When I speak to college journalism, PR, or communications classes, I start with an exercise I call “The Dirty Dozen.” It's a series of 12 questions designed to show future graduates where their resumes might be lacking when they seek their first job in PR. First, I ask all audience members to stand up. Then I begin the questions.
Please sit down if:
- You do not have a presence in at least one social network. (No one sits down. OMG!)
- You are not majoring in journalism, PR, or communications. (No one sits down. Trick question: it's a communications class I'm addressing).
- Your GPA in your major isn't 3.50 or better. (GPA indicates good study habits, intelligence, and commitment).
- Your overall GPA isn't 3.00 or better. (See #3).
- You are not a member of PRSSA. (Indicates lack of commitment to PR; several sit down).
- You've never had a leadership role in PRSSA or other school organization. (Indicates lack of leadership skills or desire to lead; more sit down).
- You have never had a PR internship. (See #5; a few more fall).
- You have never taken a business course. (This one trips up a lot of communications majors because, well, they're communications majors and have no interest in business. They should).
- You have never written an article for a school newspaper or other media outlet. (Indicates a lack of writing skills or desire to write; several more bite the dust).
- You are not working part-time to fund college. (Students who work while attending college usually have excellent time-management skills. Also, when they have their own money in the game, they are more serious about their education. A couple more sit down).
- You didn't Google me before this class. (This is more of an ego thing than a research thing; but I say it's a research thing and students buy it).
- You don't speak a second language. (This is the killer question. Usually just one left standing).
The “Survivor: Real World” winner is the one who gets my business card and a request to send me their resume.
Students then ask what they can do to improve their chances of landing a job after graduation. I give them three answers: Write, write, and write.
Having spent more than 30 years in the communications field, I have seen the writing competence of graduates drop precipitously – especially in the last five or six years. The underlying reason for the drop in writing skills is that Generations X and Y typically don't read anything longer than 140 characters. They don't read newspapers or news magazines. To learn to write well, you have to read to get the feel for how news is written.
The professional practice of PR is, at its heart, about communicating through the written word. It always has been and always will be. Those graduates who can demonstrate solid writing skills will elevate themselves above the rest of the graduates seeking jobs - and those are the ones who will land the best jobs.
Reg Rowe is SVP at Idea Grove.