guiding the career in public relations

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Motivating Pep Talk from Recent Grad

July 15th, 2009 · 5 Comments

I was introduced virtually to Suzanne Block by former Sears colleague Tim Conway, who was impressed with her attitude and approach to finding a job.  Suzanne is leaving no stone unturned in her search, which will land her a full-time PR job.

After a couple of email exchanges, I asked Suzanne to share her job search philosophy and approach with Culpwrit readers through this guest post. 

  Suzanne Block

Upon uttering, “recent college graduate,” to any member of modern society, there is an inevitable gasp, followed by overwhelming condolences.  The message is reinforced to graduates of all levels—the economy is terrible and no one is hiring.  Recent grads should, therefore, crawl into the proverbial basement in their parents’ home and peek out only when the recession is over.  Right?

Wrong.  Although I have just recently graduated into one of the toughest job markets in decades, it is not time to silently go into the night (or my parent’s basement, whichever is cheaper).  I am a graduate: It’s time to put my professional hat on, to be proactive, and to get a job

My search for an entry level public relations position began in January, 2009.  I started at the career center of my alma mater, Lake Forest College.  I polished my resume, was advised to join, and passionately hit the job boards.  As the weeks passed, I came up short.  Submitting online applications was a black hole and networking through family friends only got me so far.

Then the golden ticket arrived: My dad’s fiancé, the president of her own independent PR firm in Washington, D.C., hired me as her virtual assistant.  She provided industry insight through a small agency prospective and encouraged me to join professional organizations, such as Public Relations Society of America and the Publicity Club of Chicago to meet new people and distribute my resume when appropriate.  She assured me the cost of the memberships was an investment, rather than a way to quickly drain my (meager) student piggy-bank.  She was right.  Attending monthly meetings, luncheons, and networking events was the catalyst to helpful conversations about the PR industry, including informational interviews with several PR firms in Chicago. 

My ability to connect with people grew.  I met with anyone who was willing to give me their time, inquiring about their career, their first job out of college, and their definition of success. My relentlessness motivated the head of PR at Lake Forest College, along with the head of the Lake Forest College Career Center, to recommend me to the Chicago Tribune as a candidate for a story about a “student who was on top of her job search.”  Two weeks later, my picture was on the front cover of the Chicago Tribune, accompanying an article declaring me as a diligent, rising star to the PR world.  Two weeks and three days later, I was on Jane Skinner’s Happening Now mid-day FOX News segment, conducting a live interview to further my story.  This media frenzy was any job searcher’s dream, not to mention an aspiring PR professional’s heaven.

Did my media exposure get me a job?  Well, not exactly.  When hiring freezes, cancellation of summer internships, and fierce competition combine, the harsh impenetrable nature of a bearish market rears its ugly head.  My experience with the media did not get me a job, my hard work did. 

I recently earned a sales and marketing internship with a soil solutions company.  It is challenging work but I enjoy building my professional toolkit.  Although this position is temporary (they don’t have the budget to hire full-time), that does not stop me from proving myself indispensable to my manager and the company at large.  It most certainly does not stop me from continuing to network, seek out, and apply to the permanent position that is waiting for my great work ethic, killer writing skills, and overall dexterity. 

So, no, crawling into my parent’s basement is not an option.  Not even close. 

Tags: Day in the Life · Job Search

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Erica Meyer // Jul 15, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Well done, Suzanne. And well written! Nice especially that you can both maintain, and express, a sense of humor in such trying circumstances. I wish you all great things… including a full time job!
    Stay in touch…

  • 2 RUdowitz // Jul 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Sticking out from the crowd works in any market but critical in today’s. When you’re in PR it should be part of your DNA and that seems to clearly describe Suzanne. Best of luck to her. She’s on the right path and hopefully will be snatched up soon by some lucky company. Looking forward to the follow-up on that. Keep up the good work, Ron.

  • 3 Mary-Jane Atwater // Jul 16, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Great post, Suzanne! Hard work and pursuing a range of opportunities is the only way in today’s PR marketplace. I had the great fortune to hire Suzanne as a virtual intern this summer, to assist with a PR project. I can’t say enough about her work ethic and “killer writing skills,” which are certainly evident in her post.

  • 4 Brian // Jul 16, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    “Upon uttering, “recent college graduate,” to any member of modern society, there is an inevitable gasp, followed by overwhelming condolences. ”

    Well, I legitimately laughed at that one. I’m definitely dealing with that in my job search. Anytime I say to anyone that I just graduated, they actually apologize to me for the economy. Like it helps. Oh well. Good post though!

  • 5 Bill sommer // Jul 20, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Great to hear about you. Please send my best regards to your Dad.

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