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PR grads: Congrats. Now get real.

with 5 comments

Welcome to graduation season. A time for family gatherings, cards holding checks with multiple zeroes and the obligatory advice to the graduating young adult blog posts.

Like so many other bright-eyed young students, I graduated this past Saturday, with my M.A. in organizational communication. I was a rarity in my department—a working professional with several years of experience in the field, as opposed to students who had moved directly from undergrad to grad work. As I listened to commencement speakers talking about the value of a communications degree, I kept wondering to myself, are these kids really prepared for the working world? No one ever told me that you’re supposed to learn how to actually DO something in college, develop a skill set that could help me support myself.

Public relations jobs are out there, but not always easy to come by in this market. And there are plenty of great tips and advice out there for graduates to learn how to land a job and succeed early in their careers. In the spirit of the season, I’m also contributing my insight, not about how to get a job in PR, but how to survive in it, with some tidbits that your professors probably never told you.

  • Get used to explaining what you do to friends and family, over and over again.
  • Accept that you don’t know jack about PR. No matter how many internships or “real world” classes you’ve taken, what the field actually entails won’t sink in till you’ve spent a few years in the trenches. There’s always more to learn.
  • Understand that “flashy” industry jobs (sports, fashion, entertainment, etc.) are the hardest to come by. If you want to emulate Samantha from Sex and the City, you can, but be prepared for it to (1) take years or (2) not work out exactly as you planned.
  • Agency experience is worth its weight in gold. Get some under your belt. It shows you can deal with crazy deadlines, demanding workloads and multiple clients. Plus, there’s no better way to learn a whole lot, quickly.
  • Keep in touch with everyone. Even that awkward kid on your floor from freshman year of college. Actually, ESPECIALLY that kid. Technology makes it easy, so there’s no excuse.
  • Want to make real money? Move to New York City. Now.
  • Your attitude is more important than your appearance. You could be in ripped jeans and a t-shirt, but make make damn sure you’re wearing a smile, every single day. PR is about being a company cheerleader, so act like one.
  • Maintain your hobbies and interests. It makes it a heck of lot easier when breaking the ice with clients and the media. Being an actual, living, breathing human being makes you likable, rather than a desperate flack.
  • Keep writing. And I don’t mean just for work, but personal pursuits as well. Get a Moleskin and keep it with you at all times. If you think this is ridiculous, start googling a new degree program, cause this isn’t the field for you.

So congratulations grads, welcome to the real world! Now get to work. And here’s a shout to some of the most eligible up-and-coming young professionals in the industry, featured on #HAPPO—you should think about hiring them.

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Written by melissa

May 16, 2010 at 8:31 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Great advice and I’m not even in PR! I loved the keep writing part too, Moleskin’s are probably one of my favorite things in the world. Congrats on your graduating as well!! I hope you made it through the weekend in one piece 🙂

    Nunzio Bruno

    May 17, 2010 at 6:07 am

    • I survived, sir! I think the key with this advice that applies to all industries is to be realistic and take positive steps towards getting what you want.

      melissa

      May 17, 2010 at 11:59 am

  2. Agreed about that agency experience. Developed a few stress-related eye twitches, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. No better way to learn.

    Karen Robison

    May 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

    • Definitely! I tell that to folks even outside of PR- anyone who wants to get into marketing should probably dive into the agency side first. You learn the true meaning of the word “busy.”

      melissa

      May 17, 2010 at 12:01 pm

  3. […] ROI made me nostalgic. For the past six months, I’ve been immersed in my (finally completed) master’s thesis, AKA the bane of my existence, which focused on measurement in an area equally as intangible […]


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