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Career Opportunities for Women in Public Relations Better than Ever

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Norma A. Lee, Owner and President, Norma A. Lee Co., Public Relations Agency

Young women will find that these are the best of times to seek a career in the multifaceted field of public relations: women will probably crash the glass ceiling as we enter the 21st century. However, it could be the worst of times if they are "Janie one notes" and are not fully prepared. Because generalists with areas of specialization will be in demand, my advice would be to act as a sponge and soak up knowledge in many areas relating to present day events, while keeping a keen eye and ear tuned to what is on the horizon.

Today, public relations is increasingly evolving into counseling in the area of problem solving. Once you have your basic public relations skills honed such as listening, writing and placing the area of problem solving is one where women should excel. Please pardon a sexist remark but what I say is true: The majority of females are more sensitive, are better innate planners, and pay closer attention to even the smallest of details. Therefore, with all these inbred attributes plus a solid public relations background, your destiny, like cream in milk (before the era of homogenization), will find you at the top of your career.

Now that it has been established that it is an excellent time for young women about to enter the field of public relations, let's look at what is necessary, along the way to achieve a top position.

Career Preparation

Preparation for getting that first full time position centers on your education. You should attempt to combine a public relations major with courses in economics, history, literature, and the liberal arts. Naturally, an advanced degree is always helpful, but if you are in a hurry to start your career, pursue additional degrees through evening and weekend courses.

Some people are lucky to break into the field without a college education, but it's hard to do. Furthermore, the absence of a college background can be a deterrent to advancement

It will also help if you work on your school newspaper or perform summer or part time internships in the public relations field. These activities and experiences will be in your favor when being considered as a job applicant

The ease or difficulty in obtaining an internship depends somewhat on the economy: it can work in your favor one way or the other. In a tightened economy, it can be a break for you because their budget doesn't allow for additional experienced staffing. When the economy is on an upswing, they have room and time to train an intern.

Getting Hired

When hiring someone, I look for certain innate qualities, which others agree with me are essential. I look for someone who has a cooperative attitude and is interested in learning all skills. Since I am a generalist with areas of specialization, the ideal candidate for my firm is an individual who has served several internships and has experience in writing, media planning, scheduling, placement, and some research.

Writing is the basic skill required to get in the door. Ultimately a good writer will need more skills if she is interested in advancing in a company, association, or government post. Even when you have reached the top, there can be times when no one else is available to write that essential release during an emergency or crisis.

Once an individual is hired, I look for the ability to learn, be accurate, have initiative, work quickly, and most importantly, be dependable.

A basic public relations department in a company or association consists of a vice president or director of public relations, editor of internal and external publications, publicist, staff writer, administrator, coordinator, plus secretary to the department director. The department director generally reports to the vice president of marketing or to the president The larger the company the more people will be involved If the position of staff writer is unavailable, administrative coordinator would be an excellent entry level position to provide you with a working knowledge of the entire department It would also prepare you for the position of staff writer, in which you would write releases, brochures, or even contribute articles to the company publication. Depending on the movement in the department, this promotion could occur alter six months, but probably closer to a year. The public relations staffers work most closely with marketing and the staff functions of personnel, industrial or employee relations, legal, finance, and development. These functions intertwine and overlap in varying degrees. As administrative coordinator, you will always have an active day seeing that schedules are met, obtaining items or actual articles needed for a project and, in essence, perform a lot of trafficking (also referred to as distribution control).

There are over 2,000 public relations counseling firms and agencies in the United States, ranging widely in size and scope. Some of the firms have clients that do not have a public relations department and, therefore, are called on to perform all their communications functions. Some companies have an internal public relations department but need specialized services that they cannot afford on a permanent basis or a one time special project that would be too time consuming for their regular staff. In public relations agencies, the organizational structure is generally president, executive vice president, senior vice president, vice president, account supervisor, account executive, publicist, and administrative assistant As with companies, layers of reporting vary according to the size of the agency. If the entry level position of publicist is unavailable, administrative assistant or coordinator is one that allows you to see the total operation of the firm.
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