I recently received this email from a reader: “I enjoyed English and studied journalism. When I graduated in 1986, I found a three-month internship with a public relations agency. At the end of the internship, the owner provided a letter of recommendation. When I continued looking for a full-time position in public relations, I continued to hear that I lacked experience.” He says he has been haunted by those words ever since. How can he (or anyone in a similar situation, for that matter) can get experience? He also wonders if it is too late for him to find work in PR.
It’s that old “chicken or the egg” analogy, notes Stephen Greet, co-founder at BeamJobs, who says the best way to break that cycle is by volunteering or by creating projects of your own.
“I would recommend this person volunteer for a local nonprofit and offer them a comprehensive PR plan. Nonprofits don’t typically have large budgets, so they’d welcome the help,” he says. “Then, when they execute on that strategy and have some tangible results — a write-up in a local paper, for example — they will irrefutably have some experience that employers will find desirable. This shows competency in the field and also highlights the ability and willingness to go above and beyond.
While it won’t be easy, there are other ways to pursue a career without professional experience in the field, industry experts say.
1. Explore the gig/freelance world. “In your example, I would recommend this person to sign up on freelance platforms like Upwork and start searching for entry-level opportunities,” says Danilo Godoy, founder of Search Evaluator.
“The advantage of using this approach is that you will have control over the experience you develop, because you will be actively searching for jobs that fit your skills. Over time, as you become more experienced, you can start looking for full-time positions outside of the platform and use the freelancing experience to enrich your CV.”
2. Evaluate your work history. “Find commonalities between what you’ve been doing and what you want to do,” says George C. Mazzella, CEO and co-founder of the career management platform The Suite. “There are always lines of similarity between work experience — you just have to look for them and highlight them to others.”
Tiffani Murray, an HR strategist with 15 years of experience working with clients who want to make career transitions and those who are graduating and have minimal experience in the area they wish to work, agrees.
“I would want to take a look at the roles they have held since 1986. In my experience, there are most certainly some aspects that could be viewed as transferable to public relations,” Murray says. “Let’s say they were a grocery store manager. Perhaps they established and planned events and sales promotions for the store or placed advertisements in the newspaper. These would be the tasks/accomplishments to highlight in the resume.”
That doesn’t mean they’re get the kind of senior role they might be dreaming of.
“But it will play up those skills more so that a transition can be made to a job more in line with where they want to be,” Murray adds. “The thing about breaking into a career field when you have little experience is that you may have to be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. An entry level job or the idea of ‘starting over’ may not be feasible or desirable for someone close to retirement, but that is going to come down to individual circumstances.”
The bottom line, says Mazzella, is that the reader who reached out — or anyone in a similar situation — shouldn’t simply throw in the towel.
“Today the world has a very different outlook on this problem than it did 30 years ago. People change functions/industries constantly and having a different background can be seen as a value add,” says Mazzella, who has the following message for the reader who reached out.
“It is not too late for you to find work in PR. Don’t give up on that goal! It will not be easy — the market is flooded with talent — but with the right approach you can differentiate yourself from the masses.
(Article written by Kathleen Furore)