I couldn’t be more excited to share our first Career Path Profile with you. Liz is a shining example of someone with an incredible skill set and passion. She has done amazing things in 5 short years. She shares valuable insight and advice on a career in PR and on looking for your first job in general. (Oh yea, the picture above is of Liz on a giant billboard in Times Square ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ – pretty freaking cool.) Enjoy!
Key stats: Liz Rolnik, Syracuse 07, BS Communications
Current role: Manager, Public Relations at Sundance Channel
Prior roles: Jr Account Exec @ R. Couri Hay Creative PR, Coordinator @ Showtime Networks, Publicist, Online and Social Media @ Showtime Networks
What made you choose to go to Syracuse to study Communications? Did you have your future career in mind?
I went to school completely undecided as to what I wanted to major in or what my career path might look like. I bounced around majors for my first two years, from English, to International Relations, to Elementary Education, trying to figure out what I might be good at. After my sophomore year I was offered an internship at Four Corners Communications in Manhattan. I really wanted to live in the NYU dorms and I knew that if I was able to secure an internship, my parents would allow it. I never thought taking the internship would help my find my true passion for communications and PR. When I returned to Syracuse the following school year, I changed my major to communications. I strongly recommend taking internships and trying out different fields, because you never know what field might unexpectedly spark your interest.
How did you decide to pursue and accept your first role? Did you always know you wanted a career in PR?
The supervisor I worked under at Four Corners Communications had moved on to another PR agency by the time I finished my junior year at Syracuse. We had kept in touch and she offered me an opportunity to come and intern for her again that summer at her new agency. After my summer there, the company offered me a junior account executive position upon graduation. I had really enjoyed the internship and was very excited to work at the company.
How important were the internships you did while in school? How did you choose to spend your summers and why?
The internships were vital to building my career in PR. Each internship led to the next opportunity. If I had not done them, I would probably be teaching in a first grade classroom somewhere!
Based on your experience as a Junior Account Executive, what is a typical day like for an entry level role in PR
Entry level jobs are a wake up call. After you graduate college you feel smart, accomplished, and ready to take on the world. As you should. Then you start your entry level job where you spend 8-10 hours a day answering the phone, entering data into excel, filling out expense reports, and getting your boss lunch. You will probably sit there for most of the day thinking “I went to college for this?” But what you have to remember is that just by being in the office you are learning way more then you realize. By listening to your boss on the phone, sitting in on meetings and taking notes, and chatting with coworkers, you are learning the business, you are learning how to interact with clients, and you are learning what a day to day job in this industry entails. In your spare time, come up with ideas for the campaign or deal your department is working on. You might want to put together a presentation and ask your boss for 15 minutes of his time that week. Showing that you are a creative thinker and are so passionate about the job that you are working on this on your own time will show your initiative, drive and passion. This can go a long way. If you have a positive, can-do attitude, you will be promoted and everyone on your team will be rooting for you.
What was the coolest part of your first job? Something that made pinch yourself and say wow…
My first job was in event PR, so the coolest part was probably facilitating interviews between major celebrities and national press outlets. It was exciting to see the interview I set up and sat in on in People Magazine.
And how about part of that job that you never ever want to do again?
Standing outside in the freezing cold and rain waiting for the celebrity to arrive for that interview…4 hours late!
How has that first job led you to where you are today? What were some of the toughest career decisions you had to make along the way?
That first job gave me confidence and taught me about what the public relations industry really is. At Syracuse they may have taught me how to write a press release, but it wasn’t until I started at Couri Hay that I learned how to pitch, answer the phone and talk to press, work a red carpet, and plan an event. Hands on experience is where you learn the most and I was definitely thrown right in.
How was the search for your first job different than looking for your second or third?
It was actually more difficult for me in finding my second job then my first. Because I had worked at Couri Hay as an intern, the transition into my first paid job there was pretty smooth. It was a very small agency and I already knew everyone that worked there from my summer internship. After I had worked there for a few months though I realized that although I liked it, I wanted to work at a bigger company, and in a niche area, television. I was able to get an interview for an assistant job at Showtime Networks. I was offered the job, and although the actual position was a bit of a step back job description wise, I knew it would set me up to take a leap forward later. And luckily I was right.
In making job offer decisions, what were the most important factors to you when you looked at an offer? (i.e. money, company culture, responsibility, title)
Growth. As I mentioned, the assistant job was a step back, but I knew it would be a foot into the door of a great company with great programming, and I would be able to make contacts and learn the industry. I know money is important, but I think it is vital to take a position in a company you know you would like to stay in and move up in. If you look at the senior people in your department and think “I would want to be him/her one day,” you know you are in the right place.
What is a typical day like now (vs. 5 years ago)?
As an assistant at Showtime I did mostly administrative work. Now, I am a manager of Public Relations at Sundance Channel. My day to day responsibilities include creating and executing strategic and comprehensive national publicity campaigns for the network’s original scripted and unscripted programming. I pitch long-lead and fast breaking print, broadcast, and radio outlets in order to secure key press coverage and reviews. I also plan and supervise all press days and oversee press coverage for all red carpet premieres and special events in NY, LA, and the Sundance Film Festival.
If you had to give one piece of advice to someone just starting out their job search, it would be…
Don’t settle. I know you may think that you “just want a job, any job” because you are sick of your parents hounding you and you’ve already marathoned all four seasons of Breaking Bad and season 5 isn’t on Netflix Instant yet. Don’t settle. Try and find a job in an industry you think you would be interested in. Now is the time for you to get coffee and do expense reports. Try and do it in a company where you can pay your dues and move up.
When thinking about hiring for your own team, what are the top 3 qualities you look for in candidates?
Positive attitude, Drive, Sincerity