**This is the first in a small series of posts drawn from a conversation I had with Francis Ingham, the Director General of the PRCA.**
This week, I was lucky enough to meet with Francis Ingham, the extremely busy director general of the Public Relations and Communications Association. Mr. Ingham has done a lot for this organisation, turning it around in 2007 when he first came to the helm by repositioning it as a real competitor to the CIPR as well as an endless source of opportunities for PR professionals, from networking events to lectures to workshops.
One of the main issues I discussed with Mr. Ingham was the current job climate for entry level workers like me. I lamented the difficulty young millennials face when it comes to entering the job market nowadays. Most job listings are extremely competitive and cite a minimum of two years experience for entry level positions–sorry, how am I supposed to get experience you demand when you won’t give me a job without experience? How am I supposed to stand out when everyone else applying to this job has the same credentials as me: a high-class degree from a good university, the same eager, shining face, the same padded resume, the same polished cover letter, the same passion (manufactured or real). Every networking event I’ve ever attended has offered not much help: it’s basically the luck of the draw when it comes to you getting someone’s attention in the job application process, and everyone’s advice varies so much it’s hard to get a conclusive answer of what you should and should not do.
Mr. Ingham’s main advice was the motto I try to live by: luck=hard work + opportunity. I add to this equation by actively seeking out opportunities. Mr. Ingham suggested that making the most of the PRCA’s numerous free workshops, networking events, and lectures is the first step to take when looking for a job. The more people you know, the more you expose yourself to the industry, and the more you actively try to make the most of every opportunity, the better off you will be. Mr. Ingham said to not be afraid to tweet someone influential in the PR industry and ask them for a coffee–that way they put a face to a name, and you’re more likely to be remembered when you apply for a job.
Making a good impression is vital in your job hunting. Think of every connection you make as a mini job interview. Be prepared: write down questions ahead of time, do research on the person you’re having coffee with, and have some relevant conversation topics in mind. Keep up with the current debates in PR–what are the hot button issues? What are the trends? Keeping your finger on the pulse shows dedication and effort. Be sure to send a thank you note afterward–good manners are always a plus.
The last piece of advice Mr. Ingham gave is to look for graduate and recruitment schemes (I criticized these for being even more competitive than normal job listings, and for having insane hoops to jump through during the application process, but that’s another issue). The PRCA has done a lot of work on getting school leavers into entry level jobs, which helps those who have chosen not to go to university. These are the kind of efforts I admire from the PRCA: Mr. Ingham is keenly aware that not everyone has the same opportunities, and he has helped to make his organisation one of few that actively works toward equality. They also work with the Women in PR organisation to create resources for women, who dominate the profession yet are sorely absent from leadership roles (this is also something I am passionate about, but that’s a post for another time).
All in all, Mr. Ingham seemed concerned that I had expressed such exasperation over the competition out there to get a good job, whatever that is. But I’m not totally cynical (yet)–I know eventually I’ll find success. Meeting with Mr. Ingham was one step in the right direction.