Whether it be working a part-time job for extra cash or juggling multiple gigs in order to help your family or even working for enjoyment, people don’t always have a job in their career field. However, amidst pressure to gain real-world experience and hone the necessary skills for a communications profession, many may feel like their current work experience is invalid and even a waste of time. This is why it’s important to look deeper into your current position and discover how any type of job, even if it’s not related to PR, can help you develop the skills necessary for a career in communications.
Networking is an integral part of any job, but especially in the PR and communications field. You’ll be able to meet so many people from different backgrounds working jobs outside of the industry. By forging connections with each and every coworker and client you have, you’ll be able to create a diverse network of people to reach out to in the future. For example, I’m currently working at a day camp as a camp counselor. A majority of the people at my camp are interested in the education field. In the future, if I’m working on an account that pertains to education, I know I’ll be able to reach out to any of my coworkers for advice or to pitch to. Additionally, you’ll be able to build a network of people to mentor you. You can turn to these people for advice about job interviews, time management and how to be a good employee, and these pieces of advice can transcend into the mass communication field.
Leadership is another skill that is incredibly important in all areas of life. In any job interview or application, it’s highly likely that you will be asked what areas of your life you have shown leadership. An easy way to demonstrate leadership in your non-PR job is to do things before they are asked. Demonstrate that you’re proactive and attentive to the needs of your work and help out before it is asked of you. Another way to demonstrate leadership in your current job is by offering to help your co-workers or give them advice when it appears that they are struggling. If you’d like a less arbitrary and more tangible way to demonstrate that you’re a leader, see if there are any managerial positions in your job available. Managerial positions come with more authority and responsibility.
Crisis management is a skill that is useful in all areas of communications. Mistakes or situations where things are less than ideal can occur in any job. It’s important to take advantage of an unfortunate scenario and practice your ability to manage crises. For example, in my job as a day camp counselor, I have campers who get bumped and bruised or start fighting with each other. By tending to their wounds, ensuring they are okay and resolving conflict, I am ensuring that their overall experience at the day camp remains positive. Now in the future, I feel prepared to manage a crisis because I know important publics can still hold a favorable image of the company depending on how the situation is handled.
While working the cash register at your local Jamba Juice or swiping people into the gym may not seem like you have room to be creative, it’s actually quite the opposite. Looking at a job as “just a job” is incredibly limiting. And being limited in your ideas is a bad trait to have if you’re going into a creative field of communications. Be creative with the spatial organization around you, see if you can come up with games and challenges for yourself, and be creative with how you view and present yourself. My job as a day camp counselor gives us a lot of downtime for group games. I’ve taken the opportunity to revamp these games to fit the pool, or to fit different ages. Even small actions will help you practice getting creative juices flowing and will keep you fresh for when you need to create PR content in the future.
The final PR/journalism skill you can develop in any job is communication. How do you contact your boss and coworkers? Is there a better way to communicate with them? Have you ever felt lost or confused? Are you expressing concerns and ideas with your boss and coworker? How are you communicating with customers? What channels of communication do you use to organize responsibilities? Communication is a basic skill that is often overlooked. When there’s miscommunication, many problems can arise. And obviously, going into a field that will involve verbal and written communication, practicing and perfecting the basic art of communication is crucial.
Overall, it’s important to realize the importance of any job that you hold. While you may not have the title of PR professional quite yet, you can utilize your experience to make yourself a strong candidate for your dream job in the future.
Isabella Schneider is a rising sophomore at Arizona State University. She is majoring in journalism and mass communication and serves as the director of internal communications for her PRSSA Chapter. She is on the recruitment committee for Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at ASU and contributes to ASU’s fashion journalism blog, The Chic Daily. In her free time, Isabella enjoys babysitting, running, doing yoga, and reading.