How to Break Into the Communications World

I’ve been writing for The Daily Muse for about a year, and am a huge fan of this site. I was recently interviewed for a careers feature discussing how to break into the fields of communications and PR.

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Brief Description of Job:

I manage employee-facing communications for C-suite executives as well as change management efforts for an organization of more than 12,000 employees. I also work closely with our external affairs team to ensure messaging to different audiences stays consistent. My days involve lots of writing, editing, strategizing, and putting out fires.

Why did you choose this field?

It sounds cliché, but I think this field actually chose me. My undergraduate degree was in journalism with an emphasis in public relations, and I always thought I’d work in an agency setting, until a college internship opened my eyes to other ways to leverage a love for writing and building relationships.

I enjoy this line of work because it’s rarely boring—the pace keeps me motivated and on my toes. I have the opportunity to write everyday, which I love, and I can see the value my work adds to an organization by providing people with the information they need to be successful.

What did you want to do growing up and in college?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a veterinarian, which is quite a stretch from communications. At any rate, my love for writing soon surpassed my love for science, which led to a degree in journalism. I graduated college in 2005, just as the digital world began to surpass print media, and social media was surging ahead. It was an exciting time to launch a career in an area that was seeing unprecedented growth and evolution.

 What was your first job in this field, and how did you land it?

My first job was as a public information officer for the local county government. Glamorous? Not so much. But I learned more than I ever could have imagined about all sorts of things that make great cocktail party conversations.

I applied for this position after interning for several months in a similar capacity for another municipality. In reality, this job was a bit over my skill level at the time, which pushed me harder than ever before to learn and succeed. The most surprising thing I learned in this position was what it was like to really fail at something. I wasn’t able to coast as the all-star I’d been in school, and quickly discovered that humility goes a long way.

What has been the most surprising thing about working your field?

The most surprising thing about this field is the amount of knowledge one can amass about a completely foreign topic. When you work in communications for a large company, you may be required to learn a lifetime’s worth about something completely unfamiliar in order to perform your role effectively. I’ve worked in the fields of drug prevention, pet specialty, and copper mining before arriving in my current position, and it’s strange to constantly become immersed in new areas as your career evolves.

What advice would you have for someone breaking into your field?

Engage in informational interviews on a regular basis, because this is such a diverse and constantly changing line of work. You can learn a great deal about the opportunities that exist and how to prepare for them by speaking directly to seasoned professionals.

I also would recommend becoming overly familiar with the current Associated Press Stylebook, as this is a bible of sorts for professional writing. And to leave your ego at the door; this is probably good advice in any field, but it’s particularly valuable in communications and PR.

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