Before you accept that first PR job…

A few days ago I met my PRSA mentor for the first time.  As we got to know one another, she asked about my career goals.  I have a pretty good idea of where I want to be in the next five years, but after that I draw a blank.  She has recently come to a point in her career where she has met all of the goals she set for herself and must now reevaluate to determine her next move. This conversation made me think about the importance of career planning and consistent evaluation of those plans.

As many students near graduation, the focus is on finding that critical “first job.”  For some, the frustration of the job search leads to accepting positions just because they pay the bills.  But at the end of the day, is accepting a sales position, telemarketing job, retail post or some other phony PR position going to get you where you want to be in five years?  Or 10 years? Or 20 years?

As public relations students, we realize the benefit of creating a strategic communications plan for our client that is based on research.  Yet many times, students do not create their own strategic plan for their career, nor do they research their own hobbies and interests to determine which career path would be most interesting and fulfilling.  Instead, students set short-term goals that may not lead to job satisfaction and advancement.  Before embarking on a job search, it is critical that students create a plan of where they want to be in five years, so they can seek positions that are aligned with their goals. 

Isn’t getting a job a goal?  Not really.  In this case getting a job is more like an objective that will help you reach your overall goal which might be to open your own agency, or be the director of communications for your favorite sports team, or be the vice president of public relations for an international technology firm.  The little things that help position you to attain the first and subsequent jobs are the strategies and tactics: networking, joining professional groups and associations, seeking a mentor, volunteering, using social media, working at an internship, etc.

A career plan does not necessarily need to be written, nor must it be shared with others, but both can be helpful.  Writing out the career plan can make it more concrete and easier to evaluate.  Sharing goals with peers in professional groups or a mentor allows others to give advice and make connections which may assist you in meeting long-term goals.

There is no wrong way to create a career plan and hundreds of Web sites offer tips and suggestions.  Randall S. Hansen of Quintessential Careers offers 10 Tips for Successful Career Planning.

Once a plan is in place, it does not have to be static.  Many professionals make time to reevaluate their career plans at least on an annual basis (beginning of the year, or around the time of an annual review is a good marker), if not more.  Unfortunately, due to layoffs and cutbacks, many PR professionals must reevaluate unexpectedly. 

Do you have a five year plan (or any career plan)?  Have you already done things to align your search for a first job with the goals you have set for the next five years? Do you think career planning should be included into the curriculum for graduating seniors?

This entry was posted in Spotlight Public Relations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Before you accept that first PR job…

  1. sdoyle says:

    After reading this I feel a little proud that I do have a career plan and have taken some step in getting there. But when push comes to shove when I’m out in the real world I’m not sure what that career plan will mean to me when I broke and just need to get a job. My career plan is to do PR for the Los Angeles Dodger’s, which may be a more sought after career if they win the world series, fingers crossed, in the next few days (assuming and hoping they beat either the Rockies or the Phillies ). I have had an internship in the sports world, I was a PR intern for the Harlem Globetrotters and I hope to get an internship with the Dodgers spring training team this upcoming spring season, or at least a major league team. My backup career plan is to do PR for a city; I have a contact at the City of Newport Beach, California and am perusing a tourism minor that hopefully gives me a little more background on the subject. I feel like I have a pretty good start but in these economic times it’s hard to say what is going to matter. I don’t really have the next five years set yet, I think my goal is just to slam it all into one, get a job in the afore mentioned fields, sell my condo and buy a home close to my job, reset PR goals once actually working in a field opposed to thinking about all of them. I think career planning would be a great elective, perhaps not a mandatory class in the curriculum but a helpful and worthwhile elective. This blog was both scary and helpful, I am in denial about the whole “real world” thing for at least the rest of this semester but provided very useful information and links.

  2. edean says:

    I love this conversation for personal reasons as I am graduating this December. I think there are so many pressures leading up to this date that begin to take a toll on you. For instance, we are bombarded with articles telling us how hard it will be for us even to find a job, then come the parental criticisms, peer pressures etc. I think it is important to have a career plan because at the end of the day (whatever job you are working) you are left with only yourself. If you are unhappy and settle for a job that will not advance your career goals and passions, you are doing yourself and the company a disservice as this fosters a lack of productivity.

    At the same time, I understand the importance of not being too picky with a job title but feel it is important to pursue your passions at all costs. Just know the beginning will most likely not be as glamorous as you hoped for.

    I constantly have to fight myself out of the “something is better than nothing mindset when it comes to getting that first job offer. I feel like having a strategic plan could really help job-seekers stay on track. I would have loved to take a class regarding these issues.

  3. ecain says:

    I think you did a great job with this post; I really loved how you related finding a job back the basic PR concepts we have talking about in class. I also really liked the topic you choose, as landing that perfect job is on everyone’s mind. Especially in this economy we are being forced to graduate in, it can be easy to just take the first job offer that you receive, even if that is serving at a restaurant. All of my life, (since about 6th grade) I have wanted to work in the entertainment industry, even if that means working for free in the mail-room at a publicity firm or talent agency. I think that if you can just get your foot in the door in the industry you want to be in, you might be able to build from there. Every time I think about making alternate plans for myself, and think that I will just stay in Arizona and work for a few years and then chase my dream, I have to remember the famous and redundant quote: “If you are doing with you love, you will never work a day in your life.” If you plan to sit around and wait for your dream job to come, you might just be waiting for the rest of your life. Unfortunately in this day and age it is hard to chase your dreams when you have bills to pay, but if you don’t do it now, then when will you?

  4. bjohnson says:

    What a great topic! I have never considered personal objectives that should relate to my career goals but it is absolutely necessary now that you mentioned it (and as we discuss the PR processes in class). I think that the first job out of college is very important. I also think that our goals prior to that job are even more important. Our goals will allow us to stay on track. Without guidance we may end up stagnant in our careers.

    Perhaps if we can strategically plan our ‘future moves,’ then we will be better equipped when moving up the PR ladder. This post has definitely inspired me to reevaluate my own ambitions and plans.

    Also, I would argue that writing out a goal is vital. I once heard a saying that said a goal not written down is just a wish. I am a firm believer in writing things down in order to make them a reality.

  5. sferrer says:

    Great topic for discussion! As a senior and graduation coming up next spring, I always come across the question that never fails to be asked: “What are you planning to do after you graduate”? My answer: “I’m not sure.”

    I’m definitely going through the twenty-something/quarter-life crisis where I want “everything” but figuring out how to achieve “everything.” After I spend four years in college and thousands of dollars for tuition and before I accept my first career in the PR industry, I absolutely need to make sure I love what I do for a living.

    I like how the program at Walter Cronkite requires students to receive an upper-division credit for internships. Internships can really educate students in many ways, including whether this is/is not the career for them. I currently intern for a PR agency and deal with different clients but next semester, I want to intern for an in-house PR organization to find out if that’s what I want to do after college. In hopes of finding the perfect career, I am depending on internships and networking.

  6. kinoshita says:

    Emily, I concur with everyone else- great post! You made some very insightful and legitimate points. I really like how you applied concepts from class.

    Graduation is right around the corner, and it’s probably one of the biggest transitional periods in life. We’ve done what was expected of us- now what? I love the idea of putting a career plan on paper. We have a plan for everything else; it’s only natural to design a career plan too, especially when our careers play such a vital role in our overall well-being. My problem, however, is I have absolutely no idea what I want to do after college in general. I’m in limbo. Perhaps writing a career plan will help me decide. It definitely can’t make things any fuzzier.

    I don’t know how I feel about a career planning course. I’m not against a course, but am leaning more toward a seminar or series of workshops, which may already exist. Maybe we could make attendance mandatory to graduate so people will go, but keep the level of commitment light at the same time. We already have a required internship and most people seem to learn a lot about what they like and don’t like.

  7. wwillis says:

    Wow, this really hit home for me. Since I graduate in December, finding that first job is really all I’ve been thinking about, and that scares me to death! Maybe if I have a clearer view in my head of where I want to go, these tough decisions might be easier for me. I actually strongly agree that a career planning course could be a wonderful asset to graduating seniors who, like me, have really no idea where this PR degree is taking them. I might even map out my own five year plan right now!!

  8. ncano says:

    First I really enjoyed your post and secondly, I have to say this post hit home since I am one of the lucky ones to be graduating in December. Since I first attended ASU my goal was to do PR or marketing for the Oakland Athletics. I was lucky enough to land my internship with them in my sophomore and my junior year at spring training. I enjoyed doing promotional work my first year, but then by my second year I was able to see why sports is just a hard world to enter for a woman. Granted the A’s marketing person is a woman, I feel that it is a male dominated business. I felt discouraged and decided to focus on something else. I would love to work in sports, that is a dream of mine, but not so much a goal anymore.

    I’ve realized that I want to do marketing for a hotel in Las Vegas. Right now I am applying for jobs and it’s something that I really want. The question is am I going to get it? I hardly have PR experience let alone marketing experience so it is challenging, but I am determined to not settle for a waitressing job or a casino host job just so I can work my way up. I am not willing to settle for what I can get.

    I wouldn’t say that my dreams of working for major league baseball is dead, but I just realize it may not be reached right out of college. It’s there and I am hoping to obtain more knowledge in the world of PR or even marketing as well as event planning just so that I can get more experience and make me more well-rounded to hopefully in three years have my dream job of working for major league baseball.

  9. ekozak says:

    sdoyle: I am sorry my blog was scary. I guess that is why it might be beneficial to have a have a structured career planning course (or incorporate career planning as part of the capstone) so that it is less scary. It is great to know where you want to be in the long-run, but you must also know the steps to get there. It might also be helpful to do an information interview with the person who currently holds the position you are interested in so you know how he or she got there. It might give you more insight into what some of your objectives should be.

    edean: You make a good point by bringing up the fact that taking a job that is not satisfying is not only disservice to you, but also to the company. If you do not enjoy what you do, you will not be encouraged to put forth your best effort and you are just wasting your time. You are also wasting the company’s time and money because there might be someone who enjoys that line of work and who would be more productive in that role.

    ecain: Your comment brings up a good point. Every career has stepping stones and sometimes that means you must work for free or for a very small amount to get where you want to be. My parents do not understand how I can graduate with two degrees and expect to make so little, but they also don’t realize that public relations is a field where one must pay his or her dues in order to move forward.

    bjohnson: Upon re-examination of my post, I completely agree that a person’s career plan should be written in some form – whether it is in a diary, a blog, or on a napkin. Of course, a more formal career plan will probably need more permanent than a napkin, but just the act of writing down a career plan would make it more concrete.

    Sferrer: You brought up an excellent point when you mentioned that people are frequently asking you what you plan to do after graduation. That is because those people who are asking that question are the best people to help you get where you want to be. If you have an answer, even an inkling, of what you want to do in life, people asking you about graduation might be able to use their network to get you an informational interview, or even a job interview with someone in that industry or field.

    kinoshita: I don’t know if we need an entire course for just career planning, but a course for career prep in general could be beneficial. For example, the W.P. Carey School of Business requires that every student enroll in WPC301. The course goes over resume writing, interview techniques, career planning and many other valuable skills.

    wwillis: I think having a career plan is especially important for someone in your position because if you know what you want and are confident about it, that will show when interviewing with potential employers and that will give you an edge when compared to others interviewing for that position.

    Ncano: The fact that you had two internships with the company you want to work for is such a benefit. All the planning in the world is worthless if you are planning a career that is not the right fit. That’s why internships are really crucial in the public relations industry. That is also why it is important to consistently reevaluate your career plan, and come up with new objectives when you realize your current objectives are not in sync with where you want to be.

  10. ndapplegate says:

    I loved your post and hated it at the same time because reality really hit me that I am graduating soon and I need to start figuring out my own plan! I like the statement you made about finding a job is an objective and that will eventually help you reach your overall goal. I loved your post in the sense that it really made me think about how I need to start cracking down and really think about what kind of job I am looking for post graduation.

  11. ekozak says:

    ndapplegate: Sorry you hated (and loved) the post! I hope the analogy of using the strategic PR process will help you and other students come up with career plans. So get cracking!

Comments are closed.