Pursuit of a job offers chance to prove you can do the job

This year's graduates entered a particularly frustrating job market.

This year's graduates entered a particularly frustrating job market. In fact, many still seek that elusive first post and are battling with far more established PR pros who are also out of work. Some might say this is an unfortunate time for would-be PR pros. Those who do are ignoring a glorious opportunity.

I recently reconnected with Joe Burke, whose story you might recall from our 2009 Career Guide. Armed with a PR degree from the University of Northern Iowa, he moved to Boston after months of creative, but unsuccessful attempts to land a position.

In late summer, Burke was hired by Version 2.0 Communications in Boston as a PR apprentice. Essentially, the two sides agreed that they would give each other three months to test the arrangement.

Things are going smoothly, says Burke, who epitomizes what can happen when knowledge meets execution. While there are myriad PR programs throughout the country that equip students with the expertise to manage reputations and get attention, too often those youngsters fail to put those lessons into practice.

PR is all about strategic thinking and Burke's strategy of focusing on one market (Boston) and displaying his savvy through various channels (a Web site, direct-mail pieces, etc.) paid off. Aside from the immediate accomplishment of netting a job at a firm, it bodes well for Burke's future in PR that he achieved the desired results for his first client - himself. It's a lesson for all PR pros: it's not just about being creative; it's about strategic creativity.

Agency heads agree that youth could be especially useful in a time of extreme conservatism on the staffing front. From a business view, it's not only inexpensive labor, but recent grads have the social-media savvy to maintain industry growth.

"We're on the right side of history," one agency MD told me in emphasizing how PR is a true innovative force in developing social media tactics. Often, it is the youth at these firms leading the way.

Recent grads have a chance to prove they can do the job while they pursue the job. It's not enough to tweet. You must know how to use Twitter to get practical results. If you can do it for yourself, you can do it for a client. Unfortunately, laments the MD, so few young pros display such digital acumen in the job-search process.

A tough economy demands wise use of resources from both sides of the employment equation. Would-be pros have the chance to help themselves right now. If they do, they'll likely be in a position to soon help the industry at large. Recent grads and those already established in PR's ranks should have an equal interest in that.

Gideon Fidelzeid is the senior editor at PRWeek. He can be reached at gideon.fidelzeid@prweek.com.

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