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I'm feeling lost in my Public Relations studies, considering applying for an "executive assistant" position.

I have an internship at a student-run agency at my university but I feel like I'm still not getting "real world" experience. Two of my foundational classes for my major were with terrible professors that no longer work for the department and I don't want to prolong my graduation any longer/pay more to retake those courses. Overall, I feel like a spinning compass with no direction. And I'm supposed to graduate in May.

I looked at positions and found myself looking at "executive assistant" jobs. Most of those tasks seem relevant to what I've been doing in my agency while assisting team leads. Taking meeting notes, scheduling meetings, phone calls, general logistics etc.

Is this an acceptable career jump? Would it help me find some direction? It appeals to me because I'd be working closely with someone in a higher position and I might be able to gain insight into their world. I'm very much a learn by doing/observing person.

All of my "dream job"(publicity) postings require skills that I don't have. Or they're in locations that are not possible for me.

#career-counseling #college-major #job #career #college #publicrelations #pr #executiveassistant #assistant #graduation #job-search

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Subject: Career question for you

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Angelica’s Answer

Trying to get your foot in the door any way that you can is vital and sometimes seems difficult. At times it may seem hard to remember that any experience is some experience when its not the ideal experience you or your "dream job" is looking for. But when its your dream job, you have to fight for it and put it the work which I know you are willing to do. With that being said, slightly changing focus does not have to mean letting go of your dream. I constantly changed my mind on career choices in high school, and by college freshman year I felt overwhelmed and confused and rushed to pick a choice that seemed quick and easy. I decided to go to a technical school and study criminal justice, with the hopes of being a child advocate; when what I really wanted was to be a child therapist. But fear made me settle. I am back in school now and luckily my Criminal Justice B.A. turned out to be something I can use to my advantage. So here are some next steps I would recommend for you.

Angelica recommends the following next steps:

Don't settle, just change tactics. What I mean by that is try to find an "executive assistant" job at least working for a PR company. then you can find a mentor there and get on the job, first hand learning experiences.
Maybe even consider looking at some other jobs that could give you some of the skills your "dream job" is looking for. There are some careers that are universal in teaching life skills that can be applied to improving your resume for a wide scope of job.
Think outside the box with the experience you have already. You may not even realize it but the internship you have done may have prepared you for somethings that will be important in future career advancement. For example, I have worked Customer Service and I am a big fan of recommending everyone works it at least once because he does give you experience with handling a wide range of people and situation. I feel like it does help give me people skills and can do the same for others as well.
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Gabrielle’s Answer

Hi Sarah!

I am an EA for a Chief Information Officer. While I was in college, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my career but I knew I had the dedication, discipline and organization to be successful. I tried out various careers in different fields (sports, non-profits, recruiting) and I wasn't sure what I loved or what I was good at. All I knew was that I loved people and it was important for me to make a difference. I was such a generalist and had knowledge in so many broad areas which made finding a niche hard and often, I was critiqued for not having a specialty. When I decided to make the move into the tech industry, I found a company I loved and I started as an Office Manager, then worked in facilities and then made a move to working in people orgs at a few start ups! I made amazing friends, including my current boss. I found a group of people who celebrated my generalism and broad expertise and being an EA completely fits!

As an EA, you play various roles on behalf of an executive. For example, my exec is very different than I am but where she may lack certain skills, I make up for them. I am able to direct, lead, communicate with and on her behalf when she needs. My favorite thing is how many people I get to interact with. I would say relationship building is huge as an EA! You are a representation of that executive, so building relationships and strong ties within their organization is a direct reflection on to them and that harmony increases the success of their initiatives.

Like you, I thought I would work in PR because I was a communications major. But I learned that wasn't as fun as I thought it would be. Being an EA is an excellent choice, especially as you are early in your career. Working closely with execs you not only get visibility into other orgs but you get to explore and learn how companies are run. As of now, I love being an EA. But I do know that if I wanted to make a change, being an EA has allowed me to explore several options, work on various projects I wouldn't have gotten the chance to otherwise and build meaningful relationships with senior leaders who want to help people who are young in their career.

Over all, I truly believe working as an EA sets up a very solid foundation for just about any avenue you might go. As long as you are organized, dedicated, and love communicating it's an excellent option!!!

Best,
Gabby
Thank you comment icon Such a thoughtful answer, Gabby! yoonji KIM, Admin
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Kayla’s Answer

Hi Sarah!

I am an Executive Assistant for a Vice President at a large company. Many of the things you listed (taking notes, scheduling meetings, etc.) are a part of the job. You definitely learn a lot about the business working with someone so closely, but only if you make it a priority. I've seen some Assistants only manage the day-to-day, but I like knowing about each of our business areas and being able to anticipate needs. Some of the other things I do in my role are managing emails and calendars, running reports, setting up events/team outings, reconciling expenses, creating presentations, making travel arrangements, running regional meetings, and much more. The role of an Executive Assistant truly depends on the person you are working with and their specific needs.

If Public Relations is a passion of yours, I would still encourage you to pursue it, or at least an avenue of it. There are not many jobs where you can get that "dream job" right off the bat; you have to work in other roles to get the experience and connections to get there. I do believe an Executive Assistant job would be an easy transition for you to make and you will learn some crucial life skills in doing so.
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Kelly’s Answer

An executive assistant job could be a great next step! I would encourage you to try and find such a position at a PR agency - or perhaps within the corporate communications or marketing area of a company. This will give you real world exposure to how the business works, before you have project/account responsibilities.
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Mohini’s Answer

I think that an Executive Assistant position is an ideal career step after graduation, especially if you are unsure about what direction you would like to take, professionally speaking.

You hit the nail on the head: if you are supporting a Senior Executive, you will get a very clear idea of how the company/ sector works, which will help you further develop your career interests. You will also get a good idea of the work and processes that are behind company strategy.

You will be exposed to many different areas of the business, and this exposure will deepen your knowledge of function areas.

Surely, you will find some untapped talents, and perhaps some new interests.

Good luck!
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Alice’s Answer

Whatever you learn in Public relation will come in handy in all future jobs. Dont make yourself wrong when you intend to switch to Executive Assistant.

An Executive Assistant of a marketing company required the applicant to have basic understanding of public relation. You may consider applying for Executive Assistant in related field, as this will allow you to continue to be in touch with the field.

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Maryse’s Answer

Hello Sarah,

Like others, I would suggest getting your foot in the door at an agency ASAP, even if it is internship. If you are good at coordinating details, expert at Microsoft Office and sales tracking tools, love generating lists and organizing travel schedules, check out being an executive assistant. If I was to hire you, I'd want to see a resume with some sort of office experience prior. Agencies are generally fast-paced and you'll want to show yourself off whenever possible. Create opportunities to shine and you will move up in the agency environment.

Maryse recommends the following next steps:

Shadow a PR agency executive for a day and get a sense what s/he does.
Research the top PR agencies in your area (lists are available through Business Journals, etc.). Phone and ask key executives to have coffee with you for "research purposes."
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Kelly’s Answer

Hello Sarah!

I hold a Masters degree and initially, I was somewhat disheartened when my husband's job relocation meant I had to switch to an EA role in the new city to remain with my current company. However, I soon discovered that the reality of an EA's role was far from my initial perception. I had feared that people might undervalue an EA position, but I found the exact opposite to be true.

As EAs, we are the crucial gatekeepers, the heartbeat of our organizations. I've found immense joy in my work and I take pride in my proficiency at it. Each day brings fresh challenges, keeping things exciting.

If PR is where your heart lies, I strongly recommend seeking an EA role within a PR firm. It's a fantastic opportunity to get your foot in the door and absorb invaluable insights from the sidelines. Remember, there's no shame in being an EA. We wield more influence and have a greater impact than you might imagine.

Good luck to you!
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hi Sarah!

I totally get that you're feeling a bit lost in your Public Relations studies and are thinking about applying for an executive assistant role because you're not getting enough practical experience. It's really tough when the basic classes aren't taught well, and it's completely understandable that you don't want to delay your graduation or pay more to retake those classes. Feeling like a compass spinning aimlessly can be really overwhelming, especially when you're set to graduate in May.

First off, it's important to know that you're not alone. Many students face similar challenges during their studies. It's not unusual to hit roadblocks or feel unsure about the path ahead. But don't worry, there are several things you can do to get through this and find your way.

1. Talk to academic advisors: Your university's academic advisors who specialize in your major or department can be a big help. They can give you great advice on how to make the most of your remaining time at university. They can help you look at your options, talk about other possible paths, and point you towards resources to get practical experience.

2. Get involved in extracurricular activities: Your internship at the student-run agency is a great start, but think about doing more extracurricular activities related to Public Relations. Joining related clubs or organizations on campus can give you a chance to network, meet industry professionals, and get hands-on experience by organizing events or managing communication campaigns. These experiences can add to your academic coursework and make your resume look even better.

3. Connect with professionals in the field: Making connections with professionals already working in Public Relations can be really helpful. Go to industry conferences, seminars, or workshops where you can talk with practitioners and learn from their experiences. Also, think about reaching out to alumni from your university who have pursued careers in Public Relations. They might be able to offer guidance, mentorship, or even internship/job opportunities.

4. Look at online courses or certifications: If you feel that your basic classes didn't prepare you well for the "real world," think about taking online courses or getting certifications in specific areas of Public Relations that you're interested in. There are many reputable platforms that offer courses taught by industry experts, so you can learn practical skills at your own pace.

5. Use online resources: There are tons of online resources available to help you understand Public Relations better. There are lots of blogs, podcasts, webinars, and forums dedicated to the field. Using these resources can help you stay current with industry trends, best practices, and case studies.

6. Find a mentor: Having a mentor who has experience in Public Relations can be really valuable. A mentor can give you advice on career development, share their own experiences, and help you navigate the challenges you're facing. Reach out to professionals in the field or use mentorship programs offered by professional organizations or your university.

Remember, finding your direction in any field takes time and effort. It's important to stay active, resilient, and open to new opportunities. Even though it might feel overwhelming now, with determination and a strategic approach, you can still get the experience and skills you need to succeed in Public Relations.

Top 3 Authoritative Reference Publications/Domain Names Used:

1. Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) - www.prsa.org
2. Harvard Business Review - hbr.org
3. International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) - www.amecorg.com

Stay strong and keep going!

Best wishes!
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Ann’s Answer

Absolutely! Working in the EA field can really open doors. Working for c-level execs can pay well, have good benefits and lead to many other opportunities. It's like a foot in the door to learning the business. From there, you can decide where your talents lie within the company for other roles. Ideally, working for an exec in publicity field would be the perfect place to start.

Good luck!
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