Congratulations class of 2006!
It’s June and you have the golden key to success – your degree in PR, Communications, or Marketing. Now you’re ready to take on the world and land that high-paying gig running marketing initiatives for the best companies on the market. However, as you’ll quickly learn (literally), there’s a tremendous chasm between learned arts and practiced arts. And for the most part, it will seem as if you have to relearn everything in order to advance your career, starting at the bottom and working your way up.
Many colleges offer degrees in marketing arts, such as PR, advertising, or Internet Marketing, etc. However, after four years, or shall we say X amount of units/credits, many students – even those who have held internships – are forced to learn the true essence of their craft in the real world. Unlike, say, accounting, journalism, or viticulture, where students actually can actually jump in at a working position, PR and marketing usually places students in account coordinator or mar com (marketing communications) coordinator roles.
This isn’t the fault of the graduates however. I believe that at some level, colleges need to monitor the field for any specialized program where the dynamics evolve so quickly and are different in each industry. And, create internal programs that link students to outside businesses to run them through the ranks before they’re released to the outside workforce.
Hiring grads is a bitter sweet challenge. At one end, graduates are enthusiastic, and motivated. Their energy is an incredible boost to the morale. On the other end of the rainbow, most graduates are uncertain of how to apply what they’ve learned in PR and marketing, whether it’s corporate, government, or agency, and not really sure how any of it impacts the respective business.
Granted, many students have interned and taken away from that experience, tools that help them apply what they’ve learned in class. A brief stint also helps students decide what field and in which direction they may want to pursue a career.
Focusing on PR for a bit…
I host an annual intern program with San Jose State University for PR students, and all interns have shared a common reaction and it’s usually captured in a single word, “whoa.” Students in the program are easily lost in the frantic pace of making news, but always conclude their internship with a better understanding of PR and what’s involved in a typical day.
Writing press releases and writing pitch letters is one thing, but in world where technology is completely changing the face of how news is created and delivered, where readers go for information, and how it ultimately influences behavior – especially in tech PR – graduates have a lot of catching up to do when they join the workforce.
Granted, ambition and fearlessness set apart the brilliant, mediocre and complacent in any field of study. But for almost everyone, the starting point is the same. In my opinion, after spending four years striving for a degree in PR or marketing, graduates hold only a slight advantage over those who may be joining the workforce from a different field or with an unrelated degree.
According to a recent article, “Are Journalists Born, Or Are They Made?” by Swaraaj Chauhan, the debate echoes similar sentiment.
“The stalwarts maintained that you grow into the profession and unlearn what youlearned at a journalism school.”
According to the forthcoming book, The American Journalist in the 21st Century, only 36.2 percent of journalists with college degrees were journalism majors.
Colleges must help their graduates by giving them an advantage. I’m not referring to a job placement program. I’m referring to programs that place students in the PR team of their own schools or local businesses and charge them with their marketing or PR initiatives, similar to what you see the casts endure in The Apprentice, Surreal Life, and The Real World. Working with peers helps drive real-time education, teamwork, experience, and accomplishment – on an even playing field. Educators, help your students learn what it takes to be successful and what failure looks like along with its associated repercussions.I look forward to the day when I can hire a graduate at a higher level than the usual “ground floor” and have them jump right into the mix – only having to learn the “business” of the business they’re now in and not the tools it takes to successfully market it.
In the meantime, many of us are already reaching out to help students by providing training, mentoring, and also onsite training at their schools by sharing real world experiences and hosting in-class workshops. It’s a start. Changing the infrastructure of the education process is the end-game here. It will only help the students, increase their effectiveness and value, and contribute to the overall success of every graduating student.