February 19th, 2014 by Bendure

Yesterday, we got the chance to teach a PR class at Howard University. Students were mostly all in their senior year, with half of them majoring in public relations and the other half in advertising. The class was applying real-world practices, as the students had broken up into groups or “agencies” and were actually counseling and representing real clients.

Our presentation was titled “Real Life in a PR Agency” – and we made sure all the points also applied to ad agencies; so basically we were giving the students a taste of what it would be like to work in an agency. It was our goal to explain to them the difference between working in an agency as opposed to working as the in-house communications professional. We also spent a good deal of time talking about how the lifestyle at a large corporate firm contrasted the workplace in a smaller, boutique-style firm. Central themes we preached about agency life? Long hours, and ability to switch back and forth between different clients and industries.

What would you advise students wanting to get their first job at an agency?

You could immediately tell which students were type-A personalities; these individuals were already looking for jobs, in the middle of internships and they asked the most questions. After we gave our presentation, we spent about 45 minutes taking questions from the class.

There were a lot of great questions posed, but what we all found interesting was the focus the students put on the interview process. There were less technical PR questions and more about how was the best way to get a job. We spent a good deal of time explaining how to effectively interview; explaining what “stay in touch” meant; and the importance of networking.

I’ve been out of college for nearly six years, so I was in the best position to relate to these students, though my colleagues were in a fantastic position to speak as their hypothetical CEO or vice presidents. It was easy to see many of the students were eager to get into their first jobs out of college, and I thought back to the position I was in when graduating in 2008. We’d yet to have the economy decline, and graduates seeking PR jobs weren’t having to compete for the same position with others much more experienced. It wasn’t until months into my time at an agency in New York that friends at Lehman Brothers or in finance lost their jobs; or we started getting emails in droves about newspapers and other publications folding. That certainly changed a lot about our profession.

But even back then, preparation and networking were still the best way to get a job in PR. Even though these soon-to-be young professionals might not have as easy of a job market to enter, those mantras still apply. Connect with alumni who are working in PR in cities where you’d like to move; ask for informational interviews at agencies you’re interested in applying at; and do an internship – do several!

Although there have been some changes in the world of public relations and advertising, I was pleased to see that the enthusiasm of students in a classroom in 2014 was as buzzing as it was in my class in 2008. It will take hard work to get to the place they want to be, but the future generation of PR looks bright.

-Meghan Blackburn

Want to see our presentation? Click here.

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