What do newspapers and cereal have in common? The breakfast table?

As the economy recovers and PR job openings increase, don’t pass up positions that require industry-specific experience even if you don’t have it. Let HR or the hiring manager disqualify you.

But first let them know this. PR skills are a communications professional’s most important asset, not knowledge of a given industry. Expertise in PR is transferable to a variety of industries. As an outsider, you may be in a better position to render an objective opinion on the strategy and tactics of a PR program by leveraging knowledge of other business models.

We’ve all heard managers say that they have been around their industries so long that they have lost the “big picture.” PR practitioners are big picture people. Share your knowledge of what other industries do. Don’t hide it. Draw parallels.

Companies that place a premium on talent will invest in educating new hires. If companies are not willing to do that, then perhaps they are not the best employers.

Recently, an out-of-work colleague was disqualified for a PR coordinator position because he did not have industry experience. He landed a PR management position at another company after that. Good for him. Bad for the entity that passed him up.

Don’t let this get lost in the discussion either: Several high-profile companies have hired CEOs and top managers from industries totally unrelated to their own. The Times Mirror hired CEO Mark Willes from General Mills.

What do newspapers and cereal have in common? The breakfast table?

Likewise IBM lured CEO Louis Gerstner from RJR Nabisco. Eastman Kodak enticed CEO George Fisher from Motorola. AT&T hired CEO Michael Armstrong from Hughes Electronics.

If companies can do that for CEOs—alpha leaders who make (not necessarily earn) millions of dollars a year— what is stopping them from doing that for PR practitioners?

Recently, we had a local example. A few months ago the Port of Houston Authority hired energy executive Alec Dreyer as its executive director. Dreyer was formerly CEO at Horizon Wind Energy.

Insist that companies wanting industry experience consider your resume and skills first. The worst that can happen is that they don’t listen and you don’t get the job. But you’re better off trying than doing nothing at all.

— Mike Wysatta, PRSA Houston board member

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Filed under Job Search Tips, Public Relations

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