Public Relations Tactics

Professionals encourage PR students to pursue non-traditional careers

April 4, 2013

A PR degree does not limit graduates to traditional careers, a panel of professionals told students during a workshop at the University of Georgia Grady College’s ADPR Connection networking event. A student majoring in public relations should not feel pressured to begin his or her ideal, life-long career immediately following graduation.

Since each student brings a set of unique skills to the table, not every individual should follow the same path, the professionals said. Panel members advised job seekers to investigate alternative careers such as advertising, marketing and sales, feeling out their strengths and passions. This exploration may result in switching careers even after the graduate has begun working, one professional said.

“When you get your first job, it’s OK to make a mistake. It’s OK to realize that it isn’t want you want to do — to take that hard left turn. Quitting a job is just as much of a skill as getting a job,” said Sean Jones, national sales manager at Katz Media Group.

Success is not necessarily the ability to stick with that first job. Graduates’ beginning years in the working world allow them to discover their passions and strengths, directing them toward careers that they will thrive in.

Donna Peeples, chief of staff at American International Group Inc., added, “It’s not job hopping anymore — it’s diverse experience.”

Rather than looking down on an applicant for changing careers, hiring managers now recognize that various past experiences can make the applicant a greater asset to the company.

The workshop took place in October as part of UGA Grady College’s annual ADPR Connection. The one-day event for advertising and PR majors featured workshops, portfolio critiques and a career fair. The panel focusing on non-traditional PR careers featured Jones and Peeples, along with Audrey Menkel, senior associate at KPMG.

Liz Azzolino, director of brand strategy at Engage, moderated the discussion. The panelists provided specific tips on how to get hired.

Relationship-building is key, all of the professionals agreed. When seeking a position, an individual cannot rely on public job postings. Today, as many careers are secured through personal connections, the speakers encouraged the students to get out and talk to people and ask for informational interviews.

Merkel commented that students should be intentional about varying their connections — networking across disciplines, not solely within public relations. Merkel recalled that when she decided to branch out from traditional public relations, she did not have a single non-PR connection on LinkedIn whom she could contact. She advised the students not to limit themselves as she had.

When applying for jobs, students should always do their homework on the companies that they are interviewing with, Peeples said. She urged applicants to use keywords from the companies’ websites during their interviews.

At the end of a session, when interviewers ask for questions, Peeples recommended asking how they reached their current positions and what it would take for interviewees to achieve this in five or 10 years.

Make sure to actually listen to what interviewers say, Merkel said — do not ask them something that they have already answered. Merkel also advised applicants to ask the hard-hitting questions about whether the company would offer them opportunities to grow and advance their careers.

Jones reminded the students that although the process may seem overwhelming, this is an exciting and fun time in a young person’s life. He encouraged the audience members to explore their diverse passions, independent of others’ expectations or financial pressures.

“Don’t worry about the salary. The money is not going to be there at first,” Jones said. “Find a company you really want to work for, and the money will follow. I really believe that.”

“Make the decisions that are right for you,” Peeples added. “Don’t put limitations on yourself.”


Joy Glaze
Joy Glaze is a junior at the University of Georgia where she studies public relations and Spanish. She serves on the publicity committee for UGA’s PRSSA Chapter. Glaze plans to graduate in May 2014 and pursue a career in public relations.


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