“Purpose is not nice. It is about having edges.”
- Polly LaBarre, Founding Member, Fast Company, Editorial Director, MIX
I think for many students, one of the biggest fears is finding themselves working day after day at a job they absolutely hate. When we’re in college, it’s all about “what do you want to do after graduation?” Most students, when asked that question, won’t have an answer. How could we possible have already identified one specific job that we’re ready to commit our lives to? After attending the PRSSA 2014 National Conference, I don’t think we’re really asking the right questions. Instead of frantically trying to discover the job that we want to do, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves what goals we have and what purpose we have?
Polly LaBarre, founding member of Fast Company and Editorial Director of MIX, said that her first piece of advice is to stand for something. Find a purpose, find something you want to achieve, and then do it. Finding that purpose won’t necessarily make things easier, but it will make things clearer. We’re all searching for our “dream job”, but I think we forget that a major part of that is the dream. What do we really want to do in this world. Once we have purpose and goals, we can set out to achieve it. What companies are in that industry? How can I contribute with the skills I have?
Maril Gagen MacDonald, CEO and Founder of Gagen MacDonald, said “Don’t just have a job. Have a dream, have a goal, have a mission.” Like Polly, she knows that the only way we’re ever going to truly want to work hard at the same thing every day is to believe in what we’re doing. Our jobs shouldn’t just be something we do to earn money. They should be something we are motivated to do every day in order to achieve our goals.
As future Communication Professionals, we have the skills that every company in every industry needs. We have the opportunity to work for the restaurant industry, the entertainment industry, and everything in-between. We’re the ones who help our companies be the company they want to be. We make sure their actions match their mission, and we make sure that everyone knows about it. We have the opportunity to make an impact. As Savannah Fox, Field Organizer for Amnesty International said, “Changing the world is part of the job description.”
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern and study abroad through BU Abroad’s Dublin Internship program. Dublin has a phenomenal growing start-up scene with tremendous opportunities for any aspiring public relations professional looking to gain more experience in the tech sector. As a public relations and social media intern at a children’s developmental product start-up, I was able to refine my engagement evaluation and analytics skills and cultivate mentorships with my supervisor, a self-made entrepreneur. Why do I think every PR student should intern abroad? Read on.
1. Gain an international perspective on the industry
It’s no secret that PR is a global industry. Practicing PR in a foreign country can give you good insight into what it’s like to work with professionals from all over the world. It can also give you a better idea of what aspects of public relations vary by country versus those that are a global standard. For example, the way an Irish press release is structured is very different from the way an American press release is.
2. Network with global professionals
Interning abroad gives a whole new definition to the concept of networking. Rather than limiting your professional network to just American practitioners, you now have the chance to interact with professionals from all over the globe. This is particularly helpful if you plan to specialize in corporate or political public relations where you’ll often find yourself in multinational situations.
3. Earn college credit
If you’re a public relations major at BU, you already know that you have to complete at least one four-credit internship for graduation credit. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and knock out my internship while studying abroad. I earned four credits through the BU Dublin Internship program plus another four credits for the history class I took through Dublin City University (bonus points: that class completed my minor!).
4. Discover a new country (or continent!)
Interning isn’t all work and no play. Obviously, one of the best parts of interning in a foreign country is being able to travel and explore during your off-hours. In eight weeks I travelled all over Ireland as well as Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. While I loved my internship, one of the best parts about being abroad this summer was exploring outside of the office and classroom.
5. Diversify your resume
At career fairs, I’ve found it to be a great talking point to discuss with potential employers that my most recent professional experience was interning for a burgeoning start-up in Dublin. I’m interested in working in a technology or corporate setting, so employers immediately recognize the value of my experience in such a competitive start-up city. Having this foreign experience really helps my resume stand out too!
Written by Dana Finley
In the world of business communications, change is a constant. While change may seem stressful, it is actually the best way to learn about ourselves to grow as professionals. As millennials in this challenging industry, landing that dream internship or job is difficult enough. But, then actually succeeding at our new jobs in the midst of all of these technology and industry changes… well, that’s a whole other feat.
The student portion of the 2014 IABC Heritage Region Conference featured keynote speakers and a young professionals panel with expertise on how millennials can succeed in communications roles today. We learned that through all of these changes, we need to continuously grow as new challenges arise and find creative ways to engage with our clients, customers, media and employees.
At the start of the keynote session, Tracy Zimmerman, Director of Global Employee Engagement and Internal Communications for GE Healthcare, asked three students from each side of the room to switch seats. While some students stayed in their seats, others jumped up to participate. We immediately introduced ourselves to the new person next to us. The room began to buzz with friendly conversations and excitement. This was Tracy’s first lesson about engaging: we need to put ourselves out there, raise our hands, jump in, and get to know as many people as possible.
When going through change, you discover what you can handle. Tracy told us to embrace change and pay attention to how we go through it… Does your stomach turn at the thought of something new? Are you energized and excited? Are you inspired with new ideas? When facing change, be flexible, adaptable and ask questions.
Once you establish your professional goal, figure out how you will get there and start by taking your first step. Instead of asking your boss or mentor to help you grow, tell them what you want to achieve and ask for ways they can help you get there. Find out what you need to learn to grow your professional career. Do you need to take on a new role in internal communications or media relations? Should you enroll in a leadership training or Photoshop class? Tracy encouraged us to raise our hands to work on projects that will help us build new skills.
Tracy reminded us to take time to invest in ourselves, particularly around our professional image. To be blunt, our appearances do matter. Our employers want us to represent and uphold the company image and reputation. Tracy pressed us to consider important questions: How do you want to be seen? When you leave a room, what do you want people to say about you?
We also need to invest in our teams. “You can have individual performers, but you need to work as one team,” Tracy said. The best leaders are empathetic and good listeners. First off, you need to show that you understand and care about people. To fix problems, ask a lot of questions and listen carefully to find solutions.
- Location matters (easier to hire someone local who won’t have to move)
- Proofread for typos
- Create one resume as a template and “spin it” for each company
- Showcase only your best points from work and school
- Make sure your resume and LinkedIn match (they both need to be recent)
- Match tone of organization
- Show that you did your research
- Reflect your interest in the company
- Do your homework on the company
- Google yourself (employers will do this!)
- Have three clear bullet points about why you want the job
- Have a list of (good!) questions to ask the interviewer
- Example: Why does this role matter to the growth of the company?
Beginning your first job (yay!)
- Respond to emails from your supervisor
- Ask questions
- Follow-up and report progress on projects
- After 30 days…
- Set up a structure for success (organize desk, set goals, plot out how you will be successful)
- Plan vacation time (reset!)
Catherine closed with memorable advice: “Stay hungry. The day you’re not learning, your career is over.”
A Young Professionals Panel featured Timothy Barry, Event Coordinator at CBI, Advanstar Pharmaceutical Sciences Group, Tiffany Pinciaro, Internal Communications Senior Marketing Specialist at Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, and Hayley Collins, Communications Consultant for Public Partnerships at Public Consulting Group.
Public relations is an ever changing field. This is one aspect of the industry that makes getting an internship or job so difficult. Millennials have the stigma of being self-centered with no work ethic. However, we are in PRSSA, so at least part of that statement isn’t true. At the 2014 National Conference, we heard from a variety of speakers, all who touched on how to defy that stereotype, what remains important in job searching, and what has changed.
The common thread throughout each presentation was that tradition and respect still matter. While it is important to understand the nontraditional landscape and have an experience or skill that makes you unique, you still must rise to a level of professionalism that is and has always been expected in a career.
During the Living Legends keynote session, Thomas Hoog of Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Maril MacDonald of Gagen MacDonald discussed what they look for in applicants and what we should be looking for in positions. Often you hear that a professional earned their success because the stars aligned and just when they were feeling unsatisfied with their horrible position, someone in their network reached out and thought about them regarding this wonderful opportunity they had always wanted. Boom: they had this wonderful job. Well, that’s not as far-fetched as it seems. Make the magic happen for yourself. You have the power to make wherever you are the right place at the right time. If you have built your network and worked ethically and readily, then maybe not stars, but something will align.
Here are some other tips the “living legends” had for us:
- Be enthusiastic
- Be ambitious
- Be curious
- Be engaging and engaged
- Be confident
- Love to learn
- Try something new
- Have great writing skills
- Being global makes you relevant
- Take pride in what you do
- Exercise your left and right brain
- Don’t just be interviewed, interview
- The best networking is to offer help
- Ensure cultural fit with the workplace
- Believe in what you do, it will make you a better hire
Additionally, Hoog looks for what he calls the 3-Bone Approach. This is an applicant with a funny bone, a backbone, and a wish bone—a sense of humor, an ability to make hard decisions, and a goal. Constantly ask yourself what do you have to do to enhance your strengths to differentiate against competition and fill in your weaknesses. Both keynotes suggest leveraging the uniqueness and individuality of being a Millennial, but remembering the traditions of a workplace.
In “Who’s Coming to Dinner: Restaurant PR,” Linda Roth of Linda Roth PR said that she refuses to hire anyone who could tell her what was on TV on Friday and Saturday nights. She claims that PR is for people who like to have a social life because so much of the position requires you to be social.
Other advice came from PRSA General Session Speakers Amy Robach of Good Morning America and Polly LaBarre, Co-Founder of Fast Company. Robach’s greatest recommendation for standing out as interns was the old adage: “Get in early, stay late.” As simple as this piece of advice is, it is more important than ever because it helps Millenials defy the stereotype of being lazy. LaBarre suggests that you can be the change that you seek and that you should ask more questions than have answers because it will break the stereotype of Millenials being self-centered.
Lastly, LaBarre gave one more piece of advice: invite a weirdo to lunch. Once a month, have lunch with someone who is weird, because that means that his/her ideas are different than yours, and he/she has the ability to inspire creativity and innovation in you. This experience allows you to open your mind, see from different perspectives, and gives you a greater more humble understanding of the world, all of which will make you more hirable.
Reading recommendations: Made to Stick by Chip Heath & Dan Heath, books by Dan Pink, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Never Eat Lunch Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, books by James O’Tool, Culprit (blog)