Graduate programs give pros edge in talent market

Individuals and employers alike often question how a formal university or graduate education in communications is effective to a PR pro.

Individuals and employers alike often question how a formal university or graduate education in communications is effective to a PR pro.

After only three years out of college, I am a firm believer that my graduate school experience was the key in launching my career.

I entered an undergraduate liberal arts program in order to become a lawyer. I was one of the many first-generation South Asians brainwashed into thinking that there were only three types of careers: medicine, law, or engineering. With these options in mind, and like most kids hoping to gain the respect of their parents, I agreed with them, thinking in my head that law was the sensible choice. But even with the strength of tradition, it was an internship that introduced me to PR that changed my career direction.

I applied and won a remarkable internship working with the White House Press Advance Office during my sophomore year at The George Washington University. The internship put me into the thick of PR - managing the reputation of the Executive Office and developing relationships with the press, which is what PR pros do for clients.

That internship was the best early training any PR pro could receive. Although I received the best on-site training available to me, I did realize that I lacked skills that only formal academic communications training could provide for me.

With some additional political communication classes, I finished my liberal arts degree in international affairs without taking a formal PR writing, journalism, or marketing class. In order to see if a PR career was a right fit, I took a year off after college. I assumed that I was qualified for an entry-level job at an agency. However, when I began the dreaded post-college job search, my fears were realized.

With my r?sum? tweaked and cover letter ready to go, I applied to firms in DC and New York. I was called for first- and second-round interviews, but was ultimately turned down for posts. After about four months, I started to re-evaluate. It became clear that I needed more marketing communications training in order to compete. I took the GREs and applied to several PR and integrated marketing graduate programs, and was accepted for Emerson College's master's program in Global Marketing Communications and Advertising (GMCA). Getting that degree was the best thing to launch my PR career.

Emerson's GMCA program provided me with an in-depth, 360-degree master's program in a 13-month crash course. It is a unique program offering a one-year, full-time, intensive cohort experience that prepares candidates for careers in today's multinational, multicultural corporate environment. Through the integration of ads, PR, sales promotion, and interactive marketing, students learn to develop consistent messages over all marketing disciplines, receiving training in 360-degree branding. This program provided me with the formal education, skills, and under- standing I needed to consider different audiences and think strategically in the PR industry.

While finishing up my graduate studies, I started the dreaded job search again. But this time, I received positive feedback from job prospects. I was actually in a position to turn down job offers. It seems as though a master's in 360-degree marketing with a concentration in PR was the best thing for my career.

I soon decided to take a job as an AE at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide's Washington office, working in its public affairs practice and focusing on a 360-degree account. I knew that Ogilvy was the agency for me, as David Ogilvy, the founder, is considered the pioneer of 360-degree brand stewardship.

I have been at the firm for about a year now. My skills enabled me to become involved in Ogilvy's multicultural communications specialty, which gives me the chance to use multicultural marketing skills, as well.

My graduate education has enabled me to comprehend the future of PR. In order to remain competitive, I feel that the industry will embark on 360-degree marketing and will need people who are qualified and understand the nature of this unique style of marketing. However, I could never really understand 360-degree marketing without my graduate school education. Therefore, I strongly believe that my academic training prepared me for a career as a PR pro.

  • Apoorva Sabnis is an AE with Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in Washington, DC.

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