There’s J. Paul Getty. And, then, there’s the rest of us

March 10 When the late, multimillionaire oil magnate, J. Paul Getty, was asked his secret for success, he responded by saying, 'My formula for success: Rise early. Work hard. Strike oil.'

Striking oil is a sure-fire ticket to a life of fame and fortune. For the rest of us, though, the rising early and working hard parts are the answer.

I thought of Getty's tongue-in-cheek remark as I networked with a group of College of Charleston students visiting New York the other day. Along with 25 or 30 other PR, media, branding and public affairs executives, I have the pleasure of serving on the college's communications advisory board. Aside from branding and marketing advice, our charge is to mentor the students.

The board members attending Monday night's networking event were swarmed by the eager, if somewhat desperate, students. Each had more or less the same set of questions: 'What sort of qualities are you looking for?' 'How can I set myself apart?' and 'What does an entry-level PR person do?' In response to the latter, I assured the students that entry-level life is nothing like the plight of poor Stephanie Skinner, the junior account executive punching bag in Bravo's reality show called 'Kell on Earth.' I somehow doubt The People's Revolution (the fashion PR agency spotlighted in the show) will find it way onto The Holmes Report's best workplaces list anytime soon.

That said, I suggested the students hold their questions and, instead, ask them of Peppercom's junior people when they visit our offices today (the students will also pay visits to the offices of MTV, Computer Associates, Edelman, Ketchum and Deloitte).

Aside from striking oil or getting your parents to pay for your internship, there is no easy path to finding work in public relations.

One has to do one's homework before an interview, be conversant with industry trends, and explain not only what was learned from previous internships but, critically, how one went above and beyond the call of duty to complete an assignment. The latter is huge. Demonstrate passion, a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to do more than what is expected and you'll build rapport with the interviewer. That doesn't mean you'll receive a job offer, though. There may be many more rounds of interviews, other candidates who are just as good as you and the intangibles of timing (the agency or corporation may have just lost a large account and instituted a hiring freeze).

These are the times that try graduating seniors' souls. Some will succeed in landing that dream entry-level job. Most won't. My only advice to those who won't is this: pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. And again. And again.

Or, strike oil.

One thought on “There’s J. Paul Getty. And, then, there’s the rest of us

  1. Thanks, Steve, for your willingness to network with and mentor our students at the College of Charleston. We don’t have much hope of striking oil in South Carolina, so working hard will have to be Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.
    Despite the very, very grim economic outlook, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some of the success stories I’ve heard from the Class of ’09. These are difficult economic times, as we remind students daily, but there are some opportunities as well.