Surprise! You’re in Public Relations.

“Surprise!” is what should be written on your diploma upon college graduation. As is the case for many careers, public relations is one thing taught and another in practice. Earlier this month, I accepted an invitation to speak to the University of Texas’ student-run Tower PR group and was brought back to my college days—days of hope, dreams and eagerness to start a fabulous life in PR.

After meeting such wonderful, enthusiastic future PR professionals at UT, I started comparing what I thought a career in PR would look like at 21 to what it actually is after nearly 5 years of going from internships to account coordinator and executive roles to senior account manager. Now I love my job and I’m sure I chose the best career for me, but one thing is certain: At 21, I had not even a clue what I was in for.

“PR is glamorous.” SURPRISE! It’s not. At all. PR professionals get no public credit for the good work we do, and that’s the way it should be. You work hard all day to win positive publicity for your clients (hardly ever for yourself), and a job well done may or may not be met with praise. PR is very much a “behind the scenes” or “backstage” role, so people who crave being the star of the show should think twice about choosing this underappreciated career.

“PR is all about party planning.” SURPRISE! I wish I could plan parties for a living. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been approached by someone wanting to get into event planning. Party planning is a large, successful industry and is mastered by event planners, designers, caterers and others. It’s a whole other tamale. In fact, it’s on a whole other plate. In PR, you’re immersed in activities such as crafting a corporate message, managing client relationships with media and analysts, and writing case studies, press releases and articles. On the rare occasion that a client throws a party and needs your help, they will likely be looking for your assistance in promoting the party to a targeted community. Continue reading