Career Path: How I Got a Job in Public Relations

public relationsIn 1998, I was one of many eager college graduates who proudly marched across the stage with a bachelor's degree in my hand and lofty career ambitions in my head. At that time, there wasn't a major in public relations so I ended up with a degree in communications. Nevertheless, I stayed focused on my goal of using my college degree to jump start my career.

Prior to graduation, my college advisors encouraged me to gain as much real life experience as I most possibly could. They recommended working at a news studio or radio station, but I decided to pursue a newspaper internship instead.

Looking back, I can honestly say the internship was one of the best career decisions I could have made and helped jump start my career path. As an interning news reporter, I wrote obituaries, covered court trials, generated my own story ideas, worked with my editors and had to learn how to write on tight deadlines – all of which are very valuable skills for PR professionals.

After completing my newspaper internship, I did another internship at my college relations office where I clipped newspapers, wrote press releases and had the rare opportunity to write the commencement speech for my own graduation.

Shortly after graduating, I ventured out into the workforce on the search for an entry-level job in communications. My first stint was working as a marketing associate at an integrated marketing firm, where I wrote copy for direct marketing collateral and proofread ad copy. While this was not how I envisioned starting out my career, I remained positive and tried to learn as much as possible. After a year in marketing, I realized that I wanted to aggressively pursue a career in public relations and would need to make another career move.

With limited options and virtually no PR agencies in Virginia Beach, I had to really think hard about my skill sets. Why did I want a career in public relations? How could I become successful? And, more importantly, where did I see myself in the next 5-10 years?

Furthermore, I had to be surrounded by PR professionals who had deep industry knowledge and expertise. I had two choices. I could either move to California or New York. I decided to move to New York, researched and identified headhunter agencies that specifically placed candidates looking for careers in public relations and with my internship portfolio in tow started making my interview rounds.

For each interview, I tried to extrapolate something I learned in college. Eventually, I started to change my perspective on the whole interviewing process. I thought to myself, "This is a self- branding campaign". My first step was to rearrange my portfolio. Instead of presenting it in chronological order, I presented it by accomplishments that correlated to the requirements for the position.

During my presentation, I would consistently provide specific examples of why I was the perfect candidate for the job and how I was different. Because I wanted to jump start my career, I also provided examples of why I should be considered one step above entry level. Following each interview, I sent personalized, notes that reinforced my skills but also further differentiated me from other applicants.

One particular follow up note featured a fire-breathing dragon that simply read, "I enjoyed meeting you and hope you will seriously consider hiring me. After all, I have a fire in my belly."

Within a few weeks, I landed my first dream job in public relations and was able to start one level beyond the original position for which I had interviewed. Two months later, at a company meeting, the PR agency's CEO mentioned that he was looking for PR professionals who had fires in their bellies!

For graduates planning to enter the exciting world of PR, my best piece of advice would be to view yourself as the final marketing exam in college.

Be Different

Create a unique selling proposition (USP) and make sure that every aspect of your interview is centered on it.

Develop Your Own Brand

Before developing your portfolio and hitting the interview circuit, take the time to develop your own PR campaign. What is your objective? How do you want the world to see you? Why are you different and what does it take for you to break away from other graduates vying for the same positions?

Keep It Personal

The next step is to take a targeted, personalized approach in your interview process. Don't just assume that you can send out a bunch of cover letters and resumes, and your phone will start ringing off the hook with job offers. Do your homework to identify the right PR firms for your skills, and make sure to follow up on every single interview.

As I look back on my career, there's no doubt that my college degree gave me both the skills and confidence to land my first job.

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Amelia Roberts

I recently graduated with a B.A. in Communications. I am seeking a sense of direction, in terms of relocating to either, California, or Atlanta Georgia... I have presently resided in New York, for the past thirty years. At the age of 52, I am not sure if I am employable, and considering the fact that I have Lupus. The disease is being controlled by medication, and prayer; and I have been able to successfully complete my studies.

Where do I begin laying a foundation for the longterm, and in what field... I have two areas of interest, Media, and Real Estate.

Please Advise!

February 23 2010 at 3:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thank you, Spencer. Thank you for getting it! Imagine this:
If we can't sell ourselves on ourselves, how can expect anyone else to hire us? This is going to be hard to swallow
(as was once the birth control pill), but "internal and external" disaster almost always begins with a person’s philosophy of doing less--and wanting more." To bring ourselves UP we have to bring UP our society, community, our country, and each other. As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a “prosperity of kindness and decency.” Listen please, Spencer, my two daughters and son-in-law help me almost every month to make it. Do you know how humbling that is? I'm a 100% American of Mexican descent, and my Mexican dad (who by the way denounced his Mexican citizenship and became a proud American) told me this: "When a dad gives to his child, they both laugh; but when a child gives to his dad, they both cry! Yet, even I who can barely pay my rent and bills can be hopeful, grateful, and yes, optimistic. I say let's go for it!

February 02 2010 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow! With all due respect, I wouldn't hire YOU either! Your attitude and knowledge of conformity and non-conformity needs an update: We all ultimately conform! Yet, I truly understand your attitude and empathize deeply and sincerely. I wish you the very best and hope you land on a star if not the moon. You write brilliantly and thoughtfully and with great heart and exuberance. Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thought on the unthinking. You do that "nicely." We all know by now successful people do what they "must," while "others" do what they "want." I say do what you must to get the job you seek, then once you prove your worth and value--be the person you wish to "unfold" (not mold) your creations. This is especially true in our public school system where the purpose of an education is to replace an empty mind with an “open one,” and our teachers are not reformers but transformers and
awakeners...and the new name for homework is Progressive Assignments. See, even us with positive attitudes who can
put on a smile can be creative, innovative, even rebel,
oddball, non-conformist thinkers...once we get in!

February 02 2010 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow! I can so relate to you. I feel the same way, I haven't worked in 2 years because of our bad economy. I feel the same way you do. And you're absolutely right! negative additudes won't get you nowhere! I'm glad you're feeling more upbeat, 'cause that means that I can feel upbeat too! Let's keep on striving...

February 02 2010 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good advice, I myself am a communication arts major.

February 02 2010 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really know nothing about public relations but like many others I am out of work and stressed over how I am going to take care of my family. I am a single mom with 4 kids and have fallen into a depression slump! I do have to say though after reading "Ricks comment" I am feeling more upbeat and positive and will keep striving with a positive attitude! After all the negative gets me no where!!! Thanks Rick! God Bless!

February 02 2010 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I saw nothing original in this whatsoever. Just more catch phrases and platitudes selling false hope.

February 02 2010 at 1:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thats not nice Cooper! Anyway, Im a single mom with a BS in nursing - lots of job security right? I have a good hospital job that pays well but with long shifts that keep me out until 8:oo at night. My 12 yo daughter is home a lot by herself. Starting to do some "attention seeking". Looking for something that will get me home closer to 5 at night and have a comparable salary. Any suggestions?

February 02 2010 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Lisa's comment

I know - that wasn't very nice, was it? Sorry. Anyway, have you looked into working at a VA hospital or other government facility? I suppose in your field there will always be the risk of shift work, but other than those options I'd say your best bet is to network like crazy and find a doctor's office to work in. I've got a daughter nearly 12 and you definitely need to be with her as much as possible when she's not in school!

February 02 2010 at 7:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know how you feel. Your trading time for money,Right?? well,I found something that will allow me to retire early.( Im sick of working for corporate america and loosing my 401K money etc. etc.) This business I'm speaking of is an unfranchised business and it's not MLM(multi-level marketing) scam of any sort. I would like you to take a look at this business through a webinar .you'll be in " listen mode only" and can ask all the questions you want after the webinar. We only present these, for the most part, week nights at about 9pm EST. please let me know if you would look at this. Good Luck Debbie Send me an email back and make arrangements for you to listen .oh you'll need a computer to view it correctly

March 03 2010 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What is

February 02 2010 at 1:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

AH, now I understand why ad copy has so many grammatical and spelling errors. . . They hire PR majors - generally the students who either cannot make it in the "harder" majors, or the people who are just in college to party for four years.

February 02 2010 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Mike's comment
Fed Up

Do you know anything about PR and the studies associated with PR? Pull your head out of your ass before you start judging PR majors and how they stack up against the "harder majors." We aren't all event planners, party crashers and name droppers. PR is not what it is often portrayed to be. We work hard, we must be strong writers, forward thinkers, and quite intuitive.

Party for 4 years? I don't think so. More like up all night researching trends in communications and technology. Try long weekends honing skills in graphic design. While we are talking about hard work, try finding a true PR professional that puts in less than 60 hours a week. Sure, there are those PR "professionals" that suck up to red carpets and are desperate to be on every VIP list in town, but they are a disgrace to the industry. Real PR pros are anything but glam.

Want to judge? Fine, go ahead. Just do your research first so you don't sound like such an a-hole.

February 02 2010 at 5:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hm. Must've hit a nerve. Let's see. . . Required Core Courses for a typical PR B.A. program are:
JOU 3101* Reporting
MMC 4200 Law of Mass Communication
PUR 3000* Principles of Public Relations
PUR 3500* Public Relations Research
PUR 3801 Public Relations Strategy
PUR 4800 Public Relations Campaigns
PUR 4100* Public Relations Writing
PUR 4103 Public Relations Visual Communications
STA 2023 Intro to Statistics I
for a total of 27 credit hours. (4 of these core classes only require a C or better.) The other 100 hours required for the degree program is electives. Doesn't sound all that challenging.

February 02 2010 at 5:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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