I am about a year and a half out of college (that feels weird to say) and I am slowly but surely working my way towards the no-longer-entry-level status in the work world. There have been highs and lows and a lot of very middle I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing’s. I have learned A LOT. Like seriously you learn more in your first year out of school than arguably all 4 years in it (shoutout to all that tuition debt I owe back).
Here’s the thing. Every industry has a stereotype. Like engineers and doctors get the “wow you must work so many hours, but you make a lot of money.” Social workers probably get a lot of “so you must really be passionate about the work you do to get paid that little, huh?” And those in the public relations field either get the “so…. what exactly do you do?” or “wow you must have the most fabulous, exciting, etc. etc. life ever!!!!!!”
I can’t speak to doctors or engineers or social workers. But I can tell you a little something about public relations. It’s not always glamorous. But, it can definitely be a lot of fun- if you do it correctly.
1. You will probably start small. Like small.
Like you thought you were going to get out of college and work at this fancy, ginormous public relations agency with free lunch every day and daily team building outings and napping pods or something? Maybe some people do and kudos to them. But let me explain how it goes for many. A lot of people want to work in public relations. A lot of people are incredibly talented who want to work in public relations. With a saturated market full of strong talent you sometimes have to start from the bottom, prove yourself, and hang on for the ride. I graduated from college with no job offer, found an internship at my current agency, was thrilled it was paid, and got to work. And I did. I worked. I learned. I got WAY overwhelmed the first day, because who knew they actually meant it when they said to work at at agency it’s highly recommended that you have agency experience? You thought they were kidding? They were not. This is how careers in PR start sometimes, so I am here to tell you not to be discouraged that you didn’t get that full-time, fabulous PR job right away. That’s not what it’s about. I promise.
2. Sometimes your job will feel glamourous. Sometimes you build media lists.
Lol okay, media lists aren’t ALWAYS bad but they certainly don’t get my PR heart rate going. Sometimes you get to go to events and plan events and pitch reporters and create AHmazing social media content that GASP you actually get to post. The first year (or two or three) can be super exciting because everything is new. The first year (or two or three) can be super humbling because while there are some days that you get to do all of the above, there are some days that you have to cross off the task of closing out a private Facebook group, and believe it or not, it’s not as simple as just closing it with the click of a button. You literally have to un-invite every single group member in order for it to close. One at a time :-). But… IT’S OKAY!!!! This is what public relations is. It’s highs and it’s lows. It’s busy and it’s quiet. It’s humbling and it’s thrilling. And guess what? I like it that way. Because, while it sometimes may be humbling, you definitely can’t say it stays the same.
3. A lot of people will not know what you do. That’s okay
Public relations is a pretty broad field so can we blame the general public for not knowing what it is half the time? I feel like when people think PR they think along the lines of White House Press Secretary and I think I speak for most every PR professional when I say THANK GOD THAT’S NOT WHAT I DO. I work a lot with social media- creating the content, scheduling the content, and tracking the success and analytics of the content. I work a lot with media and media relations- I write news releases and pitches for print, digital, and tv, I secure coverage for clients, and I track that coverage with media placements. After all that, people will probably still not know what I do. That’s kind of the point of PR though. It changes all the time. It changes even for me from client to client and from day to day. It’s not important that people know what you do. You know what you do and your client knows what you do because (hopefully) you are delivering strong results. Those are the only 2 things that matter.
4. There are seriously so many things you don’t know.
You have graduated but you are so not done learning. You will learn how to track media placements and how to run social media analytic reports and about boosting audiences and so many other things that somehow they didn’t teach you in college and you aren’t quite sure why. But, I digress. It might be overwhelming and stressful but oh my God, isn’t it exciting? You actually get to do what you worked 4 (maybe more, no judgements) years to do and you are getting paid for it!!! Don’t feel discouraged that you don’t know things. Feel excited that you get to keep growing in this field. In fact, you are just starting to grow in this field. Be open minded to new ideas and know when to bring your ideas and experiences to the table, as well. You never know when you might just help someone else learn, too.
5. Seriously ask questions. But know when to just listen.
So you know how everyone thinks all members of the public relations workforce are extroverts? Well, they’re wrong. I’m a self-admitted and proud introvert. Can you seriously imagine how annoying any field would be if it was just one or the other? Yikes. However, you should know yourself when you step into the workforce- extrovert or introvert- and take yourself out of your comfort zone to act as both. Introverts: ask questions, network (all of our worst nightmares, I know), meet new people in the industry. Extroverts: Listen, take notes, observe how something works that you have never been apart of before. It might shock you how much you can learn from simply remaining quiet. And I bet it wouldn’t shock you at all how much you can learn from speaking up and asking every question you have about this field. None are stupid and every member of this industry has been at the start of year 1 and knows exactly how you feel.
6. You don’t need a fancy, ginormous PR agency to make your first job incredible
I work at an agency with 8 people and they are some of the greatest 8 people I have ever met. I cannot express how much I genuinely enjoy going into work everyday, not just because of the work, but because of my co-workers. There is some serious talent that I have been able to learn from and they are some of the most funny, engaging, and genuinely caring people I’ve ever met. There is no point to working this glamorized public relations lifestyle (even though I don’t think that actually exists) if the place you spend 8+ hours of your day makes you miserable. I honestly really lucked into this company. I found that internship I told you about in point 1 while scrolling through Instagram and it started out as working 15 hours a week and then 30 and then full time. That could have been any company. But I am glad that it ended up being mine.
Year 1 in any field is probably exciting and daunting and will be full of I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing’s. A lot changes when you leave college. It is scary. It is overwhelming. And, it can be exciting if you let it be. Working in my first full-time PR role has taught me a lot over the last year. And hey, I’m certainly no Samantha Jones, but I’m pretty excited to see what’s around the corner for year 2.