Very few careers bring dynamism, continuous evolution and an entire charter of opportunities to explore. Public affairs or public relations is one such career stream that never has a dull day, thanks to the constant engagement, innovation, communication and brainstorming involved.
Keeping aside the frequent lunches, brunches and gatherings, there are travel commitments, media engagements and event management responsibilities to look into. Though the career might be lucrative, it is not a cakewalk, especially if you are just starting out and need some guidance on how to enter the field and make a mark for yourself.
In this article, we have brought together five exclusive tips that will help you, firstly, gauge whether a career in public affairs is the right choice for you, followed by the nitty-gritties of the career and how to establish yourself in it. Let’s begin.
Is Public Affairs the Right Career Choice for You?
To be able to answer this question, you first need to assess what this career actually holds and what you will be expected to do as a ‘public affairs’ professional. At the fore, handling public affairs for any company demands knowledge and skills in communications and media-related tasks. This includes event management and attendance, interacting with various professionals within and beyond your network, planning and strategizing campaigns, and so on.
This is why extroverted personalities, who find it much easier to interact with new people, are better-suited for a public affairs job, considering communicating with new faces is part of your average workday. Besides communication skills, a PR professional must also be a quick thinker, because it is not just behind a screen but during physical events and meetings that an urgent decision might have to be taken.
Often, this career could lead to high-pressure situations, sudden improvisation to avoid crashes, and nimble thinking in the event of a crisis. Unless you are prepared for such situations and do not get easily intimidated by them, you cannot hope to succeed in a career like this.
5 Tips for Starting Your Career in Public Affairs
Now that you have understood what goes into the profession of handling public affairs for a company, and decided that it is a perfect fit for you, here are a few tips to get started.
The Right Education and Experience Matter
Generally speaking, companies looking to hire public relations professionals are also looking for exclusive degrees in fields like Mass Media, Journalism, Corporate Communications, and so on. You might either pursue an undergraduate course in these streams right away, or pursue a postgraduation if you decide to specialize later.
As a fresher, it might boggle you why experience would matter at all in the field of public relations. The fact is that books and examinations alone cannot make you a good PR professional – only experience can. Besides, if you do not have the right degree for the profession, prior experience can still make you end up on the list.
This experience need not be a full-fledged job as a PR professional in a company. It could be an internship in a similar role, volunteer experience in event management, social media management or communications and networking in college/university events, or positions held that highlight your skills and interest in the role.
Build a Solid Professional Network
A career in public affairs is all about networking and establishing a community of people around you who trust your capabilities. To start off in this field, begin by joining industry groups and engaging with professionals on as many social media platforms as possible. Keep yourself regularly updated with the industry’s top trends, events, professionals, leaders and trendsetters, and try making your way to grab their attention and portray your capabilities.
Establishing connections like this can bring you within trusted circles, landing you into events, discussions and forums where you can learn as well as express. Once you have this network of professionals and companies to engage with, you will find it easy to earn recommendations for potential job opportunities.
Get Social and Tech Savvy
It goes without saying that a PR professional today must be equipped with a sound understanding of technology and social media platforms. This is because these are not just mediums to stay abreast with what is happening in your industry, but also let others know about your work, talents, knowledge and experience.
Job interviews are often focused on your skills and understanding of the digital world, because handling it is what is expected of you on a daily basis. Therefore, try building an in-depth understanding of the nuisances of social media platforms and tech tools, so that you can use them later to your advantage and stand ahead of your competitors.
Embrace the Art of Communication
Communicating effectively and articulating your thoughts is part of your everyday work life once you enter the stream of public affairs. This is why it is best to start developing these skills early on. Tutorial videos, blogs and self-help books can be a starting point, and later you might want to invest in a specialized course on the same.
Besides learning to be a great orator, you also need to inculcate qualities of being approachable and amicable, yet being straightforward and clear in your expressions. Skills such as these will help you build a positive reputation for yourself in the circle and stand out in job interviews, because these are the very qualities companies are looking for.
Look for Ways to Stand Out
At the end of the day, a career in public affairs demands that you stand out of the crowd and give the same lead to your business. Therefore, always make sure that you have worked on your resume, personality, appearance and grooming, along with your connections and repute to have a long and successful career in public affairs.