Young PR pros hear lessons for getting a job, moving up

College students and recent graduates had the opportunity to talk to senior PR executives about what it takes to successfully break into and ascend in the PR business during a panel at the National Black Public Relations Society's annual conference last weekend.

College students and recent graduates had the opportunity to talk to senior PR executives about what it takes to successfully break into and ascend in the PR business during a panel at the National Black Public Relations Society's annual conference last weekend.

The first thing they need to know: don't start an internship or a junior-level job with a sense of entitlement.

“You need to know you're not entitled; you're not going to have a month's vacation right off the bat,” said Jenny Hacker, VP at Cohn & Wolfe in Atlanta. “I may come in after you and leave before you, and that's because I've earned that. You need to earn your place at the table.”

Little things about a person's appearance can also have a big impact on his or her career trajectory, said Diane Johnson, a VP in Ketchum's Washington office. This means young professionals should not come into the office with chipped fingernails or wrinkled clothing, she said.

“As an entry-level person, you need to make sure you put your best foot forward,” said Johnson. You are your own brand, and I can look at you and know what I need to know before you even open your mouth.”

The panel also pushed the idea that young people should broaden their horizons when accessing jobs and be willing to take risks. For instance, Alfie Adona, human resources director at MSLGroup, noted that from time to time, she has pursued candidates from freelance assignments only to be turned down. Later, these assignments have turned into full-time opportunities.  

She also emphasized that young professionals should not push too quickly for a promotion once an employee is hired full-time for a junior role.

“There are a lot of things you need to immerse yourself in and learn from before you move forward,” Adona said.  “I know you want to move up quickly, but be patient and learn what you can at this current level.”

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