Advice for Public Relations Majors & Those Who Want to Work in This Field

Lorrie's dog Callaghan

Lorrie’s dog Callaghan

We here at Lorrie Walker Public Relations welcome interns. We love to show them how what they’re learning in the college classroom gets applied in the real world. But I’m seeing some trends in some millennials that are disturbing. If you’re a college student or recent graduate who is serious about working in public relations or another field that requires good writing skills, this post is for you.

A recent article in Fast Company states half of business leaders say millenials lack the professional skill sets needed for even entry level positions.

Some areas where I find potential interns to be most lacking are in basic people skills and professional written and verbal communication. Here are a couple of examples:

We received an inquiry from a college student seeking an internship. We asked the student to submit writing samples. After no response, we reached out to make sure the student received our request. This was the response we got:

I apologize for not getting back to you sooner; this has been a crazy time with it being the holidays, and I have not checked my email as often as I typically do. I appreciate the opportunity, but with all due respect I have already received a couple of internship offers which I have decided to take. 

Know this: there is no way to say “with all due respect” and not sound haughty. Those four words prompted me to respond to this student’s email and offer unsolicited advice. I didn’t want this student, who very likely has talent and promise, to continually ruin opportunities by writing remarks along these lines in emails to potential employers.

Another time, we were looking for a contract writer and received this introduction letter:

Good afternoon,

My name is __________. I’m a young ambitious 23 year old looking to make a early step into a career with writing.

I was curious is the writer position with your national firm is still available. If you’re looking for someone who is young that you can shape into a dedicated member of your team than I’m the writer person for the Job.

In 2010 I received my Bachelors Degree with a major in media production from ____ University. While attending I was able to learn all aspects of media creation, both technically and creatively. This also included large amounts of organization along with quick divisive decision-making.  Given the director position of several class projects it was my job to keep the crew organized, satisfied, and on task. All the while also maintaining good relations with outside actors who where total strangers to me. Due to this experience my social skills where developed quickly and my thought process was able to increase under heavy loads of pressure featuring strict time deadlines… My age may also play an important roll to this position, as I am only 23 years old and very ambitious… This allows me to reach out and understand helping to get different perspectives. There for learning more about your possible future target audience.

A basic tenet of writing is being able to write content free of spelling and grammar errors. While we don’t expect perfection, you have to realize a letter such as this will not get you an interview for a writing position.

Here are some attributes I’ve come to appreciate. If millennials will embrace them, I’m convinced they will be better equipped to garner respect from supervisors and go far in their careers.

  • Show up early or on time to work
  • Admit when you’re wrong, apologize, and make it right if you can
  • Never entertain the notion that failure is an option
  • Strive to meet or exceed expectations

2 Responses for Advice for Public Relations Majors & Those Who Want to Work in This Field

  1. David Landis says:

    Lorrie – couldn’t agree more. Here’s another one: a guest arrives to meet me. The intern is at the front desk. I have my door closed as I’m working on a writing project and the intern sends me an email (I’m not looking at my email). How about knocking on my door instead to alert me? Millenials are so focused on technology they have forgotten about human interaction. Cheers, David Landis, LCI, San Francisco

    • Thanks for another example, David. We all have them. Here’s hoping students will read this post and its comments and learn from them.To PR professionals out there, feel free to share your examples in the comments, too!