul.

He touched on the job market and the growth of opportunities in the industry, including increases in salary for PR positions. While the opportunities are there and the market is competitive, future practitioners beware: being a PR executive is considered to be the fifth most stressful job, as Culp noted. But for those who are still aspiring to pursue a career in PR, he offered three tips on how to land a job in the industry.

First, differentiating yourself is an absolute must in order to stand out in a stack of resumes. To emphasize his point, Culp rolled out a 31-foot list of candidates who applied for an entry-level position at an agency. Out of the thousands of applicants only about 20 to 30 candidates were considered finalists for the position. Joining PRSSA and being active in organizations and clubs were just some of the tips he offered about trying to separate yourself from the crowd.

Then, he emphasized the importance of networking, particularly with fellow students and using social media. Specifically, Culp encouraged the use of LinkedIn and said that it should be at the top of his top 3 business social media platforms, with Twitter and Facebook following close behind. When turning to social media, be sure to follow and engage with professionals and topics that you’re interested in and personalize your invitations on LinkedIn. Networking digitally is great but forming connections in person is even better. He said to try to meet with guest speakers who are invited to classes and those people you encounter at conferences and networking events.

Finally, Culp discussed the need for a solid resume that reflects your volunteering experience, internships, involvement, and skills. He noted that students should actively engage online, write for campus publications and guest posts, post comments and show interest in a variety of topics. So, the next time you’re at a magazine stand, buy the magazine you’d be least interested in reading and go from there.

Some other advice he offered was to not be afraid of asking questions, particularly to your boss, and also mentioned actively engaging with them and asking about their work. Culp said getting to know business and being able to speak about it is important in knowing how to “move the needle” and explain how PR affects the bottom line to executives.

Overall, he said it’s about putting the time in early on in your career, making yourself stand out, and network, network, network. And if you don’t enjoy the jobs you’re doing, it’s best to move on.

Follow Ron on Twitter @culpwrit and read his blog at culpwrit.com.