Last week, some of us on the PRSA Pittsburgh board spoke with Waynesburg University’s PRSSA chapter for an informal meet and greet. I am always so impressed with their chapter for being go-getters. Speaking of go-getting: one of the questions that came up was in regards to skills every new graduate should have when they are applying for jobs, so it inspired me to write a blog post on the topic (the skill I always stress is also included in this list). Here are the top skills every new grad should have working in the communications field.
1. Networking Prowess
My #1 tip for any student or young professional out of school is to be able to network well. Yes, a lot of people can network and be “one and done” in their approach, but it doesn’t stop with a coffee or Zoom meeting. Being able to not only network with someone but also keep in touch is key. Chances are when you first network with someone, they will not have a job for you. But maybe a few months later, a colleague of theirs emails them and asks if they know of anyone for a role they are hiring for. Who will they think of first? Not the person they had coffee with a year ago who they can’t remember their name. No, it’s the person who checks in periodically. It can be as simple as commenting on their LinkedIn post every now and then, or getting together quarterly. I wrote more about this here.
2. Verbal and Oral Skills
This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s essential to be able to communicate both on paper and in person (slash on video these days). Being extroverted and outgoing are great to be in PR – and a lot in this field are – but if you are not, that’s OK too. But you need to be able to pick up the phone and call someone, lead a call, present, etc. And when networking, being able to walk up to someone and say hello. It’s essential in this field. And being a good writer is always always always key. Practice makes perfect here.
3. Ability to Meet Deadlines
This one also seems like a no-brainer but I’ve seen far too many junior people just blatantly miss deadlines over the years. I get it – we are all going a mile a minute and busy with hundreds of tasks. Here’s where you can work on your time management skills to prioritize and get things done. And if you are having a hard time with this or know you cannot meet a deadline, speak with your supervisor about how to adjust things. I appreciate someone coming to me and talking this through instead of slopping something together last minute or not doing something at all. Don’t let your supervisor have to follow up with you all the time. Get in front of it. This skill goes a long way.
4. Accepting of Constructive Criticism
I remember my first review at the first ad agency where I worked. Someone called my writing “green” and I didn’t even know what green meant then! I had a lot to learn, but I was sad by the feedback. There were a few other things I was told early on that stuck with me, and I have to say it made me a better professional. It’s because the way this feedback was given to me was constructive and helpful. No one was out to get me in writing this. Rather, they wanted to help me succeed. Yes, there are going to be some jerks in your career that are NOT constructive and downright hurtful. Ignore them and focus on the things you can actually work on to help you grow.
What else should be on the list of skills every new graduate should have when they are applying for jobs?