Q. I’ve been out of college for a few years and am employed as an Executive Assistant. I’ve had one previous job and then my current job, both of which have enabled me to do some communications and event management work. I’d like to transition to more of a public relations-oriented job and have been told in very certain terms that it’s not possible where I’m currently at. I’ve been looking at job announcements but have found that most related positions want some sort of PR experience with a firm or in a department. Even the most entry-level ones want a basic communications internship or communications degree (I majored in political science and had related internships). Is their any advice you can give me for transitioning into a career in communications? -JJ
A. It’s possible, but not easy, to make the transition from a non-PR specific job into public relations. In the U.S., an estimated eight thousand new PR graduates are added to the PR talent pool each year, and many already have several relevant internships on their resumes. Recent graduates and others who have been working in other PR internships are first in line for agency internships and entry-level positions. Therefore, you need to build your own realistic transition game plan.
I asked Ketchum’s New York HR director Katherine A. Yustak provide you with recommendations for your PR job search. Here’s what Katherine suggests:
There are several ways to play to current strengths and gain additional skills that may help in your transition to a new career. First off, take a look at your resume – make sure it clearly showcases work and experience that you have in the PR area. Ensure that your objective or summary statement is targeted (and in some cases personalized) to the specific position for which you are applying, and plays up your strengths.
Be thoughtful about companies that you are targeting and the positions you are applying for. A smaller boutique agency might be more realistic, as their positions can sometimes span across functions. For example, an administrative assistant would probably have a portion of the job dedicated to PR work – this may allow you to leverage your recent experience and continue to move in the direction of your long term goals. Focus on the content of the role to build your skillset, and always be willing to stretch and take on more in your area of interest. Also – expand your reach beyond a traditional agency – thinking about the client side, non-profits, or firms that focus on your base area of knowledge (government, poli-sci) and you can leverage knowledge in that area.
Network relentlessly – join PRSA, seek out and attend industry networking events, build your online network. Create a blog – your social media footprint is a way to get your name out there and connect with people in the industry.
Be pro-active in building your knowledge– take courses specific in PR, perhaps from a university or even online (Bulldog Reporter webinars are an example of this).
Offer your services for free– reach out to local businesses and offer pro-bono services around social media marketing, or volunteer for a party, candidate or cause.