5 Questions To Consider About Your First PR Job

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to address 100 or so PR students at my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. Most were in their third year, a few were about to graduate, and all were thinking about securing their first “real” job in public relations. Sharp, well-prepared and eager to engage, their questions focused on the pros and cons between agencies and in-house roles, and between non-profit and commercial opportunities.

My career has included stints in all of these settings, and I was happy to share my generally positive experience in each. And while I was eager to gently nudge them toward a look at opportunities within Ketchum,  my main intent was to pose a few broader questions that might help them find opportunities best suited for their own unique interests.

Here’s what I suggested they consider when comparing job opportunities – in their case, their first, but these five questions may apply later in life, too:

  1.  Will I have an opportunity to make a difference? Determine whether the organization committed to a purpose or proposition that you believe in, and whether your role will empower you to contribute toward it.
  2. Can I live my dream? We may wish for lives beyond on our natural abilities – few of us will be world-class athletes or famous fashion designers, for example. But we can, if we’re determined, find roles in PR that put us in squarely in our dream worlds … perhaps with a team involved with the London 2012 Olympics, Milan Fashion Week or the Oscars, to cite a few Ketchum assignments.
  3. Will I have a chance to do great work?  We all want something to show for our efforts, and for the most successful this goes beyond a pay-check.  We want the fruits of our labor to stand out, as strategic, creative and effective, and maybe to win recognition from our peers as truly great. Look for opportunities with organizations that win awards for their work and place importance on quality and professionalism of communications.
  4. Do they think globally? Not all PR jobs are global or international; most in fact are quite local in their orientation. But the best are those with organizations that strive to be world-class in their outlook, regardless of their geography.
  5. Will I be challenged by the people I work with? We don’t have to like our colleagues (although frankly it helps) but we do need be around people we respect and will encourage us to grow and achieve more than we could on our own. Finding the place with the right people may be the most important consideration of all; take us much time to get to know the people you’ll be working with as you would the organizational brand or clients.

To be fair, there are many other important factors to consider as well – pay, location, benefits, hours and onward development, among them. But I’ve found that if you can answer the first five satisfactorily, most other aspects fall into place.

As a Senior Partner, CEO of Ketchum’s European operations and Chairman of the London office, David Gallagher brings more than 20 years of public relations experience, both as a client and as a senior agency adviser, to some of the world’s leading brands and companies. Interested in PR, politics, Texas Longhorns and life with two labradoodles. Follow him on Twitter @TBoneGallagher.