Public relations students at Southeast Missouri State University became Culpwrits this week in order to respond to several assigned questions. PR professor Susan Gonders reports here on the one-week curriculum based on the student scavenger hunt through Culpwrit posts.
• From the advice Calmetta Coleman offers in “Business Writing is Business Writing,” I asked students to identify the one tip that will be most helpful in their careers.
80% said use of a comma in the salutation is important. It’s easy to forget this and then appear too casual. It could also make it look like you don’t know how to punctuate.
20% pointed to spell check. Since we will be graduates in communications, we should be able to communicate without error. This reflects on our image and how people perceive us.
• From the advice Susan Balcom Walton offers in “Time – Fourth Dimension of Job Search Process,” I asked students to identify the time of the typical job search cycle.
60% learned that it takes 8-12 months to find a first job, but 40% added that it takes even longer for public relations graduates. Since we may have to wait as long as two years for that first job, we need to plan ahead.
• Then I asked the students to identify one tip offered by Professor Walton for using time productively while maneuvering through the job search cycle.
Half said they need to get as much business skill and knowledge as they can while they search for that first job. Half said that, if you need to get another job while looking for the PR position of your dreams, you should try to get something in a related field.
• I asked students to check the no-cost templates for which Tim Conway provided links in “How to Create a Digital Career Portfolio.” When Tim saw this item in our assignment, he e-mailed us a list of additional resources. So students had several from which to choose.
I was disappointed that 20% chose Microsoft Word, simply because this is the program with which they are most familiar. It is also the most technologically elementary. I was also disappointed that 40% chose Microsoft PowerPoint, also because they are already familiar with it.
I was, however, pleased that 40% of the students chose to opt for something new. Half of the more adventurous students liked “Experience” because it helps people gain access to jobs, internships and other opportunities. The other half liked Visual CV because they thought it was visually appealing with many options to help you look more professional. At least some of the students found new options for their portfolios.
• I wanted students to get familiar with some of the profession’s leaders. So I asked them to consider Gary McCormick’s “Career Capsule” and tell me which of his first 10 jobs they think was most pivotal in positioning him for his work with Scripps Networks and ultimately with HGTV.
Interestingly, 100% of the students pointed to Gary’s position as director of public relations at Colorado Women’s College. They thought this job gave him the most valuable experience and provided the contacts that effectively put him on the path to his current position
• We are struggling a bit with professional hair, attire and accessories. So I asked the students to identify the two books that Ron Culp recommends.
They all identified “Dress for Success” by John Malloy and “Career Coach” by Phyllis Korkki. I hope the students read these books.
• In a previous class, students explored sites that offer tips on appearance, and we compiled a list of the best tips. But Ron Culp offered one suggestion that we missed.
100% found the tip about men’s dress shoes being more comfortable if they have rubber soles. Some, such as Murphy’s Trampolines, ECCO and some varieties of Rockport, are almost as comfortable as sneakers.
• I asked students to read “Phone Interview Tips” and tell me how they should answer the telephone.
Now they all know it is best to answer with an upbeat voice and identify yourself instead of just saying “hello.”
• Now they all know to be prepared for the two often-asked final questions in an interview:
(1) Do you have any questions about the company or the position?
(2) Do you have anything you’d like to add about yourself that I didn’t cover?
• I asked the students what tip Gary McCormick added as a comment to the original “Phone Interview Tips” post.
60% said Gary advised them to relax and be yourself, but 40% found the more specific tip I was hoping they would notice. Gary recommended purchase of a cell phone with limited minutes exclusively for interview purposes. That way, if the phone rings, you know it’s a potential employer.
• I directed the students to read “Global PR Facts and Insights” and click on the summaries of the different countries. Of the 16 countries outside of the U.S., I asked them to select the one in which they would most like to work and tell me the one fact learned that would be most helpful in their careers.
Canada, the country closest to the U.S. geographically and most like the U.S. in language and culture, was selected by 30%. They said it was because Canada is an open society that is free of class distinction.
The United Kingdom, which is also very similar to the U.S., was selected by 40%, but at least they had more thoughtful reasons. Because the Brits value individualism and have a tolerance for different opinions and cultures, the students thought it would offer opportunities to sell new ideas. And because a degree is not yet required for a career in British public relations, students thought PR practitioners might be viewed as “spin doctors” even more than in the U.S. Students speculated that coming from the U.S. with academic credentials could inject some credibility for public relations in Great Britain.
Australia was chosen by 10% because they are also high on individualism Down Under.
And Europe was chosen by 20% of the students. They said it was because it is the most like the U.S. when working in the public relations profession.
I was disappointed that students chose countries in familiar comfort zones. We need to focus more on other parts of the globe in our studies – and encourage some risk-taking outside the English language.
• I directed students to “Career Quick Start Via Volunteerism” and asked them to tell me which of the sites for which links were provided would most appeal to them.
60% chose Teach for America because this organization’s objective is to give every American an education regardless of origins.
20% chose Idealist.org because this organization offers many resources to help build a better world. It also creates a great social networking atmosphere.
20% chose the Peace Corps because it offers opportunities to travel to many places in the world. It is also familiar, and students know it is a credible program.
• Because this summer class is PR Research & Strategy, I asked the students to respond to the “Undergraduate Twitter Survey” and offer any recommendations for improving the instrument.
All of the students pointed to the question that asked, “Do you have a Twitter account?” Subsequent questions assumed that respondents did have a Twitter account. Some students suggested that subsequent items should have an alternative for those who do not have an account. Others suggested follow-up items about why respondents do or don’t have Twitter accounts – or what might motivate them to create Twitter accounts.
The Culpwrit blog was a great “virtual guest lecturer.” We’ll invite it back into our classroom next semester. Thanks, Ron, for this helpful and dynamic resource for students.