You’re About to Graduate. Now What?



In a good economy, the prospect of finding that first job for any college senior is a daunting task. So it goes without saying that most of the class of ‘09 is terrified about what lies ahead once their tassels flip flop next month.


Current public relations students generally see their options as follows: jump feet first into the worst job market in recent history or continue their education.  These are two very different options, both with positives and negatives to consider.


In an effort to help students weigh these choices, The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, in conjunction with Insidedge, hosted the first in a series of webinars this past week titled “Deciding Between a PR Job and an Advanced Degree.”


Dr. Karla Gower, Director of the Plank Center and Associate Professor at the University of Alabama, Brandi Boatner, PRSSA National President, and myself discussed some of the finer points behind each of these avenues, with one theme remaining consistent: there is no simple answer; everyone has to make this decision for themselves.


Thanks in part to my own experience entering the PR industry upon graduating from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and my current role as a recruiter, I pointed out some of the benefits of full-time employment.  I firmly believe that this economy has created opportunities for the communications world to shine, and that if students can demonstrate abilities to help move the needle, they will be hired.


Some of my points included:


·         Weighing the costs involved with going back to school versus earning a paycheck

·         Developing tactical skills starting day one that might help you reach your professional goals faster

·         Building a large professional network sooner rather than later


Brandi added that by pursuing a Master’s in communications, students can strengthen their knowledge of the profession and sharpen their critical thinking abilities. Additionally, these individuals can open themselves up to more job opportunities and greater earning potential. She cautioned the audience that choosing to go back to school should not be a “way out” of getting a job, but something you believe in.


In the end, Dr. Gower, who moderated our panel, summarized the specific types of degrees students might choose to pursue and also some of the requirements that go along with the application process.


The hour-long session concluded with a variety of questions from our audience, which included students and members of the Plank Center’s Board of Advisors.




I have two friends from college, who I thought about when preparing for this webinar. One studied PR as an undergrad with me while the other majored in political science, but went on to earn her Master’s in communications. They each pursued different segments of the business (product/brand vs. financial/corporate), and after a job or two, wound up working for the same mid-sized agency in New York. Each of them has had much success early in their careers, having been promoted numerous times.  Does one’s background outweigh the other’s? Of course not. They both followed their interests and wound up in similar roles at the same company and are thriving.


Keep an open mind and do your homework on each of the options presented to you. There are no wrong answers to these questions, and by working hard and following your heart, you’ll be successful in whichever path you choose.


(Doug is a senior associate at Heyman Associates, the New York-based executive recruiting firm specializing in PR and communication searches.  You can view the PowerPoint presentation from the webinar at the Plank Center website).

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