According to Merriam Webster, professionalism is ‘the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person’. The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “the competence or skill expected of a professional’.
It may seem obvious to those who have been in the workforce for some time what professionalism is, however it is still a topic of debate. Some people say professionalism depends on the industry and also, the culture and values of the company. Others would say that how you display professionalism remains the same in all companies, sectors and industries.
Previously, although I hate to admit this, I have made a few mistakes when it comes to displaying professionalism however, I definitely see its importance and I have markedly improved. So due to my experiences, I feel that I am able to give some tips on how PR graduates going into their first job can show professionalism.
1) I think a love of the industry and the skills required to succeed in it is very important. If you don’t enjoy writing, reading and the media, then you can either teach yourself to as it’s a must or try looking into another industry that fits your skills and interests better.
2) It is a requirement to keep on top of current affairs in the PR industry. Do you enjoy being current with world affairs? Do you know what all the national newspapers in the UK are? Do you know which papers are right, left or neutral? It is important to understand your media and know what is going on around you. I have made a media list on Twitter as it has made it easier for me to keep current. Also, I try and listen to the Today’s programme and watch Question time as often as possible. What do you do?
3) Although enthusiasm is important, it is not enough. It is imperative to go above and beyond to prove your passion for PR and communications to potential employers. For example, I am a member of the CIPR and through that I am able to keep up with the industry through PRWeek and Communicate Magazine. I keep up to date with PR news by regularly visiting websites like Gorkana or PR Examples. I also try and attend as many networking events as I can. I have read books such as “How to get into PR” by Sarah Stimson and involved myself in a training session organised by CIPR. I have also joined professional LinkedIn groups like PR Daily and PR Professional. Are you doing enough to get yourself that dream job in PR?
4) Research the company. I think it is rude to go into an interview and not know what your potential employer does and whom their clients are. At the very least, go on their website. The graduates likely to get the position are the ones who went far and beyond with their research. For example, they found out who their interviewers are, looked through their social media accounts to find out their interests and researched the PR campaigns the agency has created for their clients.
5) Dress appropriately for the interview. This could be smart business dress or casual smart depending on the agency or company. You can find out the culture of the company by research as mentioned above.
6) Be kind and polite. You will be remembered for your kind manner and it may contribute to the process of getting your first job. Even if you get rejected, sending them a ‘Thank you’ email and asking for feedback will help you with your future job search and may help get you a job with that particular company in the future.
7) Show your personality. Be yourself. It is the best advice anyone can give.
8) Practice those skills mentioned in the first tip. Write a blog to showcase to interviewers as a professional portfolio, read newspapers regularly and open up social media accounts and use them frequently. This will help drastically.
9) Be on time to every engagement. You don’t want to be seen as that person that’s always late. It will put you in good stead with potential employers and colleagues.
10) Always go into a PR interview with at least two examples of your most and least favourite PR campaigns to discuss in the interview. It shows you know what PR is about and are following up on the industry.
I honestly think following these guidelines will help considerably. Not doing so will mean it may take you a long time to find your dream PR job. Even if you do, continue showing professionalism, as networking is a key part of the PR industry and it will help when building contacts with journalists and potential clients. Not being professional could lead to you being fired from your job, wasting money on a campaign or even worse, losing a client.
So like Dizzee Rascal once said (or rapped) “Fix up, Look sharp” and good luck on your job search. 🙂