I was part of an interesting discussion in our Student PR Group meeting this past week. The group, comprised of PRSSA and IABC student members, discussed skills needed to get and keep good jobs. Some who were present graduate in December. Others graduate in May 2008 or later. All seemed bewildered by getting a job.
I can’t blame them. Been there, done that. In fact, before joining the Mass Comm department at Towson in 2004, I did that for 30-plus years.
As an instructor, I constantly draw from my real-world experience as a paycheck-earning practitioner to make lessons come alive for students. In fact, every “scholarly” point I make is usually punctuated with a from-the-trenches bridge like, “Now, what this means when you are on the job is….” or, “This is why this is important on the job…”, or “This is how you use this on the job…” or something like that. Students seem to appreciate the practitioner’s perspective in putting lessons into context that has meaning.
What I know and I hope my students will understand and embrace is the fact that their employability begins in the classroom. They learn the basic craft and management skills here with my instructor colleagues and me. But the truth is, their college degree is but an entry fee for the job market.
Students seem most troubled about how to get their first job. First and foremost, to get any job, whether it be entry, middle, or senior level, I stress the value of professional association membership. If you have read any of More With Les, then you know my passion for this involvement.
It seems that most students fear making the wrong choice in a first job. Heck, having any choice is great! You will have to choose among what options you have at any given time. Harsh as it might sound, you may have few options. Your options are a result of your credentials, experience, and ability, the availability of jobs in the market you select, how you market yourself before and during an interview, and the effort you put into the job search to get interviews. Getting a good job is like sales — it is activity driven. The more leads you track down, the greater your options.
My usual job search advice is to first decide what type of communication/PR practice you wish to pursue, such as corporate, agency, nonprofit, or government. Do you wish to be a specialist or a generalist? Heavy PR, marketing, advertising, or a combination?
Second, decide where you wish to practice. Fact is, some markets are good for our profession and some are not. What is your life style, city or suburb or rural? Fast-paced or slower? North, south, east or west? A good market has to have the quantity and quality of career options for you. The size and health of the local IABC or PRSA chapter is a good indicator.
Third, get busy joining IABC and/or PRSA and start volunteering and networking. Get to know people. Let them know you and that you are available. All the while, be as professional as you can be in dress, thought, word, and deed. Follow up leads. Be proactive and persistent. Market yourself with diligence and dignity.
Some resources to aid you in your job search:
- Ned’s Job of the Week, a free email networking newsletter for professional communicators. To subscribe, send a blank email to JOTWfirstname.lastname@example.org
- For your spirit, read Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow, by Marsha Sinetar.