Posted At: January 1, 2008 9:40 AM
by Allison Bridges
After graduating you may feel like your work is done and it is time to sit back, send out a few resumes and begin your career. Unfortunately, the public relations field does not work that way as much more careful preparation and concern are needed to enter this ever-changing and expanding field.
Due to an increase in competition, professionals and recruiters have predicted that public relations opportunities will be more available to those students who combine a bachelor’s degree in a communications-related field with hands-on experience in the field. In fact, the 2006-07 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook considers internships vital for those pursuing an entry-level job in public relations.
Steven R. Van Hook, founder of Worldwide Media Relations and publisher of the All About Public Relations Web site, agrees that internship experience is key when pursuing a career in public relations. “A good internship will give you a three-rung boost up the career ladder,” said Van Hook. “Recruiters are solely interested in work experience, performance samples and successes in the field.”
Other professionals suggest that internships prepare students with the skills recruiters are looking for because students can’t learn everything about the field solely in the classroom. “When graduates have prior experience in the field, it not only lets us know that they have a sense of what they are doing, but it emphasizes their proactive and competitive personalities,” said Leigh Marie Lunn, vice president of public relations for Gish, Sherwood and Friends Inc. “We want to see students who were engaged on campus and in the community, and sought out opportunities to further their education and experience in communications.”
Although the BLS does not define specific standards for entry into the public relations field, several skills are considered essential. These include the ability to communicate effectively, successful networking, creativity, initiative, good judgment and a basic understanding of the human psyche. Recruiters also seek those individuals who are outgoing, confident, competitive and good problem solvers.
“Public relations is a strategy-driven field,” said Lunn. “Even though effective writing skills are crucial to this field, practitioners have to be prepared to do more than simply write news releases. The ability to host a presentation is just as important in public relations.”
Despite the need for a degree, many professionals agree that GPA does not significantly affect your chances of gaining opportunities in the public relations field. “In all my years of applying for and winning jobs, I have never once had anyone ask about my GPA,” explained Van Hook.
Lunn agreed that a potential employee’s GPA does not affect the chances of being hired so long as the graduate has a solid education in the field. “I have really never looked at an applicant’s GPA,” explained Lunn. “As long as a GPA is average, that’s all that matters.”
So, what can tomorrow’s graduates gain from the advice of today’s professionals? Get a solid educational background in the field and hands-on experience before pursuing a career in public relations. As Van Hook advised, “employers do not want to know how smart you are, they want to know what you can do.”
For information on public relations employment trends, click on the following link:
Do you think you are well prepared for today’s job market? Do you need some help finding an internship or an accredited public relations program?