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Congratulations, you did it!
I remember the summer after graduation so fondly, but I also recall how daunting the transition to the “real world” was. As I pounded the pavement dropping off physical résumés and cover letters at firms to start my PR career (and start those pesky student loan payments!), I could have used some real-world advice from those agency-side.
There are a ton of tips and advice columns out there for recent grads, but not enough that focus on PR. So, who better to share advice with 2021 graduates than some Allison+Partners stars who graduated and started their careers fairly recently? Let’s hear from N.Y.-based Lucas Thompson, Phoenix-based Yasmine Gonzalez and San Francisco-based Ellen Marrero.
Q: Let’s start with advice for securing a job in PR. Any tips on this? How can candidates set themselves apart?
Yasmine: I graduated during the pandemic, which was a difficult time for many. I think the biggest lesson I learned was to be patient and not give up. One way to stand out is by being proactive, and it’s encouraged to follow up with thank you notes after your interview. Even if you don’t get hired at that specific agency, it will leave a good impression and they might even refer you to someone else who is hiring (that happened to me!).
Ellen: Before searching for jobs, I think it's important to look within and figure out your interests and your “why.” Then, use this as a North Star when searching for companies you want to work for. I think this automatically sets you apart because you'll naturally be invested in the hiring process, which will definitely show through your responses, the questions you ask and other general post-interview stuff.
Lucas: Never submit a job application or go on an interview without first doing your research. Going into the interview process with a clear knowledge of company values, awareness of notable clients and specific reasons why you are interested in the company is the best way to set yourself apart as a true contender instead of someone who just stumbled upon the listing on LinkedIn. Quality over quantity is key!
Q: Once new grads have entered the PR workforce, what are key qualities that will help them be successful?
Lucas: The important quality is to be open-minded and eager to learn. The truth is, as you start your career you aren’t going to know the answers to everything. And that’s perfectly fine! The important thing is taking the time and putting in the work to learn your role and progress your skills. Similarly, NEVER be afraid to ask questions.
Ellen: Similar to Lucas’ advice – be a sponge! Maintain a curious mindset and be open to learning new things. Imposter syndrome is real, and it can feel like you have no idea what you're doing (trust me, been there). But remember to view each challenge as an opportunity to learn something new. Overcommunicate and proactively ask for feedback. Taking advantage of mentorship opportunities and Employee Resource Groups can go a long way!
Yasmine: And building off Ellen’s great advice on the opportunities available to you – just get involved! It’s so important to find the things you’re passionate about when starting and connect with people who do that well. That’s why I love the OpenDoor program at A+P, where we get an opportunity to speak with senior leadership that specializes in different things.
Q: What is one thing about PR that you now know (maybe something surprising), but didn’t know before you started your career?
Yasmine: In college you learn a lot about pitching media, but it’s a whole new world when you’re actually doing it. Pitches are so much better when they are uniquely tailored to each reporter.
Ellen: I agree with Yaz. And I’ve learned media relations take time, and so do meaningful results. At first, I felt frustrated about not hearing back from any of my contacts. I later learned timing really is everything – just because it's not a fit today, doesn’t mean it won't be a fit the next month. This made me realize the importance of patience and building those relationships.
Lucas: I was surprised at how often I use Excel. Across accounts I work on, a lot of measurement tasks require me to analyze different metrics and use Excel functions. I love getting the opportunity to think analytically and have really expanded my knowledge of Excel’s capabilities.
Q: How do you think graduating and learning in a global pandemic will help 2021 grads entering PR?
Lucas: Speaking as someone who got to enjoy a few months in the office before the pandemic, working remotely taught me to be much more self-sufficient and a better critical thinker. In the office, I’d always pop over to my teammates' desk if I had a random question or needed a quick clarification. Working at home helped me become less dependent on my coworkers and forced me to think through situations on my own. This has made me a much better problem solver and turned me into a more well-rounded professional.
Yasmine: Graduating during the pandemic automatically gives each graduate a unique experience to share. They are able to market themselves as already knowing how to adapt quickly, meet deadlines remotely and most likely are already pros at Zoom meetings.
Ellen: While a pandemic certainly can throw you and your life plans off guard, it teaches you resilience and resourcefulness. I actually think that the abrupt change in the learning environment equipped ‘20/’21 graduates with two important skills needed to thrive in PR – agility and adaptability.
Q: Parting words of wisdom -- what is one piece advice you have for a 2021 grad starting on their first day in PR?
Yasmine: This is the moment you’ve been studying for. Have confidence in yourself and know they picked YOU for a reason. Now go show them why!
Ellen: YOU are a valuable asset to everyone – so be excited to use your voice, whatever it is you bring to the table!
Lucas: You might be confused and overwhelmed at first, but you’ll eventually find your place and be all acclimated in no time!
Meghan Curtis manages operations for Allison+Partners’ headquarters office in San Francisco. While fostering a collaborative and entrepreneurial environment for staff to thrive, she also oversees strategic public relations campaigns for several consumer brands in travel + tourism, consumer technology, food + beverage and healthcare industries.