THINKPIECE: As PR graduates enter the workplace, remember this: your real education is only just beginning

Because many among them will graduate soon, I recently spoke to members of the University of Nevada PRSA Student Society about what I thought they should expect in, and from, their first PR job. These points are as applicable to me after more than 30 years in the business as they are to newcomers.

Because many among them will graduate soon, I recently spoke to members of the University of Nevada PRSA Student Society about what I thought they should expect in, and from, their first PR job. These points are as applicable to me after more than 30 years in the business as they are to newcomers.

Because many among them will graduate soon, I recently spoke to

members of the University of Nevada PRSA Student Society about what I

thought they should expect in, and from, their first PR job. These

points are as applicable to me after more than 30 years in the business

as they are to newcomers.



First, every hiring decision eventually comes down to three basic

questions.



Is this candidate technically able to do the work, or is she or he at

least trainable? Is this someone who will be really productive? And is

she or he ’our kind of person’ - someone who will fit well with, rather

than be disruptive to, our organizational culture?



Second, your first job probably won’t be about what you might think

you’ve been educated for, or what you want - it’ll be about what your

employer wants. And if you’re graduating with a degree in PR or

communications, a lot of your courses have probably been more abstract

and theoretical than practical - courses with titles like ’Dimensions in

Communications Strategies.’ Unfortunately, such courses probably won’t

help you much in your first job; your employer will probably want you to

do more mundane things than counseling Fortune 500 CEOs - things like

preparing clipping reports, developing media lists and, ideally, writing

news releases.



Third, be prepared to work harder than you ever have. Every employer

seeks beginners who are genuinely enthusiastic about their work and

their industry, someone who thinks it’s cool to work 80 hours a week.

After all, that’s what your contemporaries - at least the ones who’ll be

successful - in law, management consulting and other professions will be

doing.



Fourth, understand and appreciate that your real professional education

is just beginning. So try to get a job with a demanding organization and

boss - an outfit and an individual who will challenge, stretch and help

you develop. Fifth, consider yourself lucky to be entering this

field.



I’m no Pollyanna; I’ve worked at major agencies and corporations, and I

know how tough and frustrating PR work can be. But I also know how

exciting it can be to work on fascinating issues with talented

colleagues, and how gratifying it is when your efforts pay off.



Finally, remember that your post-graduation job is called your ’first’

job because it’s exactly that: the first of what will probably be a

string of positions. What those subsequent ones will be, and how

successful you’ll be in them, will be determined, at least in part, by

your experience in your first one. So pick it carefully, be realistic

about it, be prepared to work harder than you ever have - and good

luck!





- A former New York PR agency executive, John Cook is a public relations

counselor and freelance writer.



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