Career Limbo: Transitioning from Entry-level to Mid-level Positions

Breaking out of the entry-level barrier to mid-level positions is not easy. Many times, it means getting past the catch-22 of needing the experience to get the experience, but there are avenues to make the journey easier:

  1. Always exceed your employer’s expectations: This work ethic will get you noticed and shows you to be a team player. Sometimes learning a new skill simply means volunteering for it. You may have to work a little bit later – but if you want to become a social media expert, for example, the best way is to enthusiastically take on the new work responsibility.
  2. Volunteer pro-bono with other organizations, local charities and religious affiliations: If you are not getting the type of experience in your full-time job that you need to move on to the next level, try local affiliations or industry associations and chapters for experience. They will appreciate the free assistance, and it’s a wonderful stretch to try your hand at new tactics.
  3. Network with purpose: Nowadays, it’s not enough to hand out business cards and think you made a bonafide contact. Learn about the individuals that work at the organization you are aspiring to join. Visit their LinkedIn profiles and Facebook pages. What are their likes? Did you go to the same school? Are they traveling to an area with which you are very familiar? Can you make some restaurant recommendations or suggest vacation spots? When you meet someone – state your vision. Who are you? What is it that you want to do? What was the biggest problem you solved in the workplace?
  4. Perfect your personal branding: Your personal brand is something you should be working on upon graduation. Positioning yourself as an expert is all about your blog content and your contribution to the industry. If it’s too early in your career to develop your own content, work with Google Reader, have the content come to you and then share it with others. Learn about the relevant content sites out there and get involved in Twitter chats. These outlets will help grow your reputation as a thought leader. Also, consider writing some short dos and don’ts about your field of expertise. It may sound strange, but “don’ts” always pull more clicks. People are always most afraid of making major mistakes.
  5. Research, research, research: Getting to the next level means knowing exactly what the position entails. Learn about the keywords used and all the qualifications. Be sure you can back this up with tried-and-true experience. Nothing aggravates a potential employer more than someone that lists keywords on their resume but doesn’t have the actual practical experience to go with it. Choose about 25 key companies for whom you’d like to work and research them on and Become acquainted not only with the company’s business, but also their corporate culture.
  6. Know how to make that salary and position jump: You may now be at the stage where you are qualified to do a job that pays $20,000 more but still getting paid $20,000 less. How do you address the salary question? Always remember to come from a positive place. You never want to say that your company was holding you back or that they don’t pay well. Whether you like your current job or not, never back-bite. You are heartbroken to leave your current company, but this opportunity is a dream job, and you feel you can make a real contribution.
  7. When asked about salary – you have a few options: You can always turn it back to the employer, asking what they’d consider based on your qualifications. However, that may lead to a game of salary Ping-Pong. The next option is to give the potential employer a very wide salary range. The range can be as wide as $10,000 or $15,000. The next option of course is to let them know that it was key at the time to gain the skills you needed to excel in your field. Now that you have those skills and the practical experience putting them to use, you are ready to earn the salary that more closely matches your skill set.

Most of all, have faith that you will get to that next level. Remember that 20 percent of job rejections eventually result in a job offer – so don’t give up.


Richard Spector is the manager of client services for PRSA Jobcenter.

PRSA New Professionals Brown Bag: Get Your Dream Career

In our November New Professionals Section tweetchat, we discovered that many of our new professionals are eagerly searching for up-to-date relevant information on getting a job. Should you include social networks and a QR code on your resume? How can you bump up your interview strategy? We’re fortunate to have our very own part of PRSA dedicated to answering all of our questions – the PRSA Jobcenter.

In our upcoming Brown Bag, Richard Spector of PRSA Jobcenter, will share with us all of the basics, but also all of the new and creative ways to enhance your resume with QR codes and social media. Then, once you catch an employer’s attention with your resume, he’ll discuss how to “wow” them with your interview skills. In addition to interviews and resumes, he will review the job seeking tools PRSA has to offer.

Regardless of what stage of your career you’re in, this is always valuable information to have!

This New Pros Brown Bag will be held on Thursday, Jan. 17 from 12 to 1 p.m. EST. Remember, it’s free for New Pros members! Register here.

Richard Spector, manager of client services and sales support at PRSA, has been working with PRSA Jobcenter for five years. Spector guides public relations professionals of all levels in their job search, resume writing, networking and interview follow-up skills.

Back to PR School: Experts to Follow for Continuing Your Education

Career expert Peter Weddle advises job seekers to always work on their career fitness. We expect it of ourselves and so do our employers. Just because new professionals are no longer in school, doesn’t mean you can’t take some time this fall to go back to PR school and learn more about the burgeoning industry to which we belong.  

To be a successful public relations practitioner you need to know everything from social media, search engine optimization, reputation management, marketing and more. But how can you be all things to all people?

The Internet is a never-ending resource for newsletters and blogs to help you (and to help build Klout scores!). Many industry experts will place their presentations on Slideshare. The following are my favorite newsletters and experts to follow: 

  • Lee Odden (TopRank Online Marketing) – SEO is not just about finding the keywords that yield the most traffic. SEO is about using relevant content to attract your specific audience. Temper this in with social media and its rapidly changing venue and you need expert advice to stay ahead of the curve and to keep impressing the boss. TopRank Online Marketing produces an e-newsletter chock full of guidance and success stories written by Odden. When your employer asks you to write web content or an SEO-optimized press release, Odden is the man you want to follow on Twitter. Subscribe to TopRank’s e-newsletter, and your knowledge will soar.
  • Deirdre Breakenridge – If you haven’t been asked already, it’s only a matter of time before your employer expects you to write a social media plan. You will need to know how to set goals and use the best tactics (measurable ones) to best help you meet those goals. Following Breakenridge on Twitter and seeing what she’s pinning on Pinterest is a great start. When you are on a job interview, you want to show your potential boss you can hit the ground running. You may even consider doing a mini social media plan for the interview. You will stand above the crowd.
  • Peter Weddle and Weddle’s E-newsletter – To survive in the workforce today, being qualified is not enough. You need to be what Weddle calls a “career activist”. A recruiter, HR consultant and business CEO turned author and commentator, weddle knows what it takes to keep growing in the field. His favorite term is “work strong”. Subscribe to his e-newsletter and you’ll not only learn as a job seeker, you’ll gain knowledge from an employer perspective as well. One of his many books, Recognizing Richard Rabbit will change how you think about your current and future career.
  • Recruiting Trends – My dear friend and expert recruiter Sandy Charet of Charet & Associates always mentions the very difficult job recruiters have. They not only have to review resumes sent their way, but also need to constantly comb through LinkedIn to find the best “passive job seekers”. They are completely overworked and need to process a voluminous number of job orders within superhuman deadlines. A recent study showed that recruiters decide within six seconds whether a resume winds up in the “yes” or “no” pile. Therefore, it’s key to understand where recruiters are coming from. If you understand the pressure they are under, it will change how you approach them when following up after they have sent you on a job interview.
  • FINS Newsletter – While the advice may not be tailored directly to public relations, there’s a multitude of career and resume advice on this Dow Jones career and employment website. Their topics have universal appeal regardless of your career specialty. It is one of the best places to read about writing your career story, the 25 toughest companies for interviews and facing feedback from your employer.
  • Mashable – If you are just beginning in your career, you want to know who the heavy hitters are in making news and headlines. Mashable not only covers major technology trendsetters, it will help you show potential employers that you’re fully up-to-date understanding the challenges in the business world.

While the list of resources is always growing, consider following these experts:

  • Eric Schwartzman – With Schwartzman, you learn about social media from A to Z. His knowledge will take you from the beginning of setting up your Twitter account to blogging and expertly tagging your digital content.
  • Dawn Edmiston – Recruiters not only want to know about your resume – they will research your professional online presence. Dawn is an expert resource. The most critical resource you have is your own branding. Dawn will help you take ownership of this.
  • Sandy Charet – We all know how important LinkedIn is to recruiters. You want to present the most professional and complete profile possible. Charet knows all the ins and outs of working with LinkedIn. 
  • Brian Solis – His conversation prism will graphically show you all the facets to social media. When setting up a social media plan, you need to know which tactics will work the best. However, how many of us really know all the forms of social media out there? Solis gives the best starting point by displaying all or at least most of the available forms.
  • Andrea Nierenberg –Networking is key to your career survival, but how do you approach someone? What do you do if you’re an introvert? How do I really use the “give to get” principle? Nierenberg’s thoughts and insights will help you network with results.

We also hope that you will read the 70+ articles on PRSA Jobcenter. Having a full range of job advice and resources will ensure a very long and very happy career.


Richard Spector is the manager of client services at PRSA.

Three Tips for Breaking into Your PR Career by Richard Spector

As the PRSA Jobcenter manager, I frequently present to groups of graduating seniors on tips for entering the public relations workforce. Most recently, I had the opportunity to speak at West Virginia University’s INTEGRATE Conference, and I found myself searching for the right career advice to give them. What can I say to a graduating class that’s going to be facing a tough economy? I found three tips that could give them an edge in this competitive job market:

Stay optimistic and determined. It’s never easy hearing the word “no”, especially after interviewing for a job you thought fit you perfectly. What’s more bewildering is not even getting an interview. Sometimes you’ll know the reason, but other times you won’t. Take that rejection and let it make you that much more determined to get the job. The passion you will have as a new professional is your strongest ally. Employers will see and recognize it. If this was your dream job, stay in touch with the employer even if they didn’t hire you. Career experts say that 25 percent of employers that initially turn down a candidate will eventually end up hiring them.

If you keep your skill sets strong and continue to form relationships, you’ll always have opportunities. If you want to get connected with a particular company, try volunteering, which may not put money in the bank, but gets you in their door.

Do what you love while you are job hunting. You can’t look for a job 24/7 — although you should be looking most of the time. However, everyone needs a break from the exhaustion of rejection. Rest and recharge with activities you enjoy doing. Take a break from tweaking your resume. You’ll view it with a fresh eye and spot things you never would have seen before.

Most of all, remember that there are some things you can control and other things you can’t. The economy will always go in cycles. If times are tough now, have faith that it will get better.

Prepare for your interview to the point of exhaustion. In the past, doing some research on a company’s website and being somewhat acquainted with the company was enough. Now, you have to be better and more prepared than the next person. Consider these resources when researching a company and how your own skills fit in:

  • Annual report —What is the company’s mission and tagline? How does this fit in with your career goals and qualifications?
  • Strategic plan — How can you help the employer achieve the goals in their strategic plan? What skills and tactics could you bring to the table? Are there new goals you can identify and help them reach?
  • Social media plan — How can you integrate all the different social media venues to help the company grow and succeed? A friend of mine was competing with several others for the same job. How did he stand above the rest? He put together a presentation of the different types of social media he would use to give the company a great social, digital and media presence.
  • Funding companies— How can you use social media such as LinkedIn, Google+ and others to develop and cultivate new leads for the company?
  • Company awards — What standards of excellence do you aspire to reach? Has the company won awards for their website or writing? Are there new skills you need to obtain to help them maintain these standards?
  • Company challenges — Where does the company fall short and how can you help them? Is their branding weak? Does their communications plan need updating?
  • Current employees on Facebook, LinkedIn — Who are the names and faces of the company employees? What do you know about the people that will be interviewing you? Doing your research on current employees helps you identify the corporate culture. You may even learn whether this job truly is a dream job or whether there’s not as much as a fit as you thought. Doing this groundwork will also create some wonderful networking opportunities down the road.

Change with the field. Sooner or later you’re going to have to update your skills. Who thought that Pinterest and Klout would be as important in the social media world as they have become? If you are a public relations expert, you may be asked to create a marketing plan. If you’re a strategic communications consultant, you may be asked to create new webpages for the company’s website that will increase traffic, coincide with their branding and be keyword optimized and content relevant. Peter Weddle, employment and workplace author and columnist, calls this “career fitness“. You always need to keep your skills in good shape. The PRSA Jobcenter has abundant resources for building and exercising your career.

If I could give new professionals the best lesson, it’s to always keep that youthful exuberance. Each time I present at a university, I’m always impressed by the graduating students’ enthusiasm. Enter a field because it’s something you love. Don’t go into a field because you think you’ll make money. Having a passion for your career ranks as high as having a passion for living. Hold onto that.

Richard Spector is the manager of client services at Public Relations Society of America.

Graduating? Your Senior Year Checklist by Nick Lucido

As a senior, you’ve probably just wrapped up your spring break, and you’re in the homestretch before graduation. On top of your classes and homework, you’re also probably looking for a first job after college. Making this transition can be one of the most exciting times of your life, but when you’re moving to a new city or apartment or starting a new job, you are probably feeling a bit stressed.

This is where PRSA can help you out.

Being a PRSA Associate Member is an easy way for you to stay ahead of the curve, continue professional development and maintain your professional growth, as you’ll have access to some key benefits before you graduate. While you might be focused on your first job and transitioning to a new lifestyle without classes and afternoon naps, maintaining a consistent focus on professional development will help you succeed in your first job and pivot you for success in your career.

Here’s a checklist to help you transition from student to professional:

  • Join PRSA. Joining PRSA as an Associate Member costs only $60 per year for the first two years after being in PRSSA. This minimal cost for membership will provide limitless return if you take advantage of its benefits, network and continue advancing your career.
  • Check out the PRSA JobCenter. By using the tools on the PRSA JobCenter, you’ll be able to prepare for interviews, learn how to develop a portfolio and scan job listings. During the process, highlighting experience and leadership in PRSSA and now PRSA can help separate you from the field.
  • Continue your professional development. It’s true that you won’t have 8 a.m. classes or history exams after college, but it’s important for new professionals to learn new skills. Taking advantage of PRSA’s members-only free webinars and local Chapter events will help keep your skills sharp as the industry continues to evolve.
  • Get active in a local Chapter. In addition to National membership, it’s a good idea to join a local Chapter, too. Be sure to check out any volunteer opportunities within the market to which you’re hoping to move for extra opportunities to network with professionals in the area.
  • Join the PRSA New Professionals Section. When you join and get active in PRSA, you are also eligible to join the New Professionals Section, which is composed of many other professionals who are in your shoes. Taking advantage of this Section is a way to make the student-to-profession transition as smooth as possible. The Section offers many ways to network with other young professionals—quarterly Tweetchats, weekly blog posts, daily activity on Twitter and Facebook, groups on LinkedIn and frequent professional development events, like webinars and brown bag seminars. Be sure to get involved with your local Chapter for New Professionals Week this November!

The days of classes, PRSSA meetings and internships are coming to a close for you, yet beginning a public relations career during one of the most exciting times for our industry is upon you. While making the transition from student to professional seems overwhelming, leveraging PRSA’s member benefits can help serve as a tour guide through the process.

What else would you add to this list?

Nick LucidoNick Lucido joined Edelman as an intern in May 2009 and is currently an account executive within Edelman Digital. Lucido is a member of the firm’s digital strategy team, providing online conversation research, measurement analysis and strategic insights for clients in a variety of industries. He is the PRSA New Professionals Section PRSSA liaison.