Our class was privileged to have Jay Robb, Communication Director at Mohawk College, as well as Sean and Regina, discuss career advice with us. They reviewed several different topics and provided valuable insight for our careers as young professionals. Below I will highlight what was discussed and the positive conversation that ensued.
§ Make an effort to participate in one informational interview per week. In order to do this, ask for 30 minutes of the individual’s time to conduct the interview.
§ A major benefit to the informational interview at this stage in the game (i.e. pre-graduation) is that stakes are low and the pressure is off because it is practice. Although you would like to make a great first impression, it is important to seek feedback and guidance for future improvements.
§ In order to succeed at an informational interview, you should have researched the company and person conducting the interview prior to engage in conversation about the institution.
Scrub Your Accounts
§ When employers are hiring, they are looking into the depths of your social media history and it is important that your online presence portrays the message you want.
§ It is likely that your social media accounts will cost you more jobs than it will provide you.
§ Social media provides an easy forum to be extremely critical and negative to things others have said. It is necessary to consider if these are truly a reflection of your beliefs or if you were caught up in the ‘pile on’ concept whereby you fed off of others.
§ If you are regularly tweeting 50+ times a day, an employer will wonder if you would do this all day while on the clock. Will this individual work independently, or will they be online social media during office hours?
Clean, concise and compelling copy
§ Writing is the foundational skill of Public Relations, and for that reason, your writing skills must be strong. It is very likely that you will be writing much of the copy for the organization; therefore, it is necessary to take every possible opportunity to review your writing.
§ It is also necessary that you are able to write quickly as deadlines can appear in 20 minutes and you are not always given a two-week deadline.
§ It is crucial that you are able to tell a compelling story, as this is a main function of Public Relations. You will be consistently required to pitch stories to media, write releases or create video.
§ A lousy writer is a lousy storyteller.
Ace the Airplane Test
§ Are you likeable? Will you fit in with the team? Could your boss travel on a plane with you, stay with you for two nights, and fly home with you? These are the questions employers are thinking about.
§ Typically employers know within the first 30 seconds of an interview if you are the right fit for the team. Fit is important and likely what the employment offer will be based on, not solely your qualifications for the position.
Be great at one thing
§ Find your niche and excel. For example, Sean has great video skills and is able to shoot a video and have it ready between 2-3 hours later. This is a fantastic skill to have. Sean mentioned that he learnt these skills online, and everything he knows was self-taught.
§ Don’t be afraid to try something new as you never know when it may become useful.
§ Always ask why or how? If someone else is doing this, how can we do this? Is it possible we can implement the same measures? Why would this be beneficial?
§ Have a hunger for knowledge.
§ In order to become a better write, which you need to be, you have to read. Start by reading daily media, as it is necessary to know what is going on in the world. This knowledge leads to asking questions such as, how can this affect me? My job? My clients?
§ Magazine subscriptions are relevant. Subscribe to Times Magazine or The Economist and do not worry if you do not understand all the content. It allows you to re-invent the wheel and re-use ideas you have read from renowned sources.
Biggest Changes in the Industry
§ The Newsroom is hollowing out – mainstream media is fading and PR is directly filling this void. In fact, some PR departments are set up like a newsroom.
§ It is necessary to go directly to the audience rather than having the audience come to you.
§ PR Professionals are no longer pitching ideas, rather they are providing the entire story in hopes of having the story garner coverage.
Take away messages
Jay: To be successful in PR – it’s not about you; it’s about whom you’re serving!
Regina: If you wouldn’t say it in front of a group of people, then don’t post it!
Sean: Excel at one thing and don’t be afraid to try something knew!
Our classroom discussion around the aforementioned topics was rich and valuable. Jay provided a wealth of knowledge to the Public Relations postgraduate students and we are grateful Jay had the time to share his experiences with us.