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Reflections on AdCon 2019: Advice for Young Professionals in Communications

By Clare Liening, Director, Public Relations

I recently had the distinct pleasure of serving on a panel at AdCon Detroit, the region’s premier advertising and marketing communications conference for college students and young professionals.

The event was a refreshing opportunity to connect with rising stars in our profession. I left the event feeling energized by the next generation of communications and marketing pros, and enthused about all they will bring to our industry.

While the nature of our work changes daily, many of the questions posed at AdCon were the same questions I had when I was an undergrad at Michigan State University. During our three panel discussions, several of the same questions surfaced repeatedly, and I’ve compiled them here in the hopes they can help other young pros chart the course for a successful career in communications.

I don’t have much experience. How should I go about landing my first internship? What do you do when you feel like you’re behind the curve?

Securing the fabled first internship was one of the single most frustrating roadblocks at the beginning of my career. I worked hard in school and networked every day of the week, but couldn’t seem to convince anyone to grant me the opportunity to prove myself. Ultimately, I found that taking an unpaid internship (and offering up my services pro bono) was the best way to break into the field, build contacts and to add a meaningful experience to my resume. It was the foot-in-the-door I needed to break into a wide variety of opportunities early on.

What does your job look like, day-in and day-out?

Every day is different, so being nimble is important. Writing is central to our work, and always will be—regardless of medium. A good grasp of the changing media landscape is critical as well. Every other element of the day is subject to change, but the bottom line is this: delivering solutions-oriented communications strategies that help our clients advance their efforts.

What qualities are you looking for in an entry level candidate?

Work ethic and a willingness to problem solve are qualities that can’t be taught, and are irreplaceable in our industry. A solid grasp of AP Style and experience with media relations are also fundamental. If you can demonstrate resourcefulness, and an ability to find solutions, you will quickly become a highly coveted team member in any role.

How do you manage your workload?

I have yet to find a better tool for managing my workload than the tried and true to-do list. Blocking off time on my calendar for time-consuming projects, or uninterrupted think time, is another effective tool. I have also found that relying on my team is essential. It’s important to work in an environment where you can trust your colleagues to get the job done, and be willing to tap into your team. A communications team is strongest when no one person carries the load.

My colleagues and I were humbled by the breadth of talented young professionals who were interested in connecting with us after the event. If we weren’t able to meet in person, or if you’re a rising practitioner with questions on breaking into the industry, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.