Public Relations Tactics

Level up: Recession-era job search tips

May 30, 2008

Copyright © 2008 PRSA. All rights reserved.

By Mara Woloshin, M.A.,  APR, Fellow PRSA

The following article appears in the June issue of PR Tactics.

Whether downsized, laid off or new to the profession, those looking for a career-building PR job in this down market cannot succeed if passive or easily frightened. The following job-search tools apply to the most important campaign you will ever be involved with — your own career.

Though some practitioners may lose their jobs this year, many others will continue to climb their career ladder because they have matched the corporate culture of their employer to their own values. When applying for any position at any level, research your potential employer. Read the company’s annual report. Look for historical business patterns. Check the biographies of the executives at or, which contain historical corporate records and executive biographies for thousands of private and public companies.

Entry level
If you’re a new graduate, do at least one internship. Contact your alumni office to find alums working at organizations that interest you. Encourage your school to provide the kind of proactive help that Yale University did with its job-a-thon during the economic downturn of the mid-1980s. Officials provided alumni names and contact information to the senior class, and then helped the students make contact and request informational interviews. The goal was not to create jobs, but to create mentoring relationships and build networking contacts.

Even with job-search sites and blogs, studies have shown that more than 60 percent of all new hires happen because of a personal relationship or contact.

Three or more years of experience
Plot your job search strategy just like you would write a PR plan for a client. Identify your strengths, your key messages, and highlight them in your résumé. No one will hire you if you cannot summarize your strengths and abilities succinctly and confidently.

Follow the basics of relationship marketing. Stay in touch with your mentors,  update your portfolio and make sure your professional association memberships are current.  Also:

  • Seek opportunities to strengthen relationships with peers in your network.
  • Know — and nurture — your mentors and colleagues as individuals, not just because they can offer you job leads.
  • When you get that next job, maintain your networking relationships. Be ready to pass along job opportunities to others.

Finding a new job will take longer than it used to (an average of three to nine months), so a conscious comprehension of who you are and what you offer to an organization is essential.  As a midcareer job seeker, you will be more successful if you:

  • Know your niche and work it. This may be a combination of fields, such as health care and technology. Current economic times do not favor a career pathway jump.
  • Let employers know if you will move for the right position.
  • Get to know others on the same career path. Introduce yourself to your counterparts in nearby cities and at professional development gatherings.
  • Know and become involved in your field. Beyond a PRSA membership, consider serious involvement in other professional associations specific to your niche: health care, public policy, technology, human resources or event planning, for instance.
  • Desperation does not work. Don’t apply for positions for which you are overqualified.

Senior level
Stop defining yourself in terms of your former job title. A résumé makeover is essential and must reflect the management expertise you have amassed. Cut nonessential and entry-level jobs; focus on articulating the senior-level skills learned in your last few positions.

Senior practitioners must also accept that a change in field could be necessary. Highly paid workers with more than 10 years of experience may be unemployed for up to a full year in this economy.

Continuing education
Adult learning is a unique blend of education, experience and self-awareness. If you are a senior practitioner and aren’t Accredited in Public Relations, now is the time to earn it. (Any PRSA member in good standing can take on the challenge of earning Accreditation. However, it is recommended that candidates have at least five years of experience in the full-time practice or teaching of public relations or have equivalent work experience.) Exam preparation and study make you more competitive. Bonds formed in study groups often last a lifetime. The best benefit: You gain a broader understanding of the sheer size of the PR and communications world and its opportunities.

Mara Woloshin, M.A., APR, Fellow PRSA, has managed her boutique agency in Portland, Ore., since 1991, where she is also on the faculty of the University of Portland. E-mail:


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