There’s always been a Catch 22 situation when it comes to getting your foot on the first rung of the career ladder: can’t get a job without experience, can’t get experience without a job. Public Relations is no exception to many professions but what makes the situation even harder, quite apart from the fact that future PR talent now faces an almost insurmountable hurdle of undergraduate debt, is competition. Public Relations is one of the top three career choices for today’s graduates.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, whether you’re a fresh-out-of-school-or-uni graduate or even a junior PR wanting to advance your career, there ARE ways you can raise your profile, get ahead of the competition and generally make your first foothold a lot less slippery. Here are our top 5 tips for PR career success:
Do an internship: We can’t emphasise enough how important acquiring on-the-job training and work experience is for a wannabe PR, easily the best way to make you more attractive to prospective employers. Not only will it give you a practical understanding of PR (not just theory) in terms of day-to-day duties, but it will also help you decide what sector you are most suited to. Whilst most internships are offered on a voluntary basis, they add value to your CV that money can’t buy. After all, what’s a few weeks in a lifetime of career success?
Social media: With today’s proliferation of digital communication channels, be it Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or blogs, being able to walk the talk is a must when it comes to social media. How an organisation manages its online reputation is at least as important as its offline media profile, so having a good understanding of how it works is vital for any prospective PR. Even if you don’t have your own blog or website, you should at least have an understanding of its wider PR implications.
Nose for news: Again, this is about having your finger on the pulse, understanding key issues facing today’s employers in whatever sector you are interested about. You should be reading news channels (print, online) relevant to sectors of interest, so if financial PR appeals, then the Financial Times should be your newspaper of choice; for corporate PR, then the Times etc., as well as trade magazines / outlets such as PR Week, Corp Comms, Gorkana, or PR Moment, for example. As a PR, you’ll be expected to have an opinion on today’s current affairs.
Network: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, might be an oversimplification, but it’s still true for PRs at any level. Attending industry events and seminars (online but very importantly, face-to-face, too) will help you accrue valuable insight into a variety of pressing PR issues, raise your profile amongst peers – and prospective employers- and generally keep you in the right place at the right time. And, as ambassadors of best practice, joining trade-relevant organisations such as the CIPR or the PRCA, perhaps attending the events or signing up to training they provide, will also help your career advancement from day one. The CIPR has some good advice and case studies in their ‘Careers in PR section’
The PR wish list: Personality is considered at least as important as your key skills by PR employers. As well as looking for evidence of creativity (ideas create news) and writing skills (you should have a portfolio of written work such as a blog, a school / uni / consumer newspaper article), key traits such as a can-do attitude, being a team player, being passionate about PR and your chosen sector and overall confidence are what employers look for most in junior account executives.