The world is full of information sources. People neglect these sources of strategic intelligence and lose time, money, and morale by functioning without information that could be obtained with little effort.
For your own career, I would suggest first of all that you examine several of the bibliographies of public relations already noted. You will find that public relations activities extend over the entire breadth of society. Also read several autobiographies and biographies of public relations pioneers to gain knowledge in depth of the profession.
If I were you, I would then concentrate on the particular fields in public relations that appealed to me most and attempt to saturate myself with knowledge of the profession as it is conducted in those fields.
For instance, if government was my field of interest I would write to federal, state, and municipal civil service bodies and ask them for information about job opportunities in their fields.
If public relations for a trade or professional association appealed to me I would consult the U.S. Department of Commerce directory of national associations. I would seek information from associations that are of interest as to entrance in their fields.
If when I finished my course of study certain questions remained unanswered, I would write to five or six men in the given field asking for answers. These men might be heads of organizations, or professional or trade paper editors, or executives of trade or professional organizations. In my experience a number would respond. If there were differences in their responses, I would extend my inquiry to others.
Now I would know the position I hoped for in the future and would know the road that led to it. It would still be necessary to find the logical or illogical paths to take to get there. I would now pursue my strategic intelligence in another direction. The process includes further research.
- Go to the public library and examine the indices of trade or professional journals in the field you want to enter. If it is business, examine the Fortune and Business Week in-dices. Read up on the company or companies in which you want to become a leader. You will obtain facts about their employment and promotion policies and practices.
- You will find in Ayer or one of the other directories of periodicals the titles of trade or professional journals having the information you want.
- You can follow up with information garnered by further correspondence with trade or professional journal editors as well as trade and professional association executives.
- Write to one of the larger employment agencies that specialize in public relations.
Choose Your Employer
Your research will help you choose your employer. Plan your approach to the prospective employer by what you have learned in your research. Should you undersell yourself, look for a unique approach, or oversell yourself? The approach varies with the particular organization. If the organization you want to work with chooses its public relations personnel because of possession of certain skills or other attributes, acquire them.
If you are looking for the employer of your choice at an advanced-level position, you may use executive placement services. These organizations use resumes. You will want to prepare a factual evaluation of yourself in depth.
The method for such public relations activity should be carefully studied before being carried out. Brashness is to be avoided. A highly visible profile has inherent dangers. Jealousy often results to the detriment of the person concerned. But a flower that blooms unseen in a highly competitive society might just as well not bloom. The novice will need to be guided by conditions before he carries out a plan.
As to promotion, there are several schools of thought. Some organizations believe in promotions by degree annually. An-other school of thought moves people ahead several or more rungs on the ladder if special talent is indicated. If the person so promoted does the job well, the organization has added years of service by him or her. It is well to know the promotion practice of the organization before you join it.
Switching from Other Fields
A young person who enters the field after the study suggested has great opportunities for achieving his or her hopes. But what about the older person, the 35-year-old or 40-year-old who decides to switch. Every week people write to tell me that they have been teachers, lawyers, engineers, or diplomats and now want to become public relations experts. What realistic, helpful advice can be offered them?
If they are applied social scientists in the other field and want to enter public relations, I tell them that they can move ahead in the new field. They will simply apply what they know to new areas of activity. But if they start without such understanding of human behavior, I advise against their entering the field.
In our society youth has great advantages. Many organizations think of an applicant for employment in terms of the number of years of his or her usefulness. The younger the applicant, the longer the potential life with the organization.
Help from Others
Third parties should not be neglected when you are seeking an employer. Third parties can approach employers as friendly middlemen. Friends of the applicant with knowledge and contacts can presumably be depended upon for a friendly service. Professional and trade executives or editors may act as unofficial, unpaid employment agents. Other public relations practitioners may know where opportunities lie.
There are other aspects of the career of public relations that you will not want to neglect. One was discussed by the late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and is pertinent. He said that life is action and passion, that a man (or a woman) must share in the passion and action of his time lest he be judged never to have lived at all. What Justice Holmes said applies to all career entrants. Follow that advice. Enter into the broad activities of the time. You may solve your own problems and help solve those of the city, the nation, and the world.