Universities are keen to recruit students onto PR degree courses. Employers are keen to hire good graduates to PR and comms roles. Yet universities and employers want the right people. Here are some myths and misunderstandings that suggest to me you may be wrong for them.
1. ‘Someone told me I’m a natural for PR’.
Who were they and what insider knowledge do they have? If they were merely complimenting you on your sunny personality, why do you think developing this perfect personality merits a three or four year degree course or is the basis for a professional career?
2. ‘I studied English so I’m a good writer’.
You probably can’t become a good writer without being a keen reader, so it helps if you can talk about the books you’ve read. But writing university essays is no preparation for the business and media writing needed in public relations. Journalism is a better training than English Literature.
3. ‘I love the media and popular culture’.
This helps, but an interviewer would probably not ask you about the X-Factor. They would probably ask you about politics or international affairs rather than your celebrity obsessions. Are you an all-rounder?
4. ‘I don’t want an office job’.
Your parents probably didn’t either, but their parents may think you’re lucky to have avoided manual work and conscription into the army. PR jobs need not be office-bound (comms is going mobile) – but the work is office-based so it’s best to serve your time.
5. ‘I’m not interested in technology’.
Most drivers aren’t interested in the workings of the internal combustion engine, but they appreciate what a car enables them to do. We need more geeks willing to experiment with new ways of communicating.
6. 'I love words, not numbers.’
Communicators work with words, so tend not to be mathematicians. But the future of PR is data-driven, so please don’t reveal your weakness in this area.
7. ‘I’ve studied hard so have no more to learn’.
You may have gained a good degree, but that’s not enough to impress an employer. They don’t hire you for what you know, but for your potential to keep on learning. The future is exciting and unpredictable, so we need adaptable people capable of continuous professional development.
Richard Bailey is editor of PR Place. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.