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
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
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
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
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
- A former New York PR agency executive, John Cook is a public relations
counselor and freelance writer.