I saw this Tweet today from @LAPRChick that was retweeted by @WomeninPR1: “Get one Degee and get out of college. You will have all those degrees and no experience and will not get a job.
This short and depressing statement made me mad at first. I mean, after all, if that is the case, then what am I to do with the Master of Arts in Public Relations that I will finish in May 2013 (just a few short months away)? Who did this LAPRChick think she is to pass such swift judgment? And I felt very justified in my reaction.
But when I thought about it a bit longer, I could see the ugly truth in it reflected in my own job search this past year. I have applied for–literally–scores of jobs in the last six months after my internship at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts ended. I have done a total of three internships during my tenure in graduate school, none of which were required for my degree, just so I could continue garnering experience and knowledge assets to make me more competitive in the job search. I went above and beyond in each unpaid internship to make myself a go-to communicator and to ease the transition from my military career to my chosen profession in communication. Yet, here I am, still unemployed.
I started working with a business librarian, Melissa, at my local library who specializes in helping patrons with cover letters and resumes through face-to-face working appointments. I knew that my library offered this service because I used to work there and Melissa is also a friend, but I’m not sure that many people understand the myriad of services that public libraries offer outside of books. One of the best resources that can be found in a library is the librarian–as they say, “Google will help you find a million answers, a good librarian will help you find the right one.” Melissa stressed the “Sell it, don’t say it” philosophy and helped me fine-tune my cover letter and gave me a sample resume to work on the structure we are working toward. In the meantime, I also visited the PRSA website (www.prsa.org) and found some very helpful tips on resume writing for PR jobs in the job resource center, including some creative ideas to make my information stand out and appear technically savvy by incorporating a job search blog, Facebook page, and QR codes to each within my resume.
Anyway, armed with my new knowledge of resumes and cover letters and, most importantly, a fresh perspective, I took another look at my resume and was dismayed at what I found. Though I had several tactical bullet points regarding strategic experience garnered from my internships, I was not illustrating myself as the poised, mid-management level professional that I am. I finished my undergraduate degree while I was in the military, so even though I started on my BA in Communication in 1997 (thus revealing myself to be older than the average recent graduate), my resume reflects that I graduated in 2010. A careful hiring manager would note that I had over seven years of management experience with a crew of over 20 in a multi-million dollar facility, but only if they connected the dots from my separate education and experience sections. On paper, I was looking like an entry-level rookie in the professional world.
Ok, so I’m not an entry-level rookie in the professional world. But am I an entry-level rookie in the PR world? I definitely don’t think so, but to get back to the tweet, I’ve been working on my MA for the past three years and have what appears to be very little practical experience (which is definitely not true). There is a disconnect happening between my capabilities and my experience. I think hiring managers might see the word “internship” and immediately think “clip-book” or “fetching coffee” when the reality is so very different. I have analyzed small business practices, developed marketing and PR campaigns, overseen the execution of such plans, been involved in the daily writing tasks associated with an account such as pitch letters, brochures, press releases, media advisories, fact sheets, media kits, etc., been integral in social media campaigns and website maintenance, been an on-site spokesman for businesses and high profile organizations, engaged and managed daily media outreach, nurtured relationships with journalists and clients, analyzed and responded to feedback, evaluated results…the list goes on and on.
My challenge here is to find the correct way to communicate the very hands-on, from-the-bottom-up communication and logistical skills I have been acquiring through my internships that when combined with my MA in PR, make me the go-to, confident, capable public relations manager I know that I am, despite lacking a ton of bouncing from agency to agency entry-level experience most recent grads have. I have another appointment with Melissa for tomorrow to re-tune my resume. I’ll post results in my next post.