By Brittni Shull, graduate, University of Oklahoma
It is hard to believe I have been out of college for six months now. I have loved every minute of my post-graduate internship with OGE Energy Corp., but sadly my days are numbered. As of December 31st, I will get the boot along with the encouragement to start my career.
Quite exciting, correct? Everything I learned and worked hard for in college can finally be used in a real world setting! And this time I will be paid to perform the PR tactics I so diligently learned.
I feel like I have such wonderful experience, along with a degree I have internships, extracurriculars and part time jobs. I should be set to get my dream job, right? Well yes, exciting to think and fantasize about.
Actually achieving something with the job search is another story. Have I been searching for a job? You bet, day in and day out. I look online through various corporate websites, job sites, PRSA chapters and more and get lost among all of the postings. I can spend hours and hours just reading job descriptions and making mental notes about where to apply. As many public relations graduates can attest to, itís a tough world out there for young, ambitious PR practitioners.
Agency, Corporate PR Needed Defining
But back up for a minute: How did I stumble into this point in my life? Of course, I had to go to college first. Allow me to reflect on that time for a moment.
The University of Oklahoma loves to boast that the Gaylord College of Journalism is on the rise. I can agree with this statement to an extent, but I would say they still have a long way to go. Most of the professors there are seasoned PR and advertising professionals, which is great. However, I think they need to be harder on the students.
We need to be challenged on a regular basis and pushed toward choosing what type of PR we want to go into. I learned the technical aspects of PR in school -- writing, research, etc... -- but I was very rarely told about the difference between agency, non-profit and corporate PR.
I would encourage students to figure out which PR discipline they like best, and seek internships within that area. Also, connect with professionals and join as many groups as possible on social media channels. I did know about O'Dwyer's while in college, but was rarely challenged to follow the articles on a consistent basis.
'Student' PR Firms Not Enough
The University of Oklahoma started a student-run firm, Lindsey+Asp, while I was a student. I was one of 18 to pioneer our agency and was given endless praise from professors about it. Donít get me wrong, this was a wonderful opportunity and I learned a lot, but it is NOT a substitute for internships.
If your school has a student-run agency, PRSSA chapter, or any other industry related organization, do it all and get internships. One thing will not suffice, and do your best to become a leader in your student groups. Learn your way around social media, its presence in the industry is growing every day. I hope you like coffee, because you will need it to keep up in the PR industry.
So here I am now, out of college with two internships, a Lindsey+Asp leadership role, PRSSA membership and what I thought was a pretty awesome resume under my belt. My ambition has turned into frustration, all thanks to the tough world of entry-level PR.
I have learned a lot about myself while job searching. I am impatient; I want a response the second I apply for a position.
I love to daydream. Every time I explore a job posting, I picture myself taking on that role and living in whichever city it may be in. This probably sets me up to be disappointed about not getting the coveted interview, but, hey, it is fun for about 15 minutes.
Six Interviews Obtained
A hard lesson I am trying to learn is not to take things too personally. You may not get a job because you just arenít suited for that particular job. It does not mean that every job you come across is not for you, just that particular one. I have gone on six job interviews and been told by the interviewer each time that they adore my personality, "I am so young and bright" Ö the list of nice things go on.
Univ. of Oklahoma
However, the same problem is always that another candidate who applied had far more experience than me or knew the hiring manager previously. I encourage other young PR job seekers to keep in contact with those who rejected you in the interview process.
If they tell you they liked you, they did. Typically they will be more than willing to help you find another position to apply for or at least critique your interview skills if you simply ask. Job searching is a lot like dating. You may meet someone that seems great on paper, but once you get together the chemistry just isnít there. Donít worry, you can still be friends. I am trying to not always take myself so seriously.
Take PR Pros to Lunch
A fun lesson I am learning is networking. It seemed scary to me, at first. It is intimidating to talk to PR professionals when you feel so young and irrelevant to them, but that is not the case. There are always a lot of young people (your competition) at PRSA luncheons sweating at the thought of getting a professionalís business card.
If you meet a professional at a luncheon or networking event, find their e-mail address or phone number and contact them directly. Ask if you can buy them lunch or coffee so you can discuss the PR industry with them and I guarantee they will be in -- everyone enjoys free libations and the opportunity to talk about themselves.
I have even set up a coffee outing with a local publicist via tweets. This is a great way to get one-on-one face time with players in the industry, and chances are they will not forget the initiative you took to meet them.
I learned so much in a one-and-a-half hour lunch with a local PR professional than I ever could have imagined. He informed me that he enjoys meeting young PR people who need help finding that first job because someone did it for him, and he needs to pay it forward. Of course! All of these people were once in our shoes as well, and they understand the need for a mentor.
Join Civic Groups
So, as I spend my time getting lost job searching I experience a lot of emotions: frustration, anger, impatience, confusion and fear.
The one thing I have to hold onto in order to keep my sanity is the daydreams. Without them, I am afraid my negative feelings would take over.
So, my advice to people searching for PR jobs is to seek counsel for job searching wherever you can find it and try to connect with as many professionals as possible. No volunteering opportunity, informational interview request or society to join is beneath you.
Donít forget to daydream. When used sparingly, it can lighten your mood and take you away from the reality of the tough time starting your career.
* * *
Brittni Shull is a May 2010 graduate of the University of Oklahoma's Gaylord College of Journalism.