By Evan Martinez
Public relations (PR) careers come in many different shapes and sizes. Of course, the one familiar to most students are those that fall in the category of an agency (i.e. Edelman, Ketchum). Approximately 4.5 months ago, that’s exactly where I thought I would end up and like most recent college graduates; my path took a different direction.
I work for a trade association on Capitol Hill as a Communications Associate, representing the North American steel industry in the political arena. I guarantee you the work I do on a daily basis is very similar to other communications roles. We talk to reporters, pitch story ideas and write press releases, just like any other press shop. I consider myself lucky, however, because of the other skills I’m constantly building. There is a substantial difference between studying and putting into practice the art of communicating with people. No matter the position you are in, understanding how to read a social situation and knowing how to properly communicate with someone based on that situation will serve you well in the professional world. While I have always been a natural communicator, every organization’s key people are different and require their own evaluation when gauging how to act. The way I communicate with my boss and the way I communicate with the CEO of a company we represent are different. Because I work on the Hill and have the chance to communicate with various entities daily, I feel that I’m better prepared to take on challenging tasks in future positions. Part of this comes from making the most of every opportunity I’m given, but the other side of it is about embracing what I have already learned. Engaging with stakeholders on social media, writing op-eds and crafting communications strategies are all skills I learned early as a student that are currently paying off. Even though I didn’t end up at a firm as expected, I ended up somewhere better. I ended up in an environment where I can still do all the things I want and need to do, but I’m also challenging myself by tackling issues I didn’t previously know about.
If you love public relations and communications as much as I do, my advice is to put yourself out there. Apply to internships, talk to professor’s and go to those late night PRSSA events. The sooner you enter the “real world,” the sooner you will find what you’re passionate about. I’ve always known that I love talking to different types of people but through my journey at American I caught the political bug. By accepting my first internship offer (it wasn’t in communications) I started to realize and explore my other passions. This allowed me to mold two distinct but important fields, politics and communications, into one career- political communications. At the end of the day, what I do is different than many other jobs in the communications field but the skills you need to master are the same. So for anyone out there still trying to figure out what they want to do, I recommend taking that internship you are unsure about, trying something outside of the box and start to carve out the career path you’re thinking of going down. I have never been happier or more secure in a position than the one I have now and I credit that with taking a risk and being open to the possibility of something different. The communications industry is everywhere and the opportunities are great, so be sure to take advantage of them.