Young professionals completing their first year in new jobs seldom get a major platform to express what they wish they had learned in college. Last Friday, four members of Edelman’s “freshman class” got a chance to share their “wish list” with some 100 deans, communication professors and PR association leaders at the 2014 Academic Summit in Chicago.
The 3-day bi-annual conference at DePaul University is the brainchild of Richard Edelman and underwritten by his firm. The program brings educators and professionals together to discuss the rapid evolution of the public relations profession. While all sessions were informative, perhaps the most important panel was the last one—a discussion led by agency recruiter Travis Kessel that featured four 2013 graduates now working in Edelman’s Chicago office: Megan Zagger (Notre Dame), Michelle Rivas (DePaul), Iman Rahim (Missouri) and Shawn Jackson (North Carolina A&T State University).
First thought that came to mind when Megan was asked what she wishes she had learned in college was “more experience in trendspotting.” She added that a better “pulse on the news of the day” also is essential.
Michelle said colleges should “play to students’ strengths” with an emphasis on day-to-day-basics of agency positions, while Shawn said he wishes he had more experience in developing media lists and creating pitches. “Don’t focus so much on campaigns”.
Iman said students need to understand “the feedback loop is more long term in the real world than in school.” Unlike college assignments, don’t expect to receive immediate feedback.
“It’s always worth it to put in the extra hour of effort,” Iman emphasized. “You can get a B or C in college and move on. An average effort in the real-world won’t get you ahead.”
Other important college wishes on the young pros’ list:
- On-campus agency experience
- Agency tours
- Creative writing and investigative journalism
- Diversity of experience
- Social media/digital skills, including e-portfolios
- Diverse course work—not just PR-related subjects