Just how prepared are recent college grads to enter the job market? A recent study revealed major gaps in what students perceive as their workforce readiness and what hiring managers think. (Chegg: Bridge That Gap: Analyzing the Student Skill Index, Fall 2013.)
In the research, most college students surveyed thought that GPA scores and personal connections were some of the most important factors in landing a job. The hiring managers responded overwhelmingly that what they thought was important for new graduates was the initiative to lead, participation in extracurricular activities and completion of a formal internship before college graduation. Fewer than 39 percent of the hiring managers surveyed felt that recent college graduates were prepared for a job in their chosen fields.
There seems to be a huge disconnect in what college students think companies are looking for in terms of skills. At Metzger Associates, we have hundreds of resumes cross our desks from all over the country every year. Here are six important skills we look for in PR practitioners of any age or experience level:
1. Lead a Team. As a PR manager, I’m looking for employees that are comfortable working together on a team and proactive in managing projects and deadlines. Regardless of experience level, managers want people that will move up through the ranks by leading and managing others successfully with no daily micromanaging required.
2. Writing Skills. Basic writing skills have been on the decline for years and the ubiquity of social media and texting only exacerbates the problem. I’m not even talking about creating a persuasive argument in an essay or becoming a competent wordsmith. Many resumes and cover letters we see have not even been spellchecked for grammar mistakes and typos.
3. Roll with the Punches. It’s not uncommon for your entire day to be hijacked by a client emergency or an all-day meeting. PR agency employees should be flexible, and be able to roll with change. They need to quickly learn how to carve out time each day to touch all of your client projects at least once if possible.
3. Emotional Intelligence. PR is a social career. It’s important to be able to perceive and read emotions in your teammates and your clients in order to solve problems. A highly emotionally intelligent person will be able to navigate interpersonal situations more easily than someone without this skill.
4. Problem Solving. Similar to critical thinking skills, the ability to think about a challenge and develop a number of solutions independently and proactively before bringing it before the team or manager is vital.
5. Organization. Do you feel overloaded by emails and unable to file them into folders within a reasonable time period? Do you have trouble meeting deadlines and procrastinate on challenging projects? Everyone has a personal organizational system for processing information. It’s important that your process works for you and that you can complete tasks on time with limited supervision. This skill is particularly valuable in the agency environment.
6. Learn to Flex your Style. Chances are, your bosses, clients and teammates will come from different backgrounds and have different styles of interpersonal communication. Depending on the age differences in the office, certain employees may prefer face-to-face communication as opposed to email or texts. I once had a boss who preferred to communicate only using long, verbose email exchanges – no texting, no in-person meetings. It is up to you (not your supervisor or your client) to flex your style for other individuals if you want to be successful.
Recent graduates or those looking to pursue a career in public relations should do some research and talk to practicing PR executives to get a feel for the day-to-day activities in both agency and corporate positions.