1) The conference was an amazing opportunity to network with other public relations professionals representing a range of agencies and organizations including Edelman, Microsoft, Barokas PR and The Seattle Times just to name a few!
2) All of the speakers and participants were extremely friendly and approachable – something that I do not take for granted in networking environments.
3) If you brought a copy of your resume along, staff from the planning committee actually looked it over and marked it up with edits.
4) Speakers and participants provided tons of great advice to professionals early in their PR careers.
5) And last but not least…I felt that the even was very organized. The planning committee did a great job from beginning to end, sticking to schedule and providing support to participants.
I wish I could share everything I learned from this event with you, but if I did, I would write on and on for days! Instead, I am going to share some of the reoccurring ideas that I found really helpful.
As this event was geared towards new-ish public relations professionals, all three of the main speakers spoke about how important it is to understand yourself and your passions as you start identifying and talking to potential employers. One of the speakers even went so far to say that he couldn’t take any job candidate seriously who wasn’t able to clearly identify the type of work and company that they wanted to work for. So to begin branding yourself or to refine your personal brand, think about what you are passionate about. What do you stand for? What do hope to achieve in a career? What gets you excited? What difference do you make? These are all questions that once answered, can be used to create a consistent message throughout all of your “self” representations (i.e. on your website, social media, resume, job interview, networking event, and so on).
Ways to approach your PR career
It was suggested that within the first five years of your career, you should learn as much as possible, or rather you should expose yourself to a diverse set of skills and industries if possible. Unless you are planning to specialize in a particular area for your entire career, do not restrict yourself too quickly to one sector. I appreciated this advice because I am definitely one of those people with a lot of interests – I really want to work in public relations right now, but I don’t even know if that’s the field I want to stay in during my entire career. The good thing is that another speaker, Whitney Keyes demonstrated how her PR career had been applied to a number of organizations and industries, from small businesses to multi-billion dollar companies. The reason I chose to start working in public relations was exactly that promise: to have a set of skills that could be applied to a wide variety of industries, so that I may follow a number of my passions while still developing the same basic principles of strategic communication.
Skills sought out in job candidates
Several speakers emphasized that being a strong writer and well-read are qualities often sought out in job candidates. To demonstrate how much more we need to read, one of the speakers gave all the participants a quiz, which included questions about civics, AP style and international relations. Let’s just say that the average score was a 20%, which would not get you through to the next round of interviewing. Another important skill that public relations job candidates should display is the ability to think critically. Ways to achieve this in an interview are: to merchandise information you learned while researching a company but in a more subtle way than stating, “While researching your company…”; ask thoughtful questions during the interview, which means to ask really specific questions that show you put time into thinking about the interviewer, position, company and/or industry; deliver your answer in 3-4 sentences, which shows that you spent time preparing and thinking about how to represent what you have to offer succinctly. Last but not least, I really enjoyed this quote from Mark Firmani: That when looking for candidates, they want people who are “Bold enough to manage their own success.” In public relations it is important to show that you can take initiative and be proactive, which in an interview starts with your own representation. Showing that you can take initiative with clients or during a crisis is important as well.
I learned all this and more. Have questions about it? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to share any other sage advice I gained during the event.