Public relations students are faced with many career options after graduation. Should they pursue a career in agency public relations? Corporate? Nonprofit? At the Oct. 23 PRSSA meeting, public relations professionals Stephanie Jansky, Tami Brown and Abbey Linville participated in a panel discussion to educate members about the different areas of PR.
Jansky, Cleveland Clinic’s manager of communications and public affairs, provided insight into the world of nonprofit public relations. More often than not in a small nonprofit organization, there will be no “public relations” job title. It will function under a different umbrella such as fundraising or community involvement, she said.
“The risks are lower in nonprofit,” Jansky said. “It’s an easy place to learn because there isn’t as much pressure. You can afford to mess up sometimes.”
Brown, general manager of the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, said nonprofit work was worthwhile thanks to the culture of nonprofit organizations and the people working in the industry.
“There is so little money and so much that needs to be done,” Brown said. “In nonprofit, you know the people are not there to get rich. They really believe in the mission of the organization.”
Linville, an account executive at Dix & Eaton, said there is a major misconception about corporate public relations: Students think that they will be stuck in one industry for the rest of their careers if they choose to pursue a career in corporate PR. This is simply not true, she said.
“If you pick the right company, you may want to stay in that industry,” Linville said. “You can have a lot of diversity in your work. You just have to find the right industry for you.”
Jansky agreed. Focusing her career in healthcare public relations, she said that practitioners must have a genuine interest in the corporations for which they’d like to work for. When interviewing candidates for a position, companies can easily see through the facade if an individual tries to fake interest.
Agency public relations appeals to professionals who need variety in their work. Linville said a practitioner in agency PR always has a changing schedule.
“Working in an agency, there is a lot more flexibility day-to-day,” Linville said. “Sometimes you’re working with a PR person from the client itself, sometimes you’re working with someone else. You rarely get to see the CEO, so it’s a big deal when it happens.”
Linville said that most recent graduates pursue a career in agency because it has the most entry-level jobs.
“Corporate entry-level jobs usually only guarantee you a year-plus of work,” Linville said. “Agency can be more realistic.”
Linville also shared how her career as a public relations student at Kent State prepared her for a career in agency public relations. Her projects, especially in Case Studies and Campaigns, helped her land her first job.
“Kent State set me up for everything,” Linville said. “I learned how to network, how to write a résumé. I had to create a LinkedIn profile, and it’s so important in the professional world to keep that updated.”
Linville also recommends that students get to know their professors and Campaigns advisors and keep in touch with them after graduation; they can provide guidance on projects or help find new job opportunities.
Once a student has found an opening, the professionals offered these tips while interviewing:
Overall, students shouldn’t corner themselves into one area of public relations.
“Be flexible,” Brown said. “Keep half of your heart open to other possibilities.”
Katelyn Luysterborg, PR Kent alumna and former PRSSA Kent Chapter president, spoke to students about personal branding both online and offline at the October 9 meeting.
Luysterborg, manager and social media specialist for Cleveland-based interactive marketing company Rosetta, shared her “Dos and Don’ts” of personal branding.
• Be yourself
“Above all, make sure you’re being yourself,” Luysterborg said. “It sounds like a ‘duh.’ Don’t try to be something you’re not. Find out what you’re passionate about and let it shine through.”
• Define your goals and focus
Just like public relations practitioners create goals and objectives for clients, Luysterborg recommends that students create goals and objectives for personal branding and online networking. “Know what you want, make those connections, and make sure everything you do and say is in line with that,” she said.
• Be personal and engaging
Luysterborg suggests that writing for a blog or on social media can showcase interests and skills. Social media is all about making connections, Luysterborg said, so students should cut back on talking about themselves and focus on creating conversations with others on Twitter.
• Google yourself
Luysterborg said students don’t know what’s being said about them unless they actively pursue that information. She recommends that everyone Google themselves so they are knowledgable about the information a potential employer could find about them online. If an employer brought up something they found online during an interview, students will be prepared to explain themselves openly and honestly.
• Be all business all the time
As mentioned in the “Dos,” employers want to see potential employees be themselves. Being all business all the time may make an applicant seem fake. Interviewers often use the “layover test” to determine if an interviewee’s personality fits with the culture of the organization. As explained in the 2013 film “The Internship,” the test asks whether or not the interviewer would want to be stuck in an airport for six hours with the potential employee.
• Be too casual
With the previous point said, being “overly casual can come off as sloppy.”
• Be too private
To an employer, being too private can imply that a potential employee has something to hide. Some people have specific social media accounts for their own personal use rather than for business. It’s okay to have personal social media accounts, but if an employer sees that someone’s Facebook page is very private, they have a reason to be suspicious of the person and his or her activities on the internet.
• Be afraid to network
Students should take advantage of every networking opportunity offered to them, especially through PRSSA. These opportunities could lead to jobs or internships in the future. Luysterborg encouraged students to reach out to professionals at events and follow up with them afterward through email or LinkedIn.