I often have people ask me why I chose to be in Public Relations. To be honest, it chose me. I have found over the years that many PR professionals feel the same way. Of course you have the individuals who set out to study PR, or who happen to be in a family of PR pros. But for many, it is almost like a great calling that creates accidental moments and puts you in the correct path. That is how PR chose me. However, this field of creative energy, unlimited possibilities, and constant growth is not for everyone.
I enjoy working with college students and hearing their enthusiasm for what we do, but the reasons why some choose PR frighten me. “I want to be just like Samantha from 'Sex and They City,'” or “I love weddings and I want to be an Event Coordinator so I chose PR as a major,” or worse, “I am the PR chair for my sorority and it’s so much fun!” Those statements are all fun and good to get you in the door, but remember, this is not a hairstyle you are picking for a season; this is a career choice. And for some of us, it’s a life path.
For true Public Relations practitioner, the job never stops. We don’t clock out at five p.m.. The creative juices never cease to flow. And we simply cannot stand by idly and watch bad campaigns or endure sloppy copy. That is how you know that PR has chosen you. The fear that we as practitioners should feel is about the large amount of new members entering our workforce with the belief that PR is what they see on TV and in the movies. Fabulous parties, Manolos, A-list celebrities, huge, life-changing press conferences, business by the pool, and a social life—those make for great television, but they are not an accurate representation of what we do.
For those curious about Public Relations, consider shadowing a PR pro as well as a professor. Both will give you wonderful insight into the field. The pro will be able to give you a current, real-world perspective. They will show you the evolution of our field, the good, and the bad, and they can move you from the classroom into the real world. Though many colleges are doing a fine job of making classwork feel more like a mini-agency, there is something to be said for being put into a real, working PR campaign.
With a PR professor, you will have the opportunity to see and understand the history of our field. Learning how Public Relations has evolved is fascinating. Simply in the area of social media alone, PR professionals have transformed this medium into a vital part of the success of almost any campaign. Also, most professors are former practitioners with years of valuable experience. They can tell you of a time when Public Relations, Marketing, and Sales were lumped together and a practitioner was expected to be proficient in all areas.
In the end, for those interested in entering the ranks of Public Relations professionals, consider a valuable amount of research. Remember, this could open the doors to your future success or failure. And if you truly feel that PR is everything you have seen in the movies and therefore have chosen it based on those assumptions, be prepared for a very interesting professional challenge.