I meet people all the time who ask for advice about transitioning to a new field. In this occasional series, I’ll ask friends with cool jobs five questions about how they got to where they are today. I’m starting with Amy Rankin, who has worked in public relations for years, and currently works for Scott-McRae Advertising. (My comments, in red, follow hers.)
- Did you always know you wanted to work in your field? Was yours a straight course, or did you back into / fall into a job that led you to the career?
I went to college to become a social worker and along the way got involved with working for the campus radio station and the college’s sports information department. There weren’t any women involved in sports public relations back then so it was truly groundbreaking. The radio station was a volunteer effort but I got paid for the Sports Information Department position. It led me to a career in sports public relations when I graduated college. That part time job (15 hours a week) taught me how to write AP style, how to pitch media stories and how to work on a deadline.
What you can learn from this: Part-time and volunteer jobs are a great way to learn new skills and make new connections. Try out a new career in a lower-risk setting before making up your mind about a change
2. What skill is the most valuable one you developed for your success? Was it a skill you learned in school / college, or one you learned on the job?
The ability to get the job done, to write clearly, and to exhibit critical thinking/problem solving skills have been vital to my success. More importantly, though, I had great mentors. They were people who took an interest in me and my career and helped me along the way.
Note: Employers tell us that writing and critical thinking are two of the rarest – and therefore most valuable – skills they seek in candidates. If you’re a liberal arts major, these may be the most marketable skills you get from your education.
3. What do you wish you knew then (early in your career) that you know now?
Not to sweat the small stuff so much. It will all work out one way or another. Just do the best you can.
4. What is the biggest misperception about your career or industry?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a young college student majoring in public relations tell me that he/she likes public relations because they like people. Liking people is wonderful but it is not really a skill that is vital to success in public relations. What you really need to know is how to critically think, what the major topics are in the world around you, a little bit of history/sociology/psychology and throw in a bit of creativity.
Note: Liking people is a separate quality from understanding people. It’s helpful to know the difference and where your strength is. No one will ask you to send a people sample with your resume.
5. What advice would you give someone considering going into this field?
Learn how to write. Learn grammar. Read LEGITIMATE media sources like Wall St. Journal, New York Times, Washington Post every single day.
Summary: Read. Write. Read better. Write better. Repeat.
Amy Rankin, an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and an associate member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, has over 30 years of experience working in marketing, advertising and public relations in Northeast Florida. Prior to joining Scott-McRae Advertising in 2001, she served as Vice President/Account Group Manager and Public Relations Director at St. John & Partners Advertising and Public Relations for 11 years.
She began her public relations career working for the World Football League, North American Soccer League and player agent Donald Dell (who represented Arthur Ashe, Tracy Austin, Moses Malone among others) prior to moving to Northeast Florida. She has served as Communications Director for Amelia Island Plantation, Sawgrass, and the Jacksonville Tea Men soccer team before joining St. John & Partners.
Ms. Rankin has extensive experience in market research, brand development, media relations, print and broadcast creative, website development, special event management, social media, and crisis management.
Ms. Rankin graduated Douglass College of Rutgers University with a B.A. in sociology and has attended the University of North Florida’s M.B.A. program.