A year ago, I urged job seekers to accept any available job. That’s not my advice today.
As prospects for public relations jobs show signs of improvement, many restless job seekers remain understandably ready to jump into the first opportunity that presents itself. No matter how badly you need a job, jumping too soon can be a mistake.
During the past few months, I have talked with more than a dozen public relations professionals who are having second thoughts about the jobs they accepted out of desperation. A couple even said they took the first job that was offered, while better opportunities followed shortly after they started their new gigs.
A 2010 public relations graduate told me he is “miserable in the internship from hell.” He added, “I should have known better when I heard that the last intern lasted a month and no intern had ever been offered a full-time position.” He admitted jumping too soon since he had also interviewed for two other internships that sounded promising.
Another is completing a public relations master’s degree program while working full time in a job that she hates.
“I didn’t realize until three months into my current position that I really didn’t know as much as I should have about my company, the culture, or what the job truly entailed,” said the disillusioned young public relations pro.
“We as ‘future leaders’ have to do our research about companies, their leadership, their areas of specialties, their position in the market and the expectations, so that we can make the best decision.” She correctly observed that we spend too much of our time at work, so we better know what we’re getting into.
Since it’s important for effective resume building to remain in your first job for a minimum of a year, applicants must do their homework before pursuing a job with the wrong firm. Spending a year in a miserable job will seem like an eternity. Yes, it’s possible to switch jobs with less than a year under your belt, but you then will be locked in for at least a year. Early departure from a second job will result in the dreaded “job-hopper” label.
In order to ensure you’re making the right decision, do your homework before the interview and after the offer.
Tap your network. In addition to those you meet during the interview, talk with alumni who have worked for the firm. Alumni generally are open for cold calls or e-mails seeking insight, especially if they know you have been made an offer and are not merely doing research. (I’ve also heard of a situation where such an inquiry ended up in the alum doing a phone interview that resulted in the caller being invited into his agency for an interview—and job offer).
Interviews are two-way. Come prepared with your own questions and listen to their answers. Be sure to ask the most junior and most senior persons to describe the organization’s culture. If they don’t sound similar, beware. After getting the job offer, ask to meet one of the people in the process for coffee or lunch to get a better sense of the job and culture.
When in doubt about an organization, study it further. If possible, seek out firms and individuals that have a positive reputation in the profession. Even though there are many quality small companies and agencies, your resume gets a major boost if it carries brand names. This is especially important during the early stages of your career.
Tap online tools. A variety of online tools help you conduct your own research into this profession, culture and salaries. Such tools allow you to focus your search on companies where you’ll enjoy working. Here are a few I recommend: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is a fountain of information about public relations jobs.
Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For can help you determine the type of company and culture where you might excel. You also can read about the 25 companies that each have 700 or more job openings currently.
Ron Culp, a Ketchum partner and head of the agency’s North American Corporate Practice, provides public relations career advice on his blog, http://www.culpwrit.com.
This article is courtesy of PRSSA Forum. http://www.prssa.org/forum/