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Getting Your Feet Wet, Again and Again (and Again)

The PR industry is ever-evolving, continuously adapting to the media and technology that has changed the practice in the last decade. In the three short years since I graduated, I have watched the competitive nature of the business explode, mirroring the large number of under-grads marching towards a career in PR. Looking back on my few years in the professional arena (and because hindsight is 20/20), I wanted to share a few thoughts and learning’s for you soon-to-be grads.

A notion that has come to me with a quarter-century in age and experience is that you must remain open to any opportunity. During my job search earlier this year, I was told by a number of hiring managers that, because of an agency’s desire to grow organically, I may need to take a step back and intern again. Since my career path took a turn away from agency PR, I opened up to this advice and came to the realization that an internship with the right company would be a killer opportunity to get my foot back in the door and re-introduce me to the ways and means of agency life.

Through word-of-mouth, I have been hearing stories circulating of recent or soon-to-be grads declining interviews for a post-grad internship. I get it. You want to be a full-timer. You want the stamp of approval that you belong in this industry. You’re young (and obviously cool), so you figure that you are in-the-know with social media. And here we come to my second point: if you are presented with the opportunity to meet with an agency or PR firm, no matter the position, take it! Use it as a way to build relationships, hone your interviewing skills and get to know more about the agencies that are out there.

My background is case and point. Once again in agency-land, I am reminded why I love this field: there is always something new to learn and smart people who love to share their wealth of knowledge. The beauty of being an intern is that you are supposed to be soaking up the brilliance of your peers with the advantage of a learning curve. There is time to become informed about your clients, just make sure to quickly crank up your game and show that you are developing as a professional. An internship is only what you make of it and your coworkers will take notice when you are taking your work to the next level. It’s vital to follow up on projects, volunteer to pitch in on other teams and be transparent about what interests you. Speak up in brainstorms, be an active member of your team and continue to build your visibility within the company to mold an internship into an entry-level position.

Although there are the lucky ones who, in the last few years, have managed to secure a job right out of school, that person may not be you. It sure wasn’t me. Remember these three pillars – Right Time, Right Place, Right Fit. All must fall into place, both for you and for the company. Be sure to keep all of your wants and needs in mind and, if you find that you may have settled in your choices, make a change! The power is in your own hands to make your future. Your resume is like a blueprint to the career you are reaching for, so fill it only with opportunities that get you one step closer to your dream.

You must prove yourself (a lot) to get started in this industry. The level of competition is only growing, so don’t miss out on a chance to first get your feet wet. Be patient and, with time, you will find yourself steering towards that epic first job.

In summation, my motto is this: Learn, Hustle. Hustle, Learn. HUSTLE.


~Blair Riley, Porter Novelli Atlanta