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What some students expect from a career in PR/communications.

Recently, I accepted an invitation to speak before communication and public relations students at Illinois State University because I remember how I blindly stumbled into my career in public relations. I began by telling the 10+ student group that my intent was not to define public relations but rather to give them a glance at what a PR professional does for a living.

But, more important, I wanted to find out what the students expect from public relations as a career.

From an audience of more than 120 students, 88 completed a questionnaire on their career aspirations in public relations. Following are excerpts from the survey results,

When asked why they were considering a career in public relations, the reasons ranged from corporate image building and social opportunities to writing and the growth of the PR industry.

Unfortunately, the No.1 answer to this question was: Because I like working with people. While the wording varied, the sentiment was consistent.

* I think it's interesting, I like working with people, making them happy.

* I enjoy working with people, writing and trying to change this.

* I love working with people and helping them.

* The challenge is incredible and I love to make people happy by consoling and promoting as well.

* I work well with people.

Many hoped that public relations would circumvent day-to-day job boredom. Public relations is viewed as an exception to the rule where repetition, detail work and drudgery are expected. PR, it seems, is considered a glamorous business.

* It sounds like i would do a lot of different things rather than the same things all the time. I want to do something social

* I like working creatively with people, and i like writing. Also, I want to travel, so hopefully this will take me places (out of country.)

* Because I want an exciting career with lots of action.

* It sounds like an interesting career that won't be the same old thing every day.

Surprisingly, many students also seem to think that public relations is brand new. Similar to the boom of PCs and the rise of computer whiz kids, they believe that public relations is a new discipline.

* It's one major that interests me the most. I like to talk, and I like to write. It's a new field. It sounds exciting and challenging.

* It's such a new field.- many openings and possibilities. I like to speak and enjoy writing and I will be able to use these skills in PR/mass communication.

* It's a new field and I like to talk. It's very creative and I like that also.

Others were more pragmatic about their selection. When asked, "Why public relations?" they said:

* It's my major.

* I have majored in PR and I would like to put what I have learned into use.

* So I can work on commission and make a lot of $.

I was relieved to learn that not all students were taken in by the amorphous people" aspects of public relations. Instead, they cited some very real, though vague, expectations about PR.

* I think the idea of creating an image for a corporation or person is fascinating.

* Because I enjoy working with people and I feel communication is an essential part of any business,

* I feel that PR is an extremely important area of business which is not well understood and I think that this should change.

* PR seems to be a rewarding field where one works closely with management and the public in order to reach a desired goal, the key is communication and that is very interesting to me.

* I like dealing with the marketing, advertising, problem solving aspects of the field, Also, I think it's one of the more challenging fields today.

One student's answer transcended all others: The abilities God gave me tend to lead toward this field. Another seemed ready for the realities of PR: Because I enjoy a challenge,

But only one person was right on target. The answer was simple: I love to write.

Most planned on starting their careers on the corporate side, instead of agency or not-for-profit work.

When asked to rank the three most important skills needed to succeed in their first PR job, writing ability topped the list.

The No.2 answer was "people" skills followed by interpersonal skills,

Students ranked "detail oriented" at bottom of the list.

"Who would trust an entry level person with a project if the details would fall through the cracks?" I asked them.

But the students told me that they chose PR to escape the details.

Similarly, the ability to juggle projects and clients was rated very low. I explained the importance of being able to keep all the balls in the air at once. In public relations, the day rarely unfolds neatly, but explodes into projects, priorities, crises and reorganizing priorities, And, in the middle of the hectic pace, I told them, never lose track of the details.

Kimberly Storto is director, public relations, Jack Levy & Associates, Inc., Chicago, Ill.
COPYRIGHT 1990 International Association of Business Communicators
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Title Annotation:public relations
Author:Storto, Kim
Publication:Communication World
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Communicators comment on rapidly changing global climate.
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