Earlier this week, Sheyda, a college sophomore, read and commented on my post about recent college grads wanting to get into PR. She’s in the middle of her bio-med studies, and she feels her future being pulled toward a career in PR: “My passion lies with the drive to build relationships with people and companies/businesses,” she told me. “I want to switch my major to Public Relations as soon as I can. Is there any advice you can give me? To be honest, one of the reasons I haven’t switched is because I’m scared of the job market.”
I’d like to share my response to her question here, for anyone else in a similar situation. In a nutshell: do your homework, then follow your gut!
To Sheyda: I think you need to follow your gut instinct here, ultimately, but first, I think you should explore PR and marketing a little more to make sure it’s what you really want to do. Networking and making people feel at ease is a fun and wonderful part of PR, and I’m so glad you’re good at it and feel comfortable doing it. That’s very important.
So next, do a few things: pick up a copy of The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. The third edition is out now; I actually just bought it and haven’t had a chance to read it! David is an excellent PR professional and a great writer and teacher. If after you finish reading this you find that you’ve dog-eared, highlighted and made notes all over the book, then I think a PR major should be in your future.
You should also subscribe to one of the many industry e-newsletters out there. Ragan.com has some great newsletters that might be a good starting point.
Being worried about the job market is a smart to do, to a certain point, but we can’t let it stop us from following our dreams. PR is diverse, and just about every type of business and industry needs a communications professional. Higher education, public broadcasting, banking, non-profits, construction, the entertainment industry…most places have marketing and communications divisions and offices.
And if you’re interested in freelancing or building your own boutique, then the time to start is now. In addition to your studies at Auburn, start doing work for clients – campus groups, become PR chair of your sorority, local organizations, causes, etc – and begin building your professional profile and portfolio.
I think it also will benefit you to take some journalism classes and spend a semester on the campus newspaper, so you get the experience working as the folks you’ll be working with in the future should you delve into media relations. In fact, interning at a local newspaper might not be a bad idea, if you have the time, in addition to definitely shadowing/interning at either PR agencies or with a communications professional.
I’m so excited for Sheyda to be embarking upon a potential PR career!