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New PR Graduates: Words of Advice
Take heart, step up, and believe you can.
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 by Dick Pirozzolo
Pirozzolo Company Public Relations

Dick PirozzoloBoy did we hand ya'll a mess ... the worst recession in our lifetimes, wars, foreclosures, college loans to pay back, plus your grandkids will probably have to start chipping away at that trillion dollars everyone talks about.

Take heart, you're not the only ones. Our parents handed us a mess -- Cold War, Vietnam, segregated schools, etc., etc., and their parents handed them a mess -- Great Depression and WW II. Go back a few more years to the class of 1909 and college grads were facing the Spanish Influenza or the Great War.

Anyone trying to land that first professional job right after college, has never had it easy -- even during the dot-com boom.

I don't believe the enormous changes taking place in Public Relations today, however, have any real impact on young careerists. There is growing impact of the Internet and decreasing impact of local newspapers -- folding -- and the audience share of local TV news is shrinking.

Likewise, automated news release distribution and database services, cut both ways for the newbie. Not having to stuff envelopes or run the Gestener Machine, does not mean that fresh college grads get to develop strategy for clients or write position papers and op-ed pieces.

Despite technology changes and the current groundswell of interest in Social Media, young professionals in public relations get to start on routine matters -- news releases, assist with events management and work their way up. During the process, they get to sit in on strategy and new business meetings and learn the ropes, all the while doing the routine jobs that need to get done. Same as it ever was.

But if you are frustrated looking for that first job, consider these suggestions to get you through.

1. Try to freelance for a weekly newspaper covering town meetings. It will give you practice writing and thinking like a reporter -- essential PR skills. And you will learn a lesson in making a dull zoning board meeting sound interesting. You will also learn how to find the issue and see both sides of it. Plus you will get paid for writing something, that first $25 check will be a big ego boost.

2. Cable companies all have studios and local news operations, where you can volunteer and learn basic TV news production skills -- from camera operation to floor manager to editing on Final Cut Pro.

3. Write one article for the school paper before you graduate -- at least you will have a news clip to show prospective employers.

4. Join the US Army, US Air Force or US Navy. Talk to a local recruiter about getting into Armed Forces Radio and Television (AFRTS) or becoming part of the information operation of a military branch -- best training you will ever get in PR, News and Life! And, despite all the misconceptions about "having to take orders," you will get more responsibility, respect for your position and have more authority a lot faster than in any civilian job you can get right out of school -- whether you are a young officer or enlisted person. (There are also reserve slots available, so you can combine work with military experience and training.)

5. Volunteer for a social action or church group -- take the organization on as you would a client and promote them like crazy.

6. Find an aunt, uncle or neighbor who owns a business and offer free PR services for the summer. Then ask a local PR agency to give you some guidance... most pros will share their knowledge. Even a tiny business needs a news release now and then.

7. Go to graduate school in public relations or journalism. Go to a university near where you want to work -- e.g. BU for Boston, NYU or Columbia for New York. You will make old-school-tie contacts that will pay off for years. Take Media Bistro courses to hone your skills in various aspects of PR and writing --

8. Go to law school -- and forget the whole thing!

9. Produce your first feature film or documentary -- pay for it with your parents' credit cards and enter it into film festivals, hoping for the best. If your film gets selected you will meet a lot of interesting, creative and media savvy people.

10. Don't sweat it -- get the folks to buy you an SLR digital camera and a really good flash for graduation, and travel on the cheap to Asia, The Middle East or Europe. Keep sending your pictures out to magazines and your local paper ... just get something published!

Dick Pirozzolo is the founder of Pirozzolo Company Public Relations,
 a greater Boston PR agency serving clients in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Japan, Vietnam and China. Dick teaches Media Bistro's Public Relations Basics in Boston and is an accredited member of PRSA and member of the 
American Society of Journalists and Authors.

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