April 4, 2013


Late last month, my colleague Lindsey Bradshaw and I were invited to give a presentation at this year’s Murrow Symposium at our alma mater, Washington State University. Having spent four wonderful years in the Mecca of barely-drinkable beer and mediocre college athletics, I’ll take any excuse I can to go back for a visit, even if it only is for 24 hours.

Of course, this particular trip couldn’t be all fun and games. Our mandate was to give a down and dirty presentation to a group of PR students about how to land their first job in the field, and then how to keep said job. As Coug graduates, both Lindsey and I thought we had a good idea of the classes these students had taken, the skills they had learned, and the genuine fear and panic they were experiencing barely a month from graduation day. However, after three years in the working world away from Pullman, I had completely forgotten how just how ill-prepared college graduates are for the demands of a PR career.

If you’ve spent any time on our website, particularly on this blog, it’s pretty obvious that Barokas Communications isn’t into the typical agency dog and pony show (except that one time… but you’ll have to ask Howie about that). Our “No BS” policy applies to clients, colleagues, and even PR students that we’ve never met before. We aren’t the type of agency to stroll into a classroom with the same tired presentation from 5 years ago preaching about “branding yourself” in order to get even a whiff of a job. Bullshit! The fact of the matter, and what the larger PR firms won’t tell you, is that a stellar portfolio and a personal brand are no match for a good head on your shoulders and relevant experience on your resume.

After our discussions with various attendees at the Murrow Symposium, including faculty, students, and fellow alumni, I’ve come up with a few bits of advice that I wish I had known going into my final year of college.

1. Nail the cover letter. There are two types of cover letters that get circulated to everyone in our office: the unique, witty, and personalized letters, and the boring, plain Jane letters that are obviously mass distributed to firms all over the city, and often have spelling and grammar errors.

2. Focus on your resume. I know that WSU places particular emphasis on this in a few Communications classes, but it can’t be emphasized enough. No matter what school you attend, there are nearly infinite resources to help you perfect your resume, and zero excuses for not taking advantage of them.

3. Write, write, write. Write your club newsletter, write for your college newspaper, write the family Christmas letter. As PR pros, most of our days are spent writing in various styles (press releases, blog posts, even Facebook updates) for audiences both internally and externally. Practice your writing any chance you get, because we will test you on it and we will judge you on it.

4. Forget about your brand. It may set you apart in the bigger corporate firms, but a firm like Barokas cares more about what you can bring to the team and to the client, not what you can do for yourself. Emphasize your valuable skills through your resume, including knowledge of our client companies, and your writing skills.

5. Relax. Yeah, applying to be a real adult with a real career is a pretty daunting task. You’ll be nervous in your first interview, and you’ll likely have answers to typical interview questions already memorized. Throw that all out the window. In your first PR position out of college, whether it is an internship or an entry-level job, most everyone is on an even playing field as far as their skills go. What we value most is how well you’ll fit in with the rest of the team, and how confident you can talk about the subject matter when you’re in front of the CEO of a multi-million dollar tech software company.

Please do feel free to share what’s worked for you and what hasn’t at @dansjensen or Daniel@barokas.com, I’m always looking to hear about the experiences of others.


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