A Graduate’s Struggle: Trying To Land The Non-Existent “Entry-Level” PR Job

Jackie DiBella is a recent graduate seeking a full-time PR job.

We are all aware of the high unemployment rate and the troubled economy, but what about the effect it has on those who haven’t even had a chance yet? I am a May 2010 PR graduate from Hofstra University who has been struggling to find a full-time position.

Since (and even before) graduation, my life has been one big roller coaster ride of networking, job posting sites, interviews, and thank you letters. As a recent graduate, I have an impressive resume filled with various PR experience: agency, non-profit, national event planning, and extensive PR skills and knowledge, which help me to land the interviews I want.

However, here is what I am finding: The jobs that are labeled “entry-level” mean nothing to employers when it comes to who they decide to hire.

Here is the common situation: The usual entry-level job description goes a little something like this: “B.A. in Public Relations or related field, at least one year experience and/or internship, excellent writing and communication skills, creative, ability to work with a team, and knowledge of social media.” Usually, a recent grad reads this and if the job description looks like something for them, they apply feeling pretty good about their chances.

Here is the reality: The fact that many people in our industry are currently out of work and job hunting, makes it very easy for someone who has five years of experience to come in and take away the entry-level position from someone like me and my fellow graduates. They have the contacts, an extensive resume, and are willing to be paid entry-level salaries just to secure a job. Therefore, someone like me is immediately pushed aside.

The line I hear the most when being rejected: “We hired someone who had more experience than you.” When I ask them what I could do to improve: Nothing. I interviewed great, I have great references, and my work experience is extensive for a recent graduate — they just found someone with more experience (One non-profit agency I interviewed with hired a woman who had been working in corporate PR for over 15 years).

Is experience really the number one trait employers should be looking for? Here is what they are not seeing: Hiring someone like me, a recent grad who has only been “in the business” for a little over a year, works to their benefit. Why? They can mold me. I am not set in my ways yet so they can teach me the way you do things, and I will do them that way. Someone who comes in with more experience may not be so open to changing his or her ways.

More experience” seems to be the only thing standing between me and landing a job. Unlike many of my fellow graduates, I am lucky enough to have a part time PR job to keep practicing and improving my skills as I am job hunting.

The far and few between entry-level jobs that are out there are being given to those with much more experience than we are able to have coming out of college. Who is going to give us the break we deserve? Who is going to understand that we accomplished as much as we possibly could before graduation in order to land a job? Who is going to stick to the description of entry-level?

Jackie DiBella (@Jackie_DiBella) is a recent Public Relations graduate from Hofstra University. Living on Long Island, Jackie is seeking a full time PR position. Her previous PR experience includes agency and non-profit work. Currently, she is working part time for a well-known organization that specializes in helping “tween” girls make a difference in the world. She is responsible for major corporate client relations and event planning on a national level. For more information about Jackie, please e-mail jdibella120@aol.com.

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42 comments on “A Graduate’s Struggle: Trying To Land The Non-Existent “Entry-Level” PR Job

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  2. Jackie,

    I love that you made this point. I think that it is so true! It seems to be those people in the middle of the experience scale that are landing these jobs do to their experience because of age. It is almost the same affect when a promotion is given to a younger person just because they are younger, I know it has happened to a few family members.

    Keep searching! Even try to apply to those jobs that want 2-5 years experience, if you have internships under your belt you never know. Also startups are a good choice for our generation. Good luck!

  3. First off I would like to say good luck with the job hunt. I was fortunate enough to get a job within 2 weeks of graduating.
    Honestly, the best advice I can give you it to continue networking. From what you’ve said, it seems like you’re doing all the right things. But, it’s been told to me that it’s who you know in the PR field, not necessarily what you know.

    Good luck, something will come along.

  4. I completely understand where you are coming from Jackie. I have been in the same boat for a while longer than you. I have hit all of the same walls you are. It gets very frustrating very quickly. So stay positive! I know you’ve probably head that a million times before but it is so true. I am sure it will all work out.

    And thank you for bringing light to this situation for us looking for “entry level” PR jobs. It is hard for others to understand but you did a great job speaking your mind on a situation many of us feel!

    Best of luck!!

  5. I completely relate. Since graduating this May, I have been applying to countless copy-editing, proofreading, and online marketing positions but if I’m lucky enough to find an open position, it is usually for a senior level editor or a “temporary full time” option.

    How do these companies expect to keep up with current trends if they aren’t training fresh, upcoming individuals?

    Good luck. I’m with ya =)

  6. The best advice is to keep plugging away, the more interview experience you get the better your chances will be to nail a great position.

    My advice would be to go big, apply to more jobs even the ‘non-entry level’ positions and don’t be afraid to move away from home.

    This post will probably get you hired somewhere 🙂

  7. I’ll keep on keepin’ on!

    Your support means the world. I’m glad I could be both an eye opener to those who didn’t know about the struggle for new PR pros and a support to those who are struggling with me!

    We’ll all be hired soon!

  8. Thank you for this. I am in the same situation having graduated in April with what many have told me is a great resume. I guess we just keep pushing forward and trust that we just haven’t found the right opportunity yet.

    Best of luck to you.

  9. Hey Jackie-

    It’s unfortunate you find yourself in this situation. I’m confident with your determination and high-quality education (I graduated from Hofstra in 97), you’ll be able to break into this business. You’re doing all the right things.

    I’m sure you’ve done this already, but if you haven’t, try connecting with Hostra alum groups on Linked In.

    Good luck!

    • I have been trying to connect with people through LinkedIn. I have a very strong network of people outside of the social networks– they have all been pulling strings for me. Two more interviews this week– fingers crossed! You can never give up!

  10. I have been trying to connect with people through LinkedIn. I have a very strong network of people outside of the social networks– they have all been pulling strings for me. Two more interviews this week– fingers crossed! You can never give up!

  11. I agree completely, Jackie. I graduated in May 2008 with a degree in journalism, just when the industry was starting to cut jobs left and right. So I landed an internship in corporate communications with a global brand and was hired full-time in 2009 and moved to the company’s in-house PR team. Now my job is being eliminated and I’m struggling to find a full-time position because I’m not a recent college grad, but I’m not at that popular “3-5 years of experience” mark; the only opportunities I’m being offered are $8/hr internships. How do you go from making $35-$40K a year with great benefits to THAT? Especially with my wedding less than five months away.

    So I wish you the best of luck! Believe me, you’re not alone.

    – Ashley

  12. Jackie,

    Unfortunately, this is happening at all levels in PR, not just entry-level. I have 7 years of professional experience and a masters degree, and applied mostly to 5-7 years experience positions. I went on 14 job interviews over the course of a year and half, and the majority of times I lost the job to someone with two or three times more experience.

    While it is frustrating, you do have to keep plugging away at it. My best advice is to be yourself on interviews and be 100 percent honest. Don’t sound rehearsed, sound genuine. I know the reason I scored the position I have now is because I didn’t BS in the interview and really let my personality shine.

    Everything happens for a reason. You’ll land something soon, I’m sure of it.

    Good luck to you!!

  13. Jackie,

    I have a great deal of compassion for the situation you are in. It’s hard to say when was the last time recent college graduates had a wide-open job market to pick and choose where they want to go.

    One question, however: what do you recommend to those more experienced PR professionals who seem to be in your way? I know many good PR folks who have mortgages and families to support and have lost their job through no fault of their own. Should they simply sit on the sidelines?

    • Hi,

      Of course I don’t want those who are more experienced (and who have families to support) to sit on the sidelines! I know the job market is very competitive and I am up against people who do have years of experience on me. However, I do believe “entry-level” jobs are created to help mold young professionals (or new professionals to an industry). I don’t see how someone with so much experience would gain any benefit (except that of a paycheck) by taking on an “entry-level” job when they are so far beyond that.

      I wish everyone just as much luck as I hope to have in the job hunt– little or tons of experience!

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  15. Jackie – great post and fantastic insight here. You are an absolute go-getter and it will definitely pay off.

    A hard “truth” I learned when I first started my career in PR a little over 2 years ago, was that no matter how many internships or related experience you have under your belt, new employees without full-time PR experience are of little value to a firm when they first start. You make a spot-on point about companies being able to mold you and your skills when you are brand new (and that’s why I’m a huge advocate for hiring new grads in entry-level positions). But you are not alone in running into the “you need more experience” wall.

    From a business standpoint, it’s a hard decision for employers as they can a) hire a new grad for cheap but have to put a lot of work into teaching them or b) hire a more expensive yet experienced worker who they may or may not have to retrain a bit. Not a position I envy by any means in this type of economy.

    I wish you all the best and know you will rock something very soon!

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  18. Jackie, I enjoyed reading this post and found myself continuously nodding my head. I will soon be in the same boat as you when I graduate in December. I am in the process of updating my resume, compiling a portfolio and freshening up my interview skills, beyond that I think it’s just “being in the right place at the right time”. I am also finding myself trying to keep on top of all of the latest social media tools as this is starting to become the “new way” of PR. I hope that you have some luck soon – thanks for posting your thoughts and advice!

    Tara
    @_Tara_Parker

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  20. Great post, Jackie. Very informative although, as a soon-to-be 2011 graduate, it’s a little frightening! But I love the point you made about employers being able to mold and teach recent graduates perhaps more than they could with experience candidates. I wonder if you’ve made that point in letters/interviews? It seems like it would be a great argument to get you hired.

    Good luck with everything and I hope your dream job comes along soon!

  21. I never updated with my good news— In October I landed a full time position at a top PR firm on Long Island as an Assistant Account Executive! I absolutely love what I do and knew the right job for me would come along.

    I wish everyone much success on their job hunt!

    Thanks for all the positive feedback!

    Jackie

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