The Canadian Public Relations Society

Confessions of a recent PR graduate

In public relations on October 19, 2009 at 7:37 pm

At the age of 19, my life checklist seemed simple; get accepted into the Public Relations Applied Degree program at Mount Royal College (now Mount Royal University), complete the program, find a great communications job and live happily ever after. But as I worked through my checklist, I learned that my plan wasn’t so simple.

After completing the program in July 2009, I confess that none of it was as easy as my 19-year-old self had hoped. During my first year in the program, a lot of my time was spent trying to understand and define the importance of public relations. I also started to feel anxious about my first work term, also known as a Directed Field Study (DFS). Even though I wasn’t scheduled to complete my DFS until the following summer, I found myself worrying about my future and what the communications world had in store for me.

Several group projects, communications plans and news releases later, it was time to start competing against my classmates for the first much anticipated DFS. Initially I applied for almost every position posted on the job board, but after securing only one interview, I realized it was important for me to find a way to differentiate myself from my classmates. Instead of using the standard resume and cover letter template I had originally followed, I crafted my own and let myself and objectives be known. Shortly after, I was hired as a student with a well known oil and gas company.

The great thing about finishing a DFS is that almost everyone comes back to school with improved communication skills and increased confidence after having the chance to apply our newfound knowledge to the real world. It was empowering. Although we felt like we were on top of the world, we were in for an even bigger challenge when it came to applying for our second DFS.

Talk of the recession saturated the media and the number of job postings had decreased immensely. I redeployed my strategy of differentiation and soon secured a coordinator position at a public relations agency. Although I had my second and final DFS settled, I was worried for my classmates who were also deserving of a great workplace. Eventually we all received a DFS employer and could see the finish line of our program and the beginning of our careers on the horizon.

Although I stand at the starting line of my career without a job, I am optimistic about my future. I recently came back from a 36-day European adventure where I learned about the world and also myself. I feel even more empowered. My academic and personal experiences taught me to always embrace ambiguity and meet the challenges with solutions – either well planned, or on the fly. Our society imbues new graduates with instantaneous expectations and many of my former classmates are frustrated by the lack of entry-level jobs. If I could go back and tell my 19-year-old self one thing, it would be this; nothing worth while is ever easy.

Jillian Lesser is a recent PR graduate from Mount Royal University, a CPRS Calgary member, and currently looking for a full-time communications job.

  1. I feel like you are living my life in Calgary. I am the Toronto version of you. check out my blog-

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