CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q I need some advice. I happen to be one of the lucky folks in the San Francisco area that survived the past year's bloodletting at PR firms in town. Unfortunately, many of my close friends weren't as fortunate.

Q I need some advice. I happen to be one of the lucky folks in the San Francisco area that survived the past year's bloodletting at PR firms in town. Unfortunately, many of my close friends weren't as fortunate.

After months of unemployment, many have now formed their own agencies, which I think is great. But because they are just starting out, none have the funds to purchase the expensive media lists and databases they were so reliant upon in the past. Instead, they ask me for old documents, media contacts, and more.

Initially, I helped out one or two people I really felt an allegiance to by sending a couple of editors names their way. But the word must have gotten out about my good nature somehow, because now a whole bunch of folks are coming to me, asking for contact names and old documents. I now feel like Whoopi Goldberg's character in Ghost when all those dead people kept going to her (and asking her to channel them to their relatives).

For my own sanity, I'm going to have to start refusing these requests, but how do I retain these friendships while doing so. Truth be told, I hope some of them read this letter and get the idea so I won't have to tell them myself.

Mr. L, San Francisco

A No good deed goes unpunished. Your "friends are taking advantage of your kindness, and it's time to draw the line. I have no doubt that your employer would take a dim view at your sharing such information with potential competitors.

I would advise a preemptive strike. Send an e-mail to all your repeat offenders, and anyone else who asks you for insider info. Say you've had to stop giving out information because one unnamed person has abused your assistance. That way you will let everyone know to back off without personally slighting anyone. If anything, they may begin to understand how unfair it was to tap you in the first place.

Q I am a young pro, who has been out of school for one year. My degree is in advertising/PR. I interned like crazy while in college, but never quite "made it into PR. Subsequently, I'm now working in online advertising development for a Fortune 500 company. Prior, and while still in school, I worked for a different Fortune 500 company - in marketing and promotions.

I'm so bored! I desperately want to get into PR, but I have no practical experience. I do have a wealth of strong marketing and writing skills, and I know I am suitably qualified. Short of going back to school - which I can't afford - and taking a full-time internship, how do I angle my way into the agency world?

Ms. M, Los Angeles

A I checked in with the esteemed Jennifer Kissell, VP of organizational development for Edelman's western region, who offered this advice: "If you really want to get into PR, be willing to take an entry-level position (such as an account coordinator or an administrative assistant for an account team).

"Unfortunately for you, there are more PR professionals of all levels out there right now than there are jobs, so be patient, she continued. "Be flexible on compensation as well. If you do a good job in an entry-level position at an agency or corporation, your hard work will be rewarded."

Jennifer also recommends doing your homework before the interview, to set yourself apart. "Review the company's website, read up on its clients, and find out what the media's been saying about these clients. You'll seem smarter than the other applicants. Relay an attitude that you're hungry, you're willing to work hard, and that you love a challenge."

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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