Public relations is a top career choice and the demand for talent is so huge that you may think you will have your choice of dream jobs with a fast track to the top. So you think public relations will be easy?It can be glamorous, exciting, challenging, some of the time. But be prepared also for intense frustration, massive and nonstop hard work, limited support and resources. And, above all, brace yourself for constant criticism from those who understand nothing but who believe they know better than you about everything. Also prepare yourself for hostility from many of those you are trying to help – from the media, from your customers, employees, politicians and even your own boss, sometimes!Yet, getting into the business may be the toughest challenge you will face.To get anywhere near success, you will need to be: articulate, committed, creative, energetic, good-natured, imaginative, industrious, loyal, sensitive, talented, tolerant and wise beyond your years.Do not ever say in your applications or at interview that you want to be in public relations because you can communicate and you like people. Those are shallow, jokey qualities that might win the response that you should consider being an undertaker.
And never admit to being shy. No one buys that. I told all my graduate trainees and applicants (100 and over 2000 respectively at the last count) that they could be shy only if they practised that at home on a Sunday. I never wanted to see timidity at work.If you do manage to get onto the shortlist for an unadvertised job or apply for one that is advertised, then you will need killer instincts, but combined with Oscar-standard personal skills to beat the massive and impressive competition.Winners will not be the best candidates but those least likely to failSo minimise the risk. Go to the interview with a stunning work folio. Show the interviewer that you understand the demands, know the organisation, its environment, ambitions, strengths and weaknesses and you have exactly the right experience to prove you can handle this impossible position.Real work will count for a lot. Remember to make the interview interesting and lively for the interviewer. He or she may be exhausted by the job or irritated by previous applicantsfrazzled. Some may resent you if they have no degree and has less experience of human relations at 40 than you had at 14.The time to start planning for your job search is the day you start your degree course – or even earlier. Network and add to your contacts database constantly. Email these folk, send them ideas, ask them questions, quote them in your student work and send them copies. Networking works; I have introduced young would-be public relations professionals to top practitioners in some of the largest companies in the world.If you are still at university, consider looking for a holiday job with a public relations firm. The work helps you demonstrate your skills and personality far more than a job interview can. Be willing to muck in, but don’t let yourself be exploited. Making the coffee is fine, but only if you’re given opportunities to use your skills as well.
You may have to approach public relations companies many times before you get anywhere. Regularly log on to public relations websites to get a sense of the issues. Set up a Google alert for public relations. Join your appropriate trade and professional bodies, even at student level. Go to the meetings. Offer to help, particularly as a press officer or similar. Keep examples of everything for your job folio.Note that the best jobs, almost all those worth getting, may never be advertised and those that are may already have their short list prepared before the ad appears and, even if they haven’t, you will face hundreds of other candidates likely to be better qualified, better prepared, better equipped and better than you. So if you are not sure you can make it, do yourself a great favour and save the heartache and give up now.But if you are truly determined, you will get in, you will rise and enjoy a rewarding and fascinating career. I have… and I am a long way from finished yet!