10 things you should expect in your first PR job

Big paychecks, drinks on a Tuesday night, exciting projects, a decent night’s sleep. Yeah, right. Not in the real world.


Congratulations. You scored your first job out of college. This means you’re an adult with an exciting career, a social life, and disposable income. Plus, you’ll never have to cram for tests or draft boring research reports, right?

Not exactly.

As you navigate the real world, you are likely to experience several challenges you didn’t anticipate. Here are 10 things of them:

1. Fatigue. In college you stayed up late, slept late, and took naps. When you have to be at work at 8 or 9 a.m., your day starts early, and there is no time for a nap. After the commute, work, lunch at your desk, and more work, you will probably be exhausted. This is one of the biggest adjustments from college to career. It takes about a year to grow accustomed to the demands of commuting and working a full day.

2. Stress. You thought final-exam stress was rough? The aggregate stress of work, deadlines, and being in an environment where you have multiple bosses and clients making demands on you is intense. Identify stress-busting techniques to help you avoid a first-year meltdown.

3. Unsupportive friends. When you work eight to 12 hours per day and have unpredictable hours, making and breaking plans is likely. Pals or significant others who are still in college or who aren’t working in a fast-paced career will not understand that going out for cocktails on a Tuesday night is not in your reality. You’ll make friends through various phases of your life. Let go of friends who don’t support your drive to succeed during your transition to the professional world.

4. Money. Once you have a career, you’ll make a lot of money. Maybe. And it will probably take a few years. Most entry-level public relations positions pay in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, and after taxes, commuting expenses, professional wardrobe costs, and other bills, your checks will probably be small. Be patient; with a solid performance and smart career moves, you can earn a great salary within a few years.

5. Budgets. Speaking of money, your employer might expect you to understand and perhaps manage client budgets. Colleges don’t spend enough time teaching students the financial aspects of public relations work. Do some research, and develop fiscal management skills for your clients.

6. Accountability. Reports, reports, reports. Keeping track of how you spend your time, showcasing the value of your work, and justifying the work that you and your team do daily are essential. Reporting is standard practice in this billable-time business. Take good notes.

7. Digital skills. Most university PR curriculums place a heavy emphasis on writing, campaigns, and public relations theory. Digital and social media have become an integral and rapidly evolving component of public relations work. Use these channels strategically for business, and continually update your skills.

RELATED: Find out how top companies are adapting to digital PR industry changes.

8. Multitasking. Entry-level PR requires the ability to multitask successfully. You might be responsible for media monitoring reports (boring, but important), managing the logistics for a major product launch, researching a new business presentation, pitching a news story, and posting content on a client blog—almost simultaneously. Learn to prioritize and tackle assignments quickly and meticulously.

9. Criticism. You will receive criticism from bosses and clients who expect your work to be perfect, even though they provided you with little direction or guidance. Don’t be overly sensitive nor dwell on negative feedback. Learn from your mistakes. Understand the work style of your colleagues and clients, and deliver.

10. Validation. Chances are you won’t hear much praise when you do a good job. You are expected to do a great job; that’s why they hired you. Your paycheck is your praise.

The first year out of college can be tough, but your ability to navigate the challenges of your professional launch will set you on a positive course for a meaningful and rewarding career.

Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.

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Topics: PR

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