The Hardest Job is a Job Hunt: the #HAPPO Anniversary

I've been mentoring college students for about eight years; it was never a planned thing, just my personality. I like to teach. I like to help. I like people - well, most of the time. And I like to give back as I was lucky to have great mentors throughout my career. I'm lucky to have the patience - for the most part - for that type of thing.

And that's part of why I prefer working with students and the newly graduated - often times, they aren't lucky to have a champion. It's also why when someone emails me with 5 or more years of PR/SM experience, I make a few recommendations but am not as giving with my time, because if you are at that point in your career you should have your own networks, own knowledge of recruiters, and have your own mentors.

Now, a handful of the women I've mentored through the years are amazing people. These are PR professionals with social media skills that I would hire in a minute. These are people that I think are the pinacle of the profession, at different levels in their careers, who will be running things in the industry. And I'll be proud of them as if they were my own family, as I do think of them as family.

Through that mentoring, I've become involved with #HAPPO. The concept, the idea of HAPPO is admirable: helping out other PR pros network and get a job. The economy is bad, and we've all been hurt by it. Some of the best PR people I know searched for jobs too long, while some of the worst PR and SM people I know are gainfully employed or have transitioned themselves into "thought leaders".

Unfortunately, at times, the reality of HAPPO is either a "look at how great I am because I'm helping others get jobs" or "K, I tweeted #HAPPO, where's my job?"

So what has happened is a bit of self-interest and a bit of self-entitlement. New graduates and others think that by merely posting #HAPPO!!! (or other hashtags) on a tweet, that the jobs will come to them and they should be hired, because dammit, they ARE social media geniuses because they're the digital generation!!!

That one is a good fallacy, though. The digital generation understands the tools - but that's it. In reality, many are dangerous as they do no get the big picture of how public relations and social media work together. Nor is there an understanding on how to push back on a client, how to protect them from doing something bad and destructive in social media, or a complex and advanced understandig and knowledge of a little something called strategy and tactics.

PR is not an easy profession. We are always top 5 for stressful professions. PR wears you down, as you're under attack from all sides: clients, agency, press/analysts/social media. But it's one of those things that people love: the ability and chance to tell a story, do some good.

But the missing the point of HAPPO - no one is entitled to anything. It's a hard job finding a job, harder than the job itself, so be thankful for those that help you along the way. And don't think that just because you send an email you're owed something. Respect the other person's time, energy. If that part of HAPPO continues to be ignored, the people that are giving of their time will reevaluate where they are putting their efforts. As they should.

HAPPO chat is tonight from 5.00 - 7.00 PM EST / 2.00 - 4.00 PM PST. Just follow the #HAPPO hashtag and start networking, making connections and being a valuable part of a community instead of just being a remora.

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12 comments

  1. Jeremy, such an important point. The HAPPO champions, along with the many committed professionals who take time to mentor, are volunteers.

    I was fortunate enough to have an incredible mentor when I was graduating. He offered me sage advice, confidence in my own abilities and introduced me to others. We truly did become like "family" and many (many) years later, I frequently cite his comments to those I mentor. I recently decided to send him a long overdue email, letting him know the impact he had.

    I don't know that people intend to use HAPPO as a " 'look at how great I am because I'm helping others get jobs' or 'K, I tweeted #HAPPO, where's my job'", but regardless of intentions I think that sometimes an unfortunate backlash can occur. Hopefully your post will help prevent that backlash... A lot of the most exciting "HAPPO'ing" is seldom seen by the public on Twitter. It is the conversations that move beyond 140 characters and become emails, phone calls, mentorships and more...

    I'll be meeting up with the NYC area HAPPO community to celebrate the anniversary tonight, so if you don't see many Tweets, it is because I'm caught up in conversation. Keep the virtual conversation going and I look forward to joining in where I can.

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  2. I agree! Finding a job is about building relationships and actually having a connection with someone, be it online or off. I've only been out of college and working for about 8 months, but I completely agree that college PR grads need a strong strategy. Reading up on advice from people like you is a great place to start! Thanks for the post.

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  3. Jeremy,
    Insightful, as always. I'll say that as someone always looking to hire it's definitely more of a marathon than a sprint. In some cases jobs that were approved get pulled, funding is withheld or finding the right person takes time. My point is that those looking for an easy answer need to realize that the job search is a long term proposition, and that even if a potential situation doesn't happen exactly when you want it to happen doesn't mean that it will never happen. I hired someone 7 months after I interviewed her -- and it was even after I joined a different firm.

    A year and a half ago I told PR students at Hofstra to have a plan on how they planned on landing a job, including how they use social media. Tweet because your potential boss is reading it, and connect with them because it's meaningful. Even if they can't hire you today, it speaks volumes to stay in touch. That being said, unsavory practices also leave an impression -- such as when students follow and unfollow people -- because appearing to be shallow and opportunistic only lead folks to believe you really have no idea how this all works.

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  4. As a student finishing my degree this May I have been told that the hardest part about a job is getting the job in the first place. I've been told to network as much as possible in order to create relationships as many of you have mentioned also so I think it's a great help to share this point with all the readers. Looking at the job market can be..well, intimidating, especially being a new member of the job hunt.

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  5. Erin McDonough3/19/2011 12:23:00 PM

    This is a really interesting and very true post. I am a Junior in college right now studying advertising and public relations. I will say that I am absolutely terrified for graduation due to the fact that I know I am no where near entitled to anything. HAPPO sounds like such an incredible opportunity and so helpful to college students. I will definitely remember this resource throughout the upcoming year before graduation.

    P.S. If you are ever looking for another mentee, I am always open to any tips or help from someone who knows what they are talking about!

    Thanks for this post!

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  6. Christine Kapurch3/23/2011 09:31:00 AM

    As a current college student and soon to be grad this article proved to be tremendously eye-opening for me. The HAPPO network created does allow for the younger up and coming professionals like myself to get in on the conversation. However, in response to the disconnect between PR and social media I think we are more understanding then you are giving us credit for. Several universities offer classes teaching the ins and outs of social media and the benefits, in terms of raising your SEO. Great post though!

    I am a student editor for platformmagazine.com and we are always looking for professional as well as student contributing writers.

    Thanks,
    Christine Kapurch
    Platform Student Editor

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  7. Caitlin Davisson3/23/2011 09:39:00 AM

    As a junior in college, I found this blog post to be beneficial. I have heard over and over again that networking and building relationships is the key to becoming successful in PR. I believe that to be true, but having a mentor that is there along the way seems to be crucial for advancement. It is sometimes hard for young students to know what is appropriate when beginning to network with professionals. Social media has also changed the way people are communicating, and there is now a thin line between understanding what is professional and what is out of line. This blog helped me to realize that just because I am tweeting, it's not necessarily the right information I'm putting out there. Learning how to use social media is key for making an impact on a future boss.

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  8. Jeremy,
    I stumbled upon your blog, and being a PR student myself, this #HAPPO thing is all very intriguing to me. This is not the first time I have heard the advice to build a network and establish connections with professionals in the industry... it has been more hammered into my brain than any other advice from PR practitioners. I think it is a great point to make that young people today expect that they will get a job just because they can operate a computer and a social networking site, because the knowledge and experience of older generations cannot be overlooked.

    My question for you, and I've asked it before at other networking events that I've attended: at what point is it crossing the line to request informational interviews or help from mentors/connections in your network? I follow a lot of PR and advertising professionals on twitter, and have them on my linkedin, but just by having them in my network doesn't necessarily mean they intend to look out for me when I enter the job market post college. What is the best way to make the leap from being just "connected" to making those people your mentors?

    Thanks for your insight, I'll definitely keep up an eye on your blog!

    -Mackenzie Davis
    University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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  9. Jeremy,
    I stumbled upon your blog, and being a PR student myself, this #HAPPO thing is all very intriguing to me. This is not the first time I have heard the advice to build a network and establish connections with professionals in the industry... it has been more hammered into my brain than any other advice from PR practitioners. I think it is a great point to make that young people today expect that they will get a job just because they can operate a computer and a social networking site, because the knowledge and experience of older generations cannot be overlooked.

    My question for you, and I've asked it before at other networking events that I've attended: at what point is it crossing the line to request informational interviews or help from mentors/connections in your network? I follow a lot of PR and advertising professionals on twitter, and have them on my linkedin, but just by having them in my network doesn't necessarily mean they intend to look out for me when I enter the job market post college. What is the best way to make the leap from being just "connected" to making those people your mentors?

    Thanks for your insight, I'll definitely keep up an eye on your blog!

    -Mackenzie Davis
    University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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  10. Christina Harden3/29/2011 06:22:00 PM

    I like the point you make about there being a blurring of lines between the personal and the professional. With social media becoming more involved in our working lives, the 9 to 5 mentality is fading into the constant updates and reminders of work. Plus PR can be conducted at home via social media.

    I don’t think it is anything new for there to be a blending of personal yet professional; most companies want to promote the feeling of familiarity between the company and the clients. Consumers want to know companies are being honest about themselves and are genuinely concerned with performing at their best. Adding a personal touch, or appearing to do so, helps build this honest image. Social media takes this further by using a medium most clients’ use personally to convey company standards and objectives.

    The personal use of social media could be a good turn for PR. Grant it, I do think it can get a little too personal, but using common sense while tweeting or updating a status can help prevent that.

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  11. As a college student who will be graduating in under a month, I agree with you that the most difficult thing is to find a job. I've been in the place where it felt like I was doing everything wrong; applying to dozens of places and getting not one call back. It can be, and for most people, is a disheartening position to be in. In my opinion, there should be more teaching and mentoring on the strategy and art of getting a job, and then we should focus on performing in that job!

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  12. The single most valuable skill anyone in business can have is the ability to collect people and relationships. Couple that with an uncanny ability to recognize or create mutual opportunity and your career will be rich and interesting - but not necessarily a straight path.

    What graduates need to understand is simple - Leave the sense of entitlement at the door. You have been educated on much but know very little - and the REAL learning happens when you land your first job. But the lessons begin in finding that first job.

    I've recruited and hired many. Mentors ABOUND - And intent counts more than technique sometimes.

    But graciousness always wins.

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