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Posts Tagged ‘college’

I recently posted an article for my students entitled “The skills employers desire in today’s PR pro.” (http://linkd.in/rFp1fz)

Written by Arik Hanson for Ragan’s PR Daily (Nov. 17), the article is actually a series of short interviews, asking working professionals what skills and attitudes are most valuable to them when they hire new practitioners.  Good writing and storytelling came up frequently, as we would expect; so did a driving curiosity.  Strategic thinking, conceptual thinking, the ability to use metrics and analysis – these all come up as well.  One person mentioned creativity and resourcefulness, and several mentioned the ability to combine the effects of social media and traditional media; I think any of us who have been in the field for any length of time would agree with those thoughts as well.

But in today’s marketplace – and particularly for those looking for a job – I want to add a couple of things: dogged determination and a willingness to go back to Square 1.  I was an entrepreneur for over 25 years, and still work independently for various clients in addition to my teaching duties.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to remind myself of my brother’s very good advice:  “Turn over every stone.”  The willingness to look everywhere and anywhere for the next job or the next client is critical in a down market; the ability to keep going without giving up is both exhausting and necessary.

Couple with that determination has to be a willingness to go back to Square 1, and by that I mean a willingness to start at the beginning – again.  The salary or hourly rate may be lower; the benefits may not be there; you may have to build from scratch all over again, or – if this is your first time out in the work world – you may need to lower your expectations and be willing to accept a less-than-ideal job.  In this market, a job is a job.  Being open and flexible to something that is not what you have hoped for – or indeed, even worked for – will take you farther in the log run than waiting until that perfect job or high-rolling client comes along. I’ve often told my students that if they can’t find an entry-level PR job they should consider something in media sales – selling advertising space and time.  Learning the other side of media and learning to sell are two extremely valuable sets of skills to have for anyone in public communication.  You learn to deal with people; you learn what makes people tick.  You learn the differences between advertising, promotion, marketing and media relations from the inside out.  You’ll never forget any of that training.

Remember that looking for a job while you’re employed – at all!  – is the best way to look for a job.  Your relationships are still there, and you still have the opportunity to build new relationships; you’re not holed up somewhere just wishing.

Last spring I asked a couple of students what they planned to do after graduation.  One said, “Oh, I don’t know.  I haven’t planned, really.  I’m sure something good will come along.”  I cringed.  Good things don’t just happen to us; we have to go out and make them happen.  As I used to say when running my public relations firm in Montana, “No one pays me just for showing up.  Somehow or another, I always have to produce results.”

That’s how it is now for anyone changing careers or just starting out in the work force: no one’s going to pay you for being a great, competent person who is simply out there looking.  You have to turn over every stone; you have to persevere; you have to remain open and flexible; you have to lower your expectations or be willing to start again at Square 1.  You may be really lucky and land something fairly quickly that proves to be a great fit for both you and your employer or client.   But more than likely, you’ll find you need patience, resourcefulness, and a dogged belief in yourself and your future.  The future isn’t what it used to be; but it’s there.

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Nearly a month of celebrations: that’s what this year’s graduation season holds for me.  Last month, I went back to Missoula (Montana) for the University of Montana’s graduation – one of the only chances I get to meet some of my online students in person.  It was wonderful to see them start on the next stages of their lives, full of joy at having made it through and gotten their degrees.  Commencement speaker was Tom Brokaw, a beloved figure in Montana as a part-time resident there.  He warned the students that they weren’t graduating into real life, the way everyone says; real life was back in junior high.  People still act with the same petty jealousies and power plays out there.  I had to laugh – and wonder if any of us ever truly change!

My good friend Michael Brown, Jr., who has headed up the Virginia Peninsula Chapter of PRSA this past year, received his doctorate from Old Dominion University just before that, and Mara Woloshin and I – who have worked with him on his APR studies – sent him many warm congratulations!

Today, I’m headed out to the Oregon Coast, but with a stopover at my cousin Christie’s house in Lake Oswego to help celebrate her daughter, Kaitlyn’s, graduation from high school.  I think Kaitlyn has just landed a scholarship to the university of her choice back east, to study performing arts; I can’t wait to find out more!  She’s an amazing young woman.

Tomorrow I head to Eugene, where my good friend Cary Greenwood is getting her doctorate at the University of Oregon; and then Friday, I’ll be back here in the Portland metro area to take part as a faculty member in the Marylhurst University graduation ceremonies, where several of my students are graduating.  Just after those ceremonies, my young next-door neighbor, David – who lawn-mowing abilities I will sorely miss – is celebrating his graduation from high school, and I know he’s headed for success in his life.

I love these times of celebration, although I mentioned to someone last year that attending a graduation as a faculty member is very nearly as bad as having your kids leave home in terms of its bittersweet taste.  “Bye!” say the students.  “Thanks for everything!”  — and I mope around thinking, “But I worked with you really hard, and I’ve learned to care a lot about you and your success – you’ll stay in touch, won’t you?”  Well, some do and some don’t.  It is kind of like having your kids leave home; at first, they just want to fly and test their wings.  It’s only much later – sometimes once they’ve had their own kids – that they begin to feel that double-edged lance of success and loss.

But it’s all good.  It’s the way life should be.  And as I head out today,  I’m just filled with joy for my wonderful friends, neighbor and family member and all they’ve accomplished.  Moving forward, moving on – with sails into the wind.

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The original reason I joined PRSA way back in the early 90’s somewhere — and one of the chief benefits I still get out of being a member — is the ability to guage my own abilities and insights against those of my colleagues across the country.  Now that I’m passing on what I know to people interested in exploring public relations as a career, that benefit is more valuable than ever.  Listening to Edelman Public Relations President & CEO Matt Harrington in New York last week confirmed even more.  The young generation now graduating from college is bright, full of self-confidence, educated, definitely not shy.  However, they have unrealistic expectations of the work world, and don’t completely understand the work ethic needed in today’s marketplace – particularly in a time when everyone is being asked to do more with less.  Early in your career is normally when you learn to do more with less; you learn to do whatever it takes to establish a foothold out there.  Later in your career is when you can work a lot smarter, and thus a lot faster; and when you don’t have to start everything from scratch because somewhere in years past, you’ve encountered this problem before.  It’s lovely to reach that point in your career where you recognize the problem confronting you as well as what avenues are available for resolving that problem.  But how disillusioning it would be to assume you didn’t have to gain that hard-won experience early in your career; to think that life as a young professional would be easier than it really is.  What a letdown, if you’ve been highly praised growing up and now must face the prospect of closed doors in the business world.  Far better to be taught to expect less and to work hard, understanding that given a certain skill level (study hard, everyone), attitude makes all the difference. 

For those of us Baby Boomers who may be hiring this newly graduated generation, perhaps a further on-site training course is needed in the work ethic we expect.  At the same time, the X, Y, and Millenial generations can be teaching us more about social media and where it’s headed.   It gets tougher to adapt to change as we grow older, but it’s imperative that we stay open and flexible if we are to show the way into a profession we love.  By the same token, it’s tough for the younger generations to get started, particularly in this economy; they need some specific instructions and expectations set down before them so that they’ll understand they’re now moving into a world very different from the one they’re leaving behind.  Everybody can get there; and it will benefit all of us.

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