Spring is right around the corner. And while that means better weather, longer days and outdoor eating, it also means college graduates hitting the job market and undergrads looking for internships. SHIFT tends to follow an “always interviewing” approach, since we are focused on smart growth and finding the very best talent in all four offices. So, naturally, we anticipate an increase in the number of candidates that are looking to get their foot in the door at SHIFT over the next few months.
It’s during these conversations that I’m often asked about what it takes to be in public relations. What are the characteristics that we look for in candidates and what qualities do successful SHIFTers demonstrate?
If you want a long and successful career in PR, you need a range of hard skills – ability to write a strong pitch or to handle difficult client expectations. Many of those can be learned throughout your career. You would be smart to find an agency or company that has a culture rooted in learning and development, and pairs you with a manager and team members that are committed to helping you grow in these areas.
But there are also softer skills that successful SHIFTers all tend to have. And while these can be learned (and grow) over time, many are innate characteristics – they are at the heart of who we are as people. These softer skills are what we look for during interviews, in addition to the hard skills you may have learned in school or during an internship.
These soft skills get people to the next level – because even if the next level requires experience you don’t yet have, the soft skills will help you quickly get them. To be successful in PR, you need to:
Not just about your clients and how their technology/product/service works, but about the world around you. The best PR people have a broad range of interests, and seek information about business, politics, art, food, travel and other cultures to name just a few. In my experience, the more curious a person is, the better they’re able to come up with a proactive pitch or relate to a reporter.
Have a Thick Skin
Clients will get frustrated. Reporters will say no. Your manager might not like a pitch you wrote. Successful PR people don’t get defensive or overly stressed. Instead, they look at these situations as learning experiences, and it pushes them to do better.
If you work at PR agency, you’ll need to understand how to work with and serve clients. No, that doesn’t mean being a yes person (at SHIFT, we have a culture of giving fearless counsel) but it being proactive and positive. You have to be the type of person that can tell a client that something won’t work by telling them what will. And someone that continuously has ideas to share with clients and the team (like, without being asked).
If you’re someone that won’t stop at no, you might have a career in PR. The very best SHIFTers are ones that always push themselves to get what they need and to do better – that might be to write a stronger pitch, call a new reporter to get more coverage, or chase down a client that had to approve a press release 10 minutes ago. If you give up easily, PR probably isn’t for you.
I’ll be celebrating my 12-year anniversary with SHIFT next month. Throughout the years, I have learned so many new skills, thanks in part to SHIFT’s investment in development, my fantastic managers and super smart team members. But there have been countless times that I called upon the soft skills – innate characteristics true to my personality – to truly get me to where I needed to be.