PRospects for New Pros: Finding Your Footing During COVID-19 and Beyond

On Wednesday, April 7, 2021, public relations professionals came together virtually to discuss current hiring trends and how to move forward during COVID-19 and beyond. The webinar, sponsored by the New Professionals Section of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), brought together four experienced PR professionals who shared their experiences and tips with new professionals.

Webinar panelists included Taylor Bryant, an assistant professor (clinical track) in the mass communications department at the University of West Georgia; Kirk Hazlett, APR, adjunct professor of communication at the University of Tampa; Christina Stokes, Vice President and Director of Talent Acquisition at Rubenstein; and Mike Neumeier, APR, CEO of Arketi Group.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, many new professionals have struggled to find their footing, whether as new graduates looking for employment or employed new professionals looking for ways to hone relevant skills and advance their careers. Stokes said that, despite the challenges over the past year, “things are looking up.”

Bryant reminded recent graduates that the virtual workplace forced onto companies by the pandemic has created an environment where new professionals in particular can excel. “The virtual environment for us is new, but for students, they are tech savvy…you have what it takes in terms of the technical aspects.” And that’s a huge advantage.

Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities

Hazlett said that, while companies may not be hiring as much because of the pandemic, there are still ways to get ahead in your professional careers. For example, while internships are not jobs, Hazlett said, “it doesn’t hurt to add more experience to your resume.” Every panelist encouraged new professionals to find ways to use this time to take advantage of the unique opportunities provided by the pandemic, such as online conferences and certificate programs.

New professionals should specifically focus on ways to develop professionally that will help get you where you want to be in your careers. “It’s important to know your why and what. What you want to do next and why you want to do it,” said Bryant. She recommended finding a few desirable jobs and looking at their roles, responsibilities, and required skills, and then taking a look at where you can improve and get professional development in those areas. “It’s like mapping your career,” said Bryant.

Make Networking Part of Your Plans

As part of your professional growth, new professionals should focus on networking and making connections. “I believe in authentic connections,” said Bryant. “Focus on building genuine relationships. People are more likely to recommend you when they know you and have a real relationship with you.”

Stokes emphasized the benefit of using LinkedIn to stay connected once you’ve established those relationships. “Stay connected to them…it takes work, but opportunities will come to you that will help elevate you in your career.” Neumeier added that networking “is a numbers game, like the lottery. If you don’t play, you can’t win.”

Neumeier also said that being part of groups like the PRSA New Professionals Section is key because “these are your peers. These are the people you’re going to grow up in the industry with…take advantage of that and use your network,” said Neumeier.

Aside from insights into professional growth and networking, panelists also provided advice for landing jobs early in your new professionals’ careers.

Interviewing Insights for New Pros

When it comes to interviewing, Bryant says to practice. She recommended writing down a list of essential things you want your potential employer to know about you, and then compare that to common interview questions so you can practice making sure those essential points come up during the interview.

Hazlett said that potential candidates make an impression when they come prepared to ask their own questions.

Stokes added, “Interviewing is a conversation with a potential colleague. So look at it that way and it might make you feel more comfortable.” She also recommended doing research about the interviewer and the company. “What’s interesting about them to you and why? I love having a conversation with a candidate and learning what they’re interested in about the company,” said Stokes.

Virtual interviews can present its own set of challenges, but the panelists encouraged new professionals to make the most of it. Make sure your room is clean and that what the camera captures is professional. Virtual interviews can be problematic, but panelists say that’s just part of how things are. “We’re at a weird time where home is work and work is home and the lines are blurred. The reality is that you can’t avoid crying kids or the dog barking in the background…so I like to see how they navigate that…Use your unique environment to your advantage,” said Stokes.

Even with the challenges created by the pandemic, there are ways for new professionals to find their footing and progress in their professional careers. Find a way to get started and move forward. “Get a job, even if it’s not your dream job. Perform well, learn what you like, and your career will develop,” said Neumeier.

Subscribe, subscribe, subscribe: Newsletters worth committing to

Video may have killed the radio star, but the increasing number of daily, weekly and bi-weekly newsletters out there are certainly keeping e-mail alive and well. It seems like every outlet and influencer has a new newsletter available every day. On one side, as PR pros, each newsletter can feel like one more thing to keep track of when it comes to your clients and brands. On the other side, it also presents new opportunities to find possible placements, stay keen to what’s being discussed across industries, the markets and society at large.

For example, one of my former clients was in the fast-casual dining space and was relevant across corporate, financial, foodie, mom, fitness and pop culture outlets. It turned out that newsletters were a really great way to read what’s happening with competitors, the industry and general news in one foul swoop. Some were really niche, while others were as common as theSkimm. Throughout this monitoring experience, I also subscribed to several newsletters just for fun, which have come in handy during networking events and helped me in my personal life outside the office.

I don’t necessarily read *every* newsletter thoroughly *every* day, but am able to get a nice variety of content, be it professional or more social. Here are some of my go-tos:

The Business Newsletters

  • The Skimm – the OG morning brief that sounds like your friend is sharing the news
  • The Morning Brew – a newer brief that focuses a little more on in-depth and market news
  • The Broadsheet – Fortune’s women-focused news update
  • Fortune CEO Daily – Fortune’s daily news brief with great perspective from Alan Murray
  • Fortune RaceAhead – Fortune’s diversity-oriented news update (Ellen McGirt’s Friday Haikus are unmatched)
  • WSJ’s CMO Today – Good outlook on industry happenings, especially on the business/corporate side of Advertising, PR and marketing
  • Marketplace – Quick hits of daily market/business headlines (Also accompanies a podcast. Very 2019.)
  • FastCompany’s Daily News – More tech/innovation-focused daily update
  • The Hustle – Like a hipster version of FastCo’s Daily News/theSkimm, with a slightly more obscure set of topics
  • PRSA’s Issues & Trends – A great benefit of PRSA membership, the daily trends shows clips of hot campaigns and topics across the industry

The Miscellaneous-but-Interesting/Productive Newsletters

  • Quartz Obsession – Dives into one topic/product/company a day. My favorites so far have been “Burrito” and “The Post-It”
  • Finimize – Non-intimidating financial news in a quick/easy to understand read
  • SheSpends – Think “Money Diaries” meets your personal finance professor, in a cool template with a relatable approach for young pro women
  • FastCompany’s Work Smart – a weekly guide with quick tips for being more efficient at work
  • Now I Know –  A good way to learn something new every day (and great fodder for small talk)

The “Just For Fun” Newsletters

  • Links I Would Gchat You if We Were Friends – a compilation of good reads from the week that you’d want to read and share
  • The Newsette – Aesthetically pleasing Instagram accounts, daily routines of successful women and some fun fashion items/tips
  • Girls Night In – I look forward to this every Friday. (Seriously.) It shares great reads for 20-somethings, thoughts on self care and “things to put in the group text”
  • NYT’s Smarter Living – This weekly newsletter provides helpful takes on a variety of topics

It’s hard to sift through the amount of content available to us every day and week, but these have added value, whether at the office, for my professional development, or my personal benefit. Consider which outlets would be helpful and beneficial for you, your clients and your team.

Pro tip: I have a rule set in Microsoft Outlook to automatically filter newsletters into a specific folder so my inbox itself is free and I can find/skim the newsletters in one place. If you aren’t using Outlook, you can also use Unroll.me to receive all of your newsletters/subscriptions in one email instead of ~20.

What newsletters are your go-tos? Let us know!

Sarah G. Dougherty is a member of PRSA and PRSA New York. Following a stint on the agency side, she is on the external communications team at a Fortune 100 company. Sarah is a former member of the PRSSA National Committee and a graduate of The University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.

New Professional Spotlight: Shannon Nicholson

 

Name: Shannon Nicholson
Job Role: Program Director, West Virginia University Office of Graduate Admissions
Education: B.S. Journalism, ’14, M.S. Data Marketing Communications, ’17 – WVU Reed College of Media
Social Media: @shannonicholson (Twitter) and @shannonpauline (Instagram)

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?

My first job in the industry was at a small, B2B advertising agency in Morgantown, WV. I was exposed to all facets of marketing: content development, direct email, digital advertising, media relations, social media, traditional media, and website design (to name a few). What I did not know before I started my Junior Account Manager position was the importance of tying campaigns to business goals, breaking down department silos, and utilizing collected data to be relevant and timely. Enter the Data Marketing Communications, fully-online, graduate program. This program allowed me to bridge my interest in the business-side of marketing and my growing expertise in the field.

How did you find internships/jobs?

As a WVU student and alumni, I have an amazing resource at my disposal- MountaineerTrak powered by the Career Services Center. MountaineerTrak was my first line of defense. During my years as an undergrad, the Reed College of Media hired a Director of Student Careers and Opportunities, Eric Minor. Eric’s weekly “opportunity” email quickly became my go-to resource. Eric is the perfect liaison between current students looking for experience and alumni looking to provide that experience as a way to give back to their alma mater.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I have faced in my young career has been introducing new procedures, and strategies from the ground up. In my current role, I assumed that after six months and I’ll be like a well-oiled machine and have already implemented new strategies. I soon realized that implementation would take closer to one year. The next year will be spent analyzing, and the following year will be about growth and optimization. It is hard not to get ahead of myself and want to be at year three, today! Really, the biggest challenge is not trying something new, it is pacing myself to check one step off the list at a time. Devoting 110% to each step without getting ahead of myself and potentially losing sight of details that could later derail all that the team has worked towards. Slow and steady wins the race.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?

Differing experiences, bring perspective. In my Data Marketing Communications cohort, students had varying backgrounds in data, graphic design, marketing, sales, etc. Listening to each other’s viewpoints helped the entire cohort approach problems with an open mind.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?

You won’t know unless you try.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?

There are a lot of different ways to apply your marketing/PR knowledge. Don’t limit yourself to certain industries or titles. Today, there are more opportunities than ever to be creative with your knowledge.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?

I think the biggest benefit of the New Pros section is the opportunity for engagement and networking. PRSA boasts amazing partners, and communities for growth and learning. I was particularly drawn to the #NPPRSA Twitter chats. Twitter chats have been a great outlet to informally discuss specific topics with others in the industry. I have found that those who participate want to engage and share. Even simply reading through threads has helped open my eyes to areas outside of my expertise.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?

You will never stop learning. When you think you know enough, there is always more. It is important to be vigilant about the changes within your field.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.

I have a Bengal Cat that is about 20 lbs, who acts more like a small dog than a cat.

This New Professionals spotlight is sponsored by West Virginia University. If you are a member of PRSA New Pros and interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

#AskNewPros: How many New Pros are in my regional area?

This is part of our recurring #AskNewPros series. Do you have a burning question for PRSA New Pros? Ask us! Want to promote mentorship by answering questions asked by PRSSA members? Email Alyssa Stafford to contribute.  

The New Pros section has 1149 members all over the U.S. and we even have a member in Canada! Roll over your state in the map below to see how many New Pros are in your area. Want to reach out to someone directly? Check out the member directory on PRSA.org and choose New Professionals under the “Section” field.

#AskNewPros: Social Media Certifications

This is part of our recurring #AskNewPros series. Do you have a burning question for PRSA New Pros? Ask us!

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Are there any certifications you wish you had or programs you wish you were familiar with walking into the job market?

These days, it’s incredibly common for young professionals to include “social media” in the Skills section of their resume. But isn’t there a difference between knowing how to share a photo on Instagram and being a true social media practitioner? Absolutely!

To stand out from the crowd, and help hiring managers understand that you really do have the ability to strategically use social media to reach audiences and convey key messages, consider receiving a certification – perhaps from the Hootsuite Academy or National Institute of Social Media.

tnqz_lgmJim Mignano is a Senior Account Executive at Text100 Global Communications specializing in technology and healthcare. He currently serves as the President of PRSA Rochester, and you can always find him on Twitter at @J_Mignano.