Last night I attended my first PR Careers 101 event, which was hosted by the Philadelphia PRSA chapter and Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA). The event included a panel discussion with four PR professionals, round table discussions with young PR professionals, and the opportunity to have your resume critiqued by a PR professional. The four panelists were Erin Allsman – Public Relations Director at Brownstein Group, Meredith Avakian – Public Affairs Specialist at DuPont, Marlo DelSordo – Director of Communications and Marketing at Philabundance and Ike Richman – Vice President of Public Relations at Comcast-Spectacor. The panelists and young professionals offered differing perspectives on many topics relevant to new and future PR professionals. Here were some of the points that resonated with me:
1. On how to set yourself apart as a job candidate: Show what you have done, not what you have studied. Move your experience above your education on your resume and show that you are active beyond school.
2. On how the economy has affected hiring decisions: Companies are working leaner and hiring decisions are not taken lightly. Now more than ever it is important to make yourself stand out. The more skills you have, the better: companies are looking for people who can take on more responsibilities.
3. On networking: Spend as much time you can networking and try to find a mentor. Do informational interviews, they can lead to opportunities down the road. Professors are a great resource because many belong to professional organizations and have careers outside of the classroom.
4. On social media: Social media allows messages to be sent out faster than ever. Ike Richman’s early morning tweet about the Wachovia Center’s name change resulted in a top story on Philly.com before the press release was even sent. Marlo DelSordo added that social media has become an important vehicle for non-profit organizations and almost every campaign now has a social media aspect.
5. On obtaining advanced degrees: The panelists had different opinions on this topic. Richman advised getting out and starting your career as soon as possible. Erin Allsman shared her experience of going back to school to take courses which were more relevant to her field. Moderator Gregg Feistman suggested looking into employers that will pay for employees to obtain graduate degrees.
6. On print portfolios vs. digital portfolios: The panelists seemed to agree that either form would be acceptable, but said they would still prefer something printed. Richman said he looks at the computer screen all day and would rather look at something tangible, which he could potentially take home and spend more time with.
7. On immediate turn-offs in an interview: Not knowing about the organization, not seeming fully engaged or interested and not following up with a thank you note are definite don’ts. Candidates should also have answers and opinions about current issues in PR, such as recent social media successes.
8. On how to overcome not yet having media contacts: Richman suggested reading newspapers, listening to radio shows and watching news programs to get a sense of who to go to with different types of stories.
What do you think about the panelists’ insights on these topics? Are their views in line with what you have heard and experienced, or did some of the answers surprise you?