Be Open to Jobs Outside PR

Fleishman-Hillard’s Rich Jernstedt and I were talking after attending a Lincoln Park Zoo board meeting last Friday about recent college speeches we delivered–his at Northern Illinois University and mine at the University of Alabama.  We agreed that the primary focus of undergraduates–and many recent grads–is getting a job. 

Although we didn’t coordinate our responses to students, we conveyed the same general advice.  The job market is tightening.  Boomers are delaying their retirements due to the uncertain economic climate, and more students than ever are majoring in PR.  While a large number of PR jobs will open or be created in 2009, it will be necessary for PR grads to consider other options as well.   In other words, look everywhere, don’t just focus on the standard corporate/agency suspects.  The route to a full-time PR gig may not be a direct one, and you end up finding another profession that provides you with a rewarding career and solid income. 

Among the professions that Rich and I recommended as being natural for PR graduates:   pharmaceutical sales, government (will see considerable growth under the new U.S. President), military, nonprofit, news media, web sales, retail sales, anything related to digital and education.

Rich and I both started our careers at newspapers–his as a summer job during college, mine while in college and then full-time for two years after graduation.  We eventually moved into PR positions after serving time in government jobs–his as a Naval public affairs officer, mine as director of constituent services at the New York State Assembly.  I should note that PR wasn’t a well defined profession when we began our careers so the indirect route was unplanned in our cases. 

Also offering practical advice to job-searching PR grads is Jack O’Dwyer, publisher of the publications bearing his name.  “My advice to grads is not to spend months searching for jobs or taking jobs at fast-food places but to knock on the doors of all their local businesses and ask what can be done.”

In the meantime, Jack also has offered free copies of his comprehensive directory of PR firms to college seniors and recent graduates who are seeking jobs.  To date, more than 50 Culpwrit readers have received the directory and Jack has generously extended the offer for another week.  Simply send Jack an email at and include your mailing address. 

4 comments on this post.
  1. Rosanne:

    Thanks for the advice and for working with Jack O’Dwyer to provide us with free copies of his helpful directory.

    As a PR student in my final year, I will be frequently visiting this blog! Thanks again.

  2. Roland Cailles:

    As always, you guys continually look out for the next generation of PR professionals. Thank you for sharing the directory.

    Interestingly enough, I just graduated and all my teachers tell me the same thing. “Don’t be too picky. Just find a job.”

  3. Khyati:

    Great post! Thanks for the valuable advice and for sharing the directory. I graduate soon and your advice couldn’t be more timely for me. I hope that PR is not as affected by downturn as other professions, but I do agree that graduates need to be open to possibilities for jobs in this competitive field.
    Thanks again!

  4. Sasha:

    I have worked in retail management and human resources in between Public Relations jobs. At first I really despised my Asst Manager postion at mega retailer but now I look back and realized it really provided me with a solid experience in crisis management and professionalism. I totally agree with the suggested fields

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