Careers in a Post-Pandemic World: Should You Seek Essential Jobs?

Summer is here, and so is COVID-19 (still). In a month where we’d normally be distracted by fireworks and cookouts, it suddenly isn’t uncommon to read about massive layoffs, learn that another colleague has just been let go, or even receive a flyer that a favorite local business has permanently closed its doors.

The only thing that seems reliable these days are essential jobs — but what is “essential,” anyway?

ES·SEN·TIAL, first used as a noun in the 15th century, is described by Merriam-Webster as being both “basic” and “necessary.” In February, it might’ve been described as a skilled job that required education or experience to fill. Today, it very clearly means a role that keeps society running (i.e., healthcare workers, grocers, delivery drivers, cashiers, food servers, etc.).

For public relations professionals, that means finding a business or personality to represent that is considered essential (as known by the latter description). And while influencers and celebrities alike are sticking to safety guidelines and quarantining themselves away, that leaves essential businesses as your next bet at a job opportunity.

Anywhere that essential workers are operating generally falls under that essential business umbrella: restaurant chains with delivery or drive-thrus; supermarkets deemed too important to close; retailers with essential goods we couldn’t safely (or humanely) get by without.

Got a few brands in mind? Not so fast — “essential,” after all, doesn’t mean “safe.”

The Advantages

Maybe the essential employers thriving during the pandemic are businesses you’ve never considered before. But don’t dismiss them just because they’ll cause confusion on your resume — future employers will understand why you represented a grocery store during a pandemic. Plus, there’ll be some skills you can learn or grow that’ll move with you when the chance arises to get back into your preferred industry.

Here are a few easy reasons to look up an essential business’ career website:

  • Essential businesses are likely hiring, or at least one of the many not drastically downsizing.
  • An essential business is one of the few locations (both legally and naturally) that consumers are very carefully spending their cash right now.
  • PR jobs could especially be in demand, especially as COVID-19 continues to fall under the high-paced “crisis communications” category.

The Disadvantages

Especially if you’re new to the job market or just had a long-term role eliminated from underneath you, essential businesses may look like a safe harbor in the storm. But before you hop aboard, consider the bigger picture.

Here are a couple of cons to essential jobs that could cause a wrinkle in your plans:

  • Because they’re getting extra business, an essential employer may only be hiring for temporary or freelance roles that could be cancelled at a moment’s notice.
  • Since they’re one of the few hiring and the job market has turned on its head in favor of the employer, they may low-ball you on pay.
  • If they’re essential, they may have special permissions to work around specific safety measures — and possibly put you at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

Check out the business’ corporate website (which is where you, as a PR pro, will probably be working) and identify their values. Do they align with yours? Could you see yourself working for them long after the pandemic, or will you trade job satisfaction for job security?

Don’t put yourself in a bad situation out of fear, or pride.

Have something to share about essential employment? Put your thoughts in the comments below!

We’re Over the Rainbow (Logo): 3 Other Things Your Company Should Do to Show Their Pride

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage is an American right in 2015, rainbows and ally badges have been steadily making their way into the corporate landscape. Today, it’s not uncommon to see a LinkedIn feed full of colorful company logos that marketing teams schedule to hit on June 1, the start of Pride Month.

Although representation remains incredibly important in such public spaces, there is something a little shallow about dozens of companies who may not otherwise advocate for the LGBTQ+ beyond the rainbow logo. In fact, some have even taken to calling it “rainbow-washing,” which Wired’s Justice Namaste defined in a 2018 interview:

“Rainbow-washing allows people, governments, and corporations that don’t do tangible work to support LGBTQ+ communities at any other time during the year to slap a rainbow on top of something in the month of June and call it allyship.”

As the PR professional representing those relations with the public, we’ve compiled a simple list of things you can do to help your company more genuinely follow-through on their promise to the community when they incorporate rainbows this month.

1. Create an Internal Pride Committee

If your company really doesn’t know where to start, remove the pressure and start by looking to your staff. Do you have LGBTQ+ folks working at your organization who feel comfortable sharing ideas to make the workplace more inclusive? Or worse, have they already submitted some ideas, but were left unheard?

This is your chance to create a real space for pride within your company all year long, not just during June.

2. Show Up at Your Community’s Pride Celebrations

While the fight to keep LGBTQ+ rights is still very real, plenty of Pride events take place all over the U.S. in celebration of how far acceptance has come. Even if your company is not based in a large city, your community probably has some sort of non-profit organization or city committee that hosts a parade each year. Consider pitching participation to your employer and inviting employees out to enjoy the event under the company’s registration.

If you don’t have the large staff or budget to attend community events, consider offering a discount for those organizations that arrange them. It is Pride Month, after all.

3. Share the Importance of Pride with Staff

Maybe your company is so unsure of where they fit into Pride that they don’t even do the rainbow logo during June. As the PR pro, it’s up to you to start those conversations, and there’s nothing wrong with simply starting with your staff.

Consider creating a Pride newsletter full of historical facts that you can share, or working with your graphics team to publish a temporary internal webpage on a staff-exclusive communications site. This can help your business be more inclusive for their people, and possibly for the community as an ally in the future.

Has your company gone above and beyond in support of Pride? Share in the comments below!

So Your Internship was Canceled: 5 Steps to Still Make Your Summer a Success

Though summer is usually a time of smiles and sunshine, this year it marks a bittersweet start to a long and empty season for many students.

As of May, Glassdoor reported a 52 percent drop in internships after the coronavirus caused citizens to stay home and non-essential businesses to close up shop. And while the National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that 29 percent of internships did manage to move online, the rest have either been postponed or dissolved.

If you’re facing the latter, don’t despair. There are plenty of actionable steps you can still take to advance your career this summer. In fact, we’ve outlined five below that you can start today.

1. Go Remote

Virtual internships have been around since webcams started appearing in laptops, and they’ve only grown in popularity as 4K smartphone cameras emerged with free video-sharing apps. To find one yourself, try searching for “virtual internship” (or “remote internship”) on popular job sites like Indeed or LinkedIn.

Of course, there are also internship websites that only post remote opportunities such as Virtual Internships, or more general internship listing sites that have a remote section like Internships.com.

2. Volunteer

So maybe you couldn’t score a remote internship, or simply know from your own experience with online classes that a virtual setting is just something you do not want to sign up for. If you’re committed to an in-person experience, we have some good news. Most states are beginning to reopen, and while some vital COVID-19 safety measures are still in effect (cloth masks, six feet social distancing), this could be your chance to volunteer on-site for the summer.

Volunteer recruiting websites like Just Serve and Volunteer Match have a number of opportunities that ask for help with everything from office tasks to gardening needs. This could be your chance to not only get some hands-on experience that aligns with your major, but also meet some community contacts who’d be happy to write a strong reference letter for you next year.

3. Start a New Project

If a remote internship or volunteer match doesn’t sound ideal, why not get started on a new project for your portfolio? A completed project would make a good conversation piece for a future internship (and job) interview, especially as coronavirus-related questions are expected to pop up for the foreseeable future. What could be better for sharing your initiative than a creative summer project you researched, crafted and published from start to finish during the pandemic?

If a project makes sense for you, start by identifying what would benefit you most if added to the old portfolio. Are you missing a particular skill set that a project could help you work on and show off? Is there a class you just finished that had an assignment you’d like to build out more? Whatever you create, make sure you put the finished project in your portfolio so future employers can find it easily.

4. Update Your Resume

Depending on when you last interviewed, your once-polished resume may be a few months out of date. Take another look and consider adding any new skills or experience you’ve gained since. Courses you may have recently completed in your last semester could also be worth mentioning, especially if you can tack a project onto it (that should link to your portfolio, too).

As you update your resume, it may be worth reviewing some basic formatting tips. Indeed has some great tips and examples for college resumes, and Resume Coach even has a free Resume Template.

5. Join a Membership Organization

Lastly, if you do nothing else this summer, join an organization related to your major. We specify membership organizations because they typically offer major resources exclusive to members. Typical memberships come with access to job boards, newsletters with industry news, structured online learning and a membership directory. For students, it’s the ultimate motherload of industry know-how and contact information for networking.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re a PR/Comms major, and we can’t recommend the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) enough. It has more than 300 chapters throughout the U.S., so it’s likely there’s a local chapter for you to join and rub elbows with the industry leaders in your community. Plus, you’ll get access to the PRSSA Internship Center and the PRSA Job Center.

And there you have it, five things you can do to still make your summer a success.

Found something even better? Share in the comments below!

“Development, Reflection and Union” from a New Pro

In these uncertain times, we should support each other. This current situation we find ourselves faced with has forced us to change our way of thinking. While for some of us this change was big, it was not so for others. Even so, it may yet affect your future. I personally believe there are three main factors that are essential to consider if it does: development, reflection and union.

In this post, I will analyze each of these separately so that you may call upon them as we all navigate the unique challenges our new normal creates.

  1. Development

Using the time that we previously did not have, or simply could not use efficiently, is currently possible as interactions turn virtual and work becomes remote. Being able to learn new things through online courses, webinars, reading or really any type of education is something very beneficial with the additional time you may suddenly have on your hands.

As a Public Relations professional, your career may concern many high-stress, quickly changing and even competitive elements. We should take advantage of every learning tool we can to develop our skills during these times of quiet to make a difference in our field when things inevitably speed back up.

  1. Reflection

Regardless of how we use our time, there is something we’ve been given in this situation: a pause.

This pause can be long or short depending on the situation. In my opinion, this is the ideal time to reflect. Try to perceive those things that maybe you didn’t see before.

As you reflect, it’s inevitable that one of those thoughts will be about your health. Indeed, health is the most important thing; it’s essential. In regards to this, I believe that we — as communicators — should use our talents to help represent the essential things in life, rather than the superficial. That we should go beyond what people expect from us, and rise above the typical.

More than anything, reflect on the priorities in your own life. Consider what really matters.

  1. Union

Thirdly, there must be union. Teamwork. Collaboration.

Is it easy? No. And yet teamwork is what solves most of our problems. Consider your own relationships, especially during this particular crisis. You’ve probably had to become very flexible, and maybe pitch — or listen to — more unconventional ideas while trying to navigate the unprecedented restraints we all find ourselves under.

In my opinion, your attitude is the best solution. And by the time this whole crisis is over, it’ll continue to be. Because in the end, an inclusive behavior toward others is always the best solution.

To conclude, I believe that we should remember that self-development, a little reflection on life and some good old fashioned teamwork are three essential aspects to consider — today, and in the future.

Do you agree? Comment below or connect on LinkedIn to share your thoughts.

Facundo Luque is a Young PR Professional from PRSA Argentina on the Communications Sub-Committee in the PRSA Diversity & Inclusion National Committee. He is currently working in an Argentinean public relations agency.

LinkedIn: Facundo Luque

What Seasoned PR Professionals Want You To Know When Starting Your PR Career

We are faced with a multitude of choices in our career journeys. If you’re anything like me, you were relieved and excited when the pieces fell into place and you decided what your dream career would be. But that relief was short-lived when you graduated college and realized that getting a first job that’s related to your career goals is not as easy as you thought it would be.

Things seem so simple when you are inside the structured environment of your university, but once you leave that, you must figure out the answer to the dreaded question: “What’s next?” Trying to break into a career on your own is intimidating, and it’s difficult to know what steps you need to be taking to make progress. But the good news is, there are plenty of things that you can be doing now to make yourself a valuable candidate for your dream job in public relations.

I interviewed 5 seasoned PR professionals who are members of PRSA’s College of Fellows to see what their advice is to those of us who are just starting our PR career journey. They provided wonderful insights that were so helpful and encouraging.

Here are the 6 tips to be successful at the start of your PR career:

1. Be Curious

The most common theme that came up in the interviews was the idea that you must be curious to be successful in the public relations industry. The concept of curiosity comes into play with public relations for several reasons. PR is a job that requires the ability to be dynamic and flexible in your approach. According to the seasoned professionals I interviewed, one important aspect of this is being a life-long
learner.

Katrina Schwarz, APR, Fellow PRSA explained, “You must be willing to put yourself out there and learn, even if it means putting in extra time and effort to get done what needs to get done.”

Dr. Joe Trahan, APR, Fellow PRSA said, “You must have a drive to be the very best, be open to challenges and to take on responsibilities, even if they are not in your specific area.”

Dianne Danowski Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA articulated how important it is to continue your development. She explained, “Your development doesn’t have to necessarily mean getting another degree. It could also be placing a value on growing your skillset. Show an interest in bettering yourself, and you show a willingness to learn.”

Gerry Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA said, “Have big ears, listen well! This is the key to building knowledge and ability.”

2. Read

A recurring piece of advice from the pros was to be an active reader. I thought this was especially interesting because it’s not something that is commonly associated with professional development, but hearing the interviewees discuss it made me think that it should be! Reading does wonders for training up your mind and keeping you sharp.

Gerry explained, “The more you read, the better you write. Reading trains your brain to be able to write well, simply and quickly; and being able to write is your first key to success in your first PR job.” We all know how crucial it is to be an excellent writer if you want to be successful in public relations, and reading is an amazing way to maintain and grow your creativity and writing abilities.

In addition to this benefit, reading also provides valuable insight that you can use to stay up to date in your industry. Gerry said, “Think about what industry you want to work in and read as much as you can about that. Become a jack of all trades based on what your interests are. Explore blogs on what you want to do, and search PR blogs made by people who are doing what you want to be doing.”

3. Be a Self-Starter

The advice to be a self-starter seems to be everywhere, but what does it mean? A self-starter, according to the pros I interviewed, is all about taking initiative and finding creative ways to find solutions.

Have you been told that you don’t have enough experience to get that job you applied for? Don’t let frustration get the best of you. Be creative and find a way to get that experience. Dr. Joe advised that students can gain experience by reaching out to nonprofits. You can volunteer to write for them and end up with some stellar writing samples and valuable experience to talk about in your next interview.

Are you unhappy with your current job? Make the most out of what you have. Dianne said, “Remember that you may not love your first job, and that’s okay. Your first job is what you make it. If it’s not the perfect job, do what you can to make it the perfect job for now, and try to stay there for two years. You may have to work in opportunities you don’t love, but you can still be an asset to them and grow in the process.”

Being a self-starter is an attitude that employers can sense from you. When asked what she looks for in job candidates, Dianne said, “I assume they have training in writing/communication. I hire for attitude; you can’t teach that. You must always be curious, always interested in what’s going on beyond the surface level. You must show a company what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.”

4. Love Your Client

Kathy Hubbell said that her first mentor taught her the importance of loving your client. Working in public relations means you are constantly absorbing the values and stories of other people and companies. You must absorb them and resonate with them in order to successfully share their story with their audience in a meaningful way. Therefore, you must be passionate about the stories that you are telling. Otherwise, you will not compel any audience.

Kathy advised that new pros be careful when choosing who to work for. She said, “It is important to choose your company as carefully as they choose you. In PR, we promote a company’s values and ethics. If they don’t match yours, you’ll do a terrible job and you’ll be miserable.”

Dianne explained that she had learned something similar in her job. “When you work to make me look good, and I work to make you look good, it benefits everyone!”

5. Be Active

Every single pro who was interviewed discussed the importance of being active in professional organizations and in networking — especially new pros.

When asked what people can do to prepare themselves for success in getting their first PR job, Kathy noted, “Have broad contacts and make yourself available to other people. You can do this in PRSA by attending webinars, online chats — the more the better! PRSA is a non-competitive organization, which means you can search the directory and find someone to ask for advice. As long as it’s not a conflict of interest, they’ll help.”

When asked if there was something that she wished she’d known when starting her career in PR, Katrina said, “I was a late bloomer in taking advantage of networking groups. Get out there and network as soon as possible. Building relationships is something you should start early on.”

Gerry emphasized his belief that having a board of mentors is crucial to your professional development. He said, “it’s good to have a mentor, but it’s better to have a board of them. Find people who are doing what you want to do, get to know them, strike up a conversation with them. Don’t limit yourself to one person, different people can bring different perspectives.”

6. Know Your Value and Be Able to Communicate It

I think Gerry said it best: “KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.” We’ve heard this phrase in relation to preparation for interviews, and I think it is especially applicable for landing a position in public relations. You must show that you can communicate your value to your employer, because if you can’t market yourself, how would you be able to market the company?

When asked what he looks for in candidates, Gerry said, “I look for someone who can communicate very succinctly on what values they could bring to an employer. This translates to knowing your value so you can communicate it to them. A candidate is memorable when they can do this. Your resume must also communicate your value.” He added that taking the time to create and practice your 30-second elevator speech is a key to communicating your value to an employer.

Breaking into a new career is not always easy, but is definitely possible. The main takeaway that I got from hearing the advice from these seasoned pros is that we have more control over our career than we may think. It is easy to feel like we must follow a set path to success that is built for us by an employer or professor. And while it is true that development through education and your job experiences is highly important, we can’t forget that the most crucial key to success is the attitude we have and the growth we create on our own.

Being an asset to a company is a skill that we must develop within ourselves. Developing yourself professionally and personally takes dedication, motivation, and creativity. Development is the way to make yourself stand out from everyone else, and it is the way to maximize the value you can bring to an employer — and to yourself.