You know the “six degrees of separation” theory? In Eugene, I think everyone is three-degrees apart, at most. The connectedness of a small market has some advantages and some disadvantages, depending on how you look at it and what you’re looking for.
In the world of agency PR, a small market has some major pluses:
I can think of two drawbacks of working in Eugene. But with time and learning, I’ve overcome them, so that may null my findings:
I found a few organizations that offered professional and personal connections in my playing field – the Eugene Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network and the Eugene Active 20-30 Club. The former hosts monthly networking events and the latter is a community service organization. By participating in both, I now have many new friends and see familiar faces at almost any community event.
I would imagine, however, that a larger city offers a more thriving young professional scene. Even co-workers could be of similar age and interests as recent grads.
But, in my opinion, here’s the catch: You might be working on accounts like Apple, Subway or L’Oreal, but you could be on the fifth or sixth rung of the ladder – a place where upper management may not remember your name and you’ll rarely get to talk with a client face to face.
My “Pros” and “Cons” list shows five-to-two. That’s a win for small markets.
From my perspective, starting your career in a small market is the perfect training ground to develop skills and experience you’ll need if and when you decide to launch into a larger market. But I’m biased because I haven’t experienced professional life elsewhere.
Eugene is indeed a small world after all. But it’s made a big impact on my personal and professional growth.
“In Alabama, you can’t be for both. You have to choose. It’s either Alabama or Auburn. And once you choose, you are branded for life.” – Unknown Auburn fan
“Personnel? That’s for assholes!” – Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan
“I was in Personnel for 10 years.” – Bradford Dillman as Captain Jerome McKay
“Yeah.” – Harry Callahan
Recently, a fellow public relations graduate school classmate was excited about her prospects of landing a position with Intel Corporation. The only problem was the job was in Human Resources (with all due respect to those in HR).
I couldn’t help but immediately think about Dirty Harry’s reaction about being reassigned to “Personnel” in the 1976 feature film, “The Enforcer.” This point is amplified by his one-syllable response to Captain McKay informing him about his 10-year tenure in what we now label: Human Resources or HR.
My serious concern for my academic colleague had absolutely nothing to do with the largest semiconductor company in the world, Intel, but the position itself. Instinctively, I took into account that jobs are precious in this lethargic economy, even at a time in which we are celebrating the nation’s unemployment rate “declining” to 7.7 this past November as more-and-more job seekers give up the hunt.
In particular, I urged caution to her about inadvertently heading down the path to pigeonholing. She could record 10 years in human resources and suddenly come to the realization that she is permanently dropped into the lethal “HR” bucket. If she subsequently wanted to shift her career back to public relations, marketing, advertising etc. — what she actually studied as an undergraduate and in grad school — she may find the doors closed for her because she is now permanently branded as a “HR” professional, similar to “The Evil Director of Human Resources, ‘Catbert,’” in the Dilbert cartoons.
Another example is one of my students, who was saddened that he lost out for a retail management trainee job for Macy’s. This may have been a blessing in disguise unless he really wanted to spend his life in retail, which very well could have been the result if he was “successful” in attaining this particular job.
The point of this epistle is that we live in an increasingly demographic world and there is no going back. Think about how everyone is worshipping at the altar of Barack Obama political guru David Axelrod because his team correctly projected that 72 percent of the electorate would be composed of white voters…a number too low to elect Mitt Romney.
The exercise was to identify single women, African Americans, Hispanics and young voters and target the GOTV campaign (Get Out The Vote) to these demographic groups in their respective buckets. Some of this segmentation is obvious: Males and females; married or single: young or old. And someone is always dividing and subdividing each subgroup into tiny slivers to determine buying and behavior patterns for political or monetary gain.
From the Census to Facebook, we are compulsively segmenting people whether we like it or not (e.g., privacy advocates). From the Spartans to the Athenians, the Hatfields to the McCoys, the North and the South, Red States and Blue States, Israelis and Palestinians, we have a long history of putting people into groups. In Alabama, it is the red and white of the Crimson Tide or the blue, orange and white of the Auburn Tigers. There is no straddling the fence in ‘Bama.
To many Sean Connery will always be James Bond. Simon Cowell will be the absolutely brutal talent judge on American Idol. Simon Bond will always be the guy who wrote, 101 Uses for a Dead Cat. Reportedly, his subsequent books on any other subject were not accepted…he was always the “Dead Cat Guy.”
So does someone specifically trained in the verbal, written, digital media and communications choreography skills of public relations want to wake up one day and ask: ‘How did I become saddled in Human Resources?’ I am fearful that the lousy economy of today may result in some very painful and for the most part irreversible results a decade or more from now.
Should a graduate turn down a “position” in this crummy economy to avoid the dreaded pigeonhole? Or should that same graduate take a “job” to keep food on the table and gas in the tank, while continuing to search for the position that fits her or his career? This is a difficult predicament. And in many ways, it is an easy answer.
Choosing between Auburn and Alabama is tougher.
Post by Hannah Williams, University of Oregon PRSSA member.
As public relations students, we are meant to be prepared as we possibly can before entering the real world. While earning a degree in the field is a great start, your skills and portfolio are important factors to post-grad success. Potential employers look for certain areas of expertise in recent graduates and potential hires. Here are several skills that public relations students should sharpen before entering the workforce:
• How to tell a story: When most students hear this word they think that it only applies to reporters and journalists, but as PR practitioners we need to be able to communicate to our audiences in a creative and clear manner. Crafting a strong story and message is an essential skill for any in the communication field.
• How to listen: Good communication skills mean the ability to deliver a message, as well as the ability to listen. Active listening will help you understand exactly what your clients and bosses are expecting, and help you avoid mistakes later. Pay attention in conversations, write down what is being said and be able to relay the information back.
• How to do social media: Advanced understanding of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wordpress and Instagram will be extremely beneficial, as most businesses have a digital strategy component to their public relations efforts. Additionally, students should also be aware of their own online presence. Potential employers and clients may look at your social media channels for a better understanding of you as a potential employee.
Understanding and using these skills will prepare any public relations student for the world beyond graduation. The ability to communicate in-person and online, as well as thinking critically and creatively will help you to stand out in the crowd.
Not many people can say a post-grad vacation led them to their dream job… Except for Portland-native Allie Hawes. In the summer of 2012, Hawes ventures to Palm Springs shortly after graduation for some well deserved post-grad relaxation but made the life-changing decision to stay in Los Angeles for her dream job.
Hawes now works as a Project Manager at the world’s leading entertainment marketing agency Trailer Park. The company is headquartered in Hollywood, along with regional offices in New York and London.
Before accepting the position in L.A., Hawes was a student University of Oregon. She returned to her retail position in Portland directly after graduation, but Hawes did not plan to stay there for long.
In need of a reprieve from college and returning to life in Portland, Hawes drove to Palm Springs in California. The young professional planned to interview with an agency in San Diego on July 10th. But on the day before of her interview, she woke to an unexpected surprise: the chance to interview with Trailer Park. Hawes received word from a friend of an opening at Trailer Park. Her interview took place on July 16, and she started work the next morning.
“The interview was drilling,” recalls Hawes. Three interviewers peppered Hawes with demanding questions at the same time, but she passed the tests.
Hawes was assigned to freelance for three weeks, but she worked for only a week before she was offered the position. According to Hawes’ supervisor, she was selected for the job thanks to her “spitfire” personality. She now works in the marketing department of ArtMachine. Her work has introduced her to world-famous clients, including Warner Bros., Paramount, Lionsgate, and more recently, Disney and Universal. Hawes is the youngest professional in her office.
“I am the middle person between the studio and my team of eight designers,” said Hawes. Her team designs the packaging of movies released on DVD/Blue Ray, Netflix, and iTunes.
“It didn’t set in for about a month…it all happened so fast for it to feel real,” Hawes recalls about the quick decision that changed her career. But Hawes adjusted quickly to life in Los Angeles. She currently lives in Santa Monica, about a mile from the beach. Hawes’ success story proves that amazing opportunities can present themselves at the most unexpected times. According to Hawes, “Things come up and you never know how they are going to turn out.” But this former PRSSA member turned PR professional is proof that things really do happen for a reason.
Post by Audree Nethercott, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Audree through our blog editor: firstname.lastname@example.org!
On Nov. 7, 2012, local PR professional Ali AAsum visited UO PRSSA to share the secrets of her professional post-grad success. AAsum graduated from the University of Oregon in 2009. While in school, AAsum garnished incredible professional and public relation experience at various internships, including The Ulum Group, City of Eugene Adaptive Recreation Services, and MR Magazine as an editorial intern in New York City. She currently works as an account executive at Bell+Funk in Eugene, Oregon.
In her presentation, AAsum discussed the hard work required get to where she is today. AAsum’s hard work and internship experience was a key part of securing her dream PR job post graduation. The young professional offered several key pieces of advice for current PR students looking to turn an internship into a job:
Interning – and doing it well – is an essential part to success in the professional world. AAsum’s presentation offered a realistic view into her profession, and the post-graduation path that many UO PRSSA students will soon face. You can follow Ali AAsum on Linked In.
Post by Andrea Feehan, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. She is currently a student at the University of Oregon. You can contact Andrea through our blog editor: email@example.com!
On Nov. 16th, UO PRSSA ventured to Portland, Ore. to tour the local offices of Edelman Portland and Liaison PR. The city of Portland is home to several well-known PR agencies – Edelman, Liaison, and Waggener Edstrom included. The day was full of insightful information and inspiration, helping to establish a clear idea of the life of a PR professional after graduation.
The day began with a tour and information session with Edelman Portland, one of many company offices throughout the world. Edelman Portland is home to approximately 50 employees and overlooks Pioneer Courthouse Square from the 8th floor of a spacious, modern office. Members discussed life at a PR agency with five current professionals of the Edelman team, followed by an office tour and look into daily life there.
After, UO PRSSA visited Liaison PR in the Portland Pearl District for a tour of their urban office. Liaison is home to a small staff and a specialized focus on technology and consumer PR. An informational session with Liaison’s talented team offered insight to working in a niche agency. Part of the presentation included hearing from Liaison’s founder Heidi Lowell, who was visiting the office from her home in London.
So why should you consider touring a local PR agency before graduation?
UO PRSSA would like to thank Edelman Portland and Liaison PR for the insightful, inspiring day of tours! Our Chapter plans multiple PR agency tour opportunities each year. Stay tuned for more information on the trips planned for winter and spring 2013 at upcoming Chapter meetings. Have you ever toured a local PR agency? What was your favorite part of the experience?
Post by Callie Gisler, public relations director for the 2012-2013 school year. She is a junior at the UO, studying public relations and magazine journalism. You can reach Callie at firstname.lastname@example.org!
In every class we are in, it seems we are always hearing about how awful the job market is and how bad the economy is. While this is certainly the case, there are a lot of jobs out there and if you are prepared and motivated, you can and will get a job.
8 Best practices for getting a job in today’s market:
1. Be proactive – Put yourself out there online and elsewhere that you are job hunting and make a plan for how you are going to search for a job, where you are going to search for a job and how long you should spend searching for jobs. Tweet companies, visit their Facebook pages, stalk their website and know all about the companies you are looking at.
2. Do informational interviews – As you call companies and research companies, set up informational interviews with companies and firms. This will show you are proactive, you are interested and you are invested. Before the interview, make sure you have questions prepared that are not necessarily covered on the website, but ask them about their schedule, about their clients and more.
3. Do your research – Before you ever set up an interview, pick up a phone, send an email, etc., make sure you do your research on the company. You never want to be unprepared for a question about the company or their clients you should be able to answer, but are not able to answer because you did not look beforehand.
4. Monitor and clean up your online sites – I think this is one of the most important. We are constantly told to clean up our Twitter, Facebook, blog and more…. and we absolutely should. All it could take is one bad tweet, one bad photo or any little thing for a company to toss your resume and for the opportunity you could have had to slip away. Clean it up!
5. Be open – When you start the job hunt, you might have a specific job or ideal placement in mind, but things do not always work like that. You have to have an open mind when searching for a job. Be open to a new city or a new responsibility and it could really help you.
6. Use your connections – While you have been networking online and conferences [or you should have been], make sure you use those contacts you made. Reach out to them for job leads and for possible recommendations. Knowing someone can take you a long way. My professor told me that 60-80% of available jobs are not actually posted online. This means those available jobs are going to people the company knows or they are going to someone people in the company know.
7. Do not give up – While job hunting can seem like a job itself, do not give up and do not settle. While a $70,000/year job may seem very enticing, make sure it is really want you want to do for at least 1-3 years before you accept it just because of the money. Even if you do not get a lead for a few weeks or a few months, do not give up! Keep looking. If you do not find a job, try doing another internship if you can. Internships can often lead to jobs later.
8. Put your materials online – While you are job searching, put some of your materials from your portfolio online. Build your online resume and portfolio so when people and companies search for you, they find what you can do and what you could be capable of.
I wish everyone the best of luck with your job hunt as we go into the spring semester! Please feel free to contact me if you have any job hunt questions or general PRSSA questions.
Lauren K. Gray currently serves as the PRSSA 2011-2012 Vice President of Public Relations and is an active Chapter member after serving as Chapter President for almost two years. Tweet her @laurenkgray and visit her website laurenkgray.com for more information and blog posts.