Hey Grads! Here’s How to Decide What Comes Next for Your PR Career

Congrats! You finally did it! You graduated! The world is your oyster! You’re stressed about it! 

It happens to even the most Type-A among us. Once the graduation photo shoots are over and the celebratory champagne wears off, reality sets in and you realize you have some decision-making to do. There’s a lot to think about when it comes to getting your start in the PR biz, and it can feel really overwhelming. 

The amazing (but mind-boggling) thing about PR is that it’s such a diverse industry, with infinite opportunities. You might be reading this article on PR Couture because you’re interested in the fashion/lifestyle industry, which is great. But have you considered whether you want to work in-house or at an agency? How many different types of PR roles there are across a gazillion different industries? Or even whether you might want to go to grad school? Am I asking too many questions?

Before you get a stress headache, take a deep breath and get excited instead. Here are a few ways you can think about your next steps, get your bearings and find the right direction.

Think about your personal interests and unique experiences.

PR and communications roles exist in so many different ways. Everyone needs PR! That’s what makes this job so great. You have the opportunity to work with whatever interests you, whether it be a global beverage and retail chain (my dream client will always and forever be Starbucks), an up-and-coming cosmetics brand, or a local non-profit.

You can also think about how your academic and personal experience sets you up for certain roles. Did you double major in political science? Consider doing comms for an election campaign. Work as a personal shopper at Nordstrom? They offer PR internships at their corporate headquarters. Your past can sometimes give you helpful hints for your future. 

Shameless plug: the PR Couture PRISM course is an incredible format to learn exactly what makes your background and experience attractive to a potential employer.

Decide what type of working environment is right for you.

I could go on and on about the great in-house vs. agency debate, because there are so many pros and cons on both sides. I’ve worked in both environments, and I can tell you that I enjoy both for different reasons. For example, on the in-house side, I got to fully immerse myself into that brand strategy and get an in-depth understanding of the business. On the agency side (where I am currently), I love the challenge of adapting to a variety of clients and get pumped to come into work knowing that every day will be different. If you’re on the fence, this article can tell you more about the differences between in-house and agency life. 

The amazing (but mind-boggling) thing about PR is that it’s such a diverse industry, with infinite opportunities.

While agencies can get a bad rap for having a tough work-life balance (and yes, the hours can be long sometimes, no getting around it), it’s my belief that you can find an agency with a good company culture that values work-life balance. Agency life does not have to mean burnout life, as long as both you and your workplace can make your well-being a priority. 

Interested in research? Consider doing grad school.

I’m biased on this one because this is the route I took. After three summers of internships and a bachelor’s degree under my belt, I wanted to challenge myself by taking my PR education one extra mile. If you think you might be interested in learning how to conduct market research, think more analytically about media coverage, and even publish your own study, it’s worth looking into that advanced degree. A few of my graduate friends went on to work in research roles at PR agencies, or at market research firms like Mintel. 

It’s a time commitment for sure, and it’s not easy to watch your friends start working —  I was definitely feeling the rush to get a move on with my first full-time job. But once you start working for real, you’ll be surprised how much you miss school sometimes!

Don’t worry about getting “pigeonholed.” Just focus on the next right move.

Oprah once said (and I am so happy I get an excuse to quote Oprah) that you shouldn’t overthink the future — you just need to focus on making the next right move. This means that you don’t have to decide what you’re doing ten, five or even two years from now. You just need to decide what you’re doing next. 

I’ve always had this fear that I’ll get pigeonholed — that is, specializing in something and then getting stuck there forever. I worried that if I tried something new and didn’t like it, that it would be too late and I’d have to do that forever. But it doesn’t work that way, especially in a career like PR, which is an incredibly transferable skill. I started in consumer beauty and now work with B2B technology clients. Some of my coworkers started as reporters and now work in PR (and former journalists are some of the best PR people). The point is, don’t be afraid of going down a right or wrong path. Just make sure you keep walking. 

I know how anxiety-inducing it can be to have so many different options, but that’s also the beauty of PR. When you’re fresh out of college, it’s the perfect time to try new things. Move to a new city. Take that post-grad internship to land the industry of your dreams. I moved to San Francisco because I didn’t know much about technology PR, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try it (and now I love it). And whether it ends up being the path you take or not, all experience is valuable experience, so don’t be afraid to get started. 

Cheers to your new career!

Congrats grad! Here’s How to Decide What Comes Next for YOUR PR Career

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About This Author

Alex is a 20-something PR professional based in San Francisco. When she's not being a workaholic, you can usually find her at the nearest In-N-Out.