What Employers Look For

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April 20, 2017 by Kathryn Kuttis


Making the transformation from student to young professional is profound. Like most milestones, it’s a slow build up of knowledge and experience that changes your perspective overtime. Newly minted graduates understand this better than anyone because they remember what it was like to move between university life and the work world.

While seasoned professionals may not remember what it feels like to be at the start of a new career, they can tell us what it means to be a professional. We were lucky to have Phil Carpenter of PAN Communications on campus this week to share his understanding of the industry. He met with faculty and spoke with students about his career that spans decades and includes senior management roles at prominent agencies and in-house positions with major brands.

Here’s what he looks for in a new hire:

  1. Can they write – “We could teach people how to write but it takes to long and we shouldn’t have to do it,” he said. Phil told us that one of his best hires was an art history major with no prior PR experience because she wrote beautifully with a broad understanding. “I still remember her cover letter,” he said.
  2. Are they a kind human being – This builds your professional network and reputation but even more importantly shapes your character which tends to reveal itself overtime. Phil remembered reading this article in the NYTs titled, Check this Box if You’re A Good Person. It tells the story of an admissions panel that received a recommendation letter from a custodian that showed them another angle on who the student was. Employers want to see other angles too.
  3. Are they interested in continuing education – Show that you are able to pursue and complete things that are important to you. He gave the example of a candidate that when asked, “Tell me more about you,” described the sailing certification he was working toward on the weekends. Not everything will be covered in your resume. Know how to show yourself and be remembered.
  4. Do the job I asked you to do – For ambitious graduates ready to take on the world this is a good tip. When you are in a new role in an office do the job you are asked to do really well rather than putting energy into moving up too fast. In the right setting, senior managers will know when you’ve mastered your job and are ready to take on more. Be patient.

Thank you to Kelli Matthews for inviting Phil to campus and to Phil for his candid wisdom.

For students in my #J452 class this term, here are your blog kernels for the week. If you are new to this assignment you can learn more about our course blogging and kernels here.

Inside the Hotel Industry’s Plan to Combat Airbnb (NYTs) How is the hotel industry using a strategic communication campaign to undercut Airbnb?

Are you making these 7 common punctuation mistakes? (Ragan.com) Everyone could use a few quick tips to improve their writing. What are the most challenging grammar rules for you to follow? Feel free to repurpose your research from the AP Style assignment.

PRWeek Tamps Down Its Own Little United Airlines-Related PR Crisis (AdAge) When a brand is in crisis it impacts more than just them. Could PR Week have responded differently? What is the award for and who else has received it. How is their recent editorial designed to rebuild credibility for the award?

#eatclean: How Instagram is fueling the healthy-living brand boom (Digiday) How are trends on health and wellness shaped by brands on Instagram?

Study: social media bubbles might not be making us more polarized after all (Vox) If digital media isn’t to blame then what’s happening? What can we learn about fake media and the way technology is changing society.

A brief history of celebrity White House staffers (WashPost) What does it take to turn a person into a celebrity? What is a celebrity? Have new media channels created new types of celebrities? Why does it happen and who’s taking advantage?

Spotify’s half-priced student pricing expands worldwide (TechCrunch) How is the streaming service making itself more attractive to young users? Who are their competitors and what are they doing that’s similar?

Pam Edstrom, PR exec who shaped Microsoft’s image, dies at 71 (oregonlive.com) As the industry moves forward, it’s important to look back at the builders who shaped the ethos and created opportunities for all of us.

Facebook’s future: first destroy Snapchat, then own reality (Wired) How is live video reshaping the culture on social media platforms? How will brands capitalize on these new technologies to connect?

Adidas Apologizes For Congratulating 2017 Boston Marathon ‘Survivors’ (NPR) Are brands held to a higher standard even as expectations for engagement with customers increase? Have we become overly reactive or was this a #PRfail? What other examples come to mind?

 Starbucks barista loses it over unicorn frappuccino mania (USAtoday) When employees speak out. How can communications help corporations create brand ambassadors rather than unicorn ranters?

19 Things We Learned Watching Shonda Rhimes’ TV Writing Masterclass (Variety) When other writers talk about their process and success. It’s still about audience and tone. How does her approach line up with what you are learning from Made To Stick?


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If you share an interest in public relations, media and visual design, this might be a good place for you to hang out. I started this blog to exchange ideas with my students at the University of Oregon. They keep me (and maybe you too) at the forefront of social media, visual communication and career development. Here you'll find our best ideas, links and learning as we write, create and blog our way through a course on Strategic PR Communication.

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