Open Letter to Millennials (PR Industry Edition)

IStock_000009131941XSmallRiffing off of @BillSledzik’s terrific (and ultimately helpful) rant, “Dear Millennials: Your Parents Lied to You,” I wanted to spend a minute talking to these same Millennials as a prospective employer.  Here’s an Open Letter to Millennials (PR Industry Edition).

Hi gang –

When Professor Sledzik suggests that the real-world is tougher than you think, he’s spot-on.  Everything counts when you are job prospecting in the early days, including your writing style and use of grammar in resumes and cover letters; your clothes; your advance research and relevant questions in the interview; and, your attention to the niceties of follow-up.

Let me be even more specific.  When you are hunting for a job, it’s not about you.  It’s about me, the employer.  I recently chatted with a fellow industry vet who regaled me with stories of twenty-something job candidates whose questions included, “Why don’t you tell me why I’d want this job?” (That’s a terrible approach, in case you’re wondering.)

Your cover letter should be flawless and interesting.  Grammatical errors are perfectly acceptable — so long as you don’t mind if we immediately trash your letter. Get a friend, parent or professor to take a look.  Does the letter stand out, in a professional way, or is it generic?  Don’t try to be extra clever, just be sincere. I expect that you’ve done some research on potential employers and have made MY agency your top choice.  So, why is that?  And how can you help us?

Your resume should not be overstuffed with extraneous details.  I already know you don’t have a ton of experience; I don’t really expect it. Meanwhile, however, before you even send in that cover letter and resume, you should already be fairly visible on Twitter, Facebook and/or your own blog.  You’ve got time to surf the Web for fun; so carve out 30 minutes a day to post relevant content that prospective employers will find when they Google your name (which they will, by the way). If I already know OF you, I’ll be glad to get to actually know you; I’ll be excited to see your resume come through.

Your choice of clothes is also important, when you come in for the interview.  Once you get the job, you can wear jeans to the office pretty much every day.  UNTIL then, wear a professional outfit.  We need assurances that you care about your appearance, that we can trust you to wear appropriate attire to a client meeting.

Take out the nose ring for now, too.  While it may be a “part of your personality,” in the job search it’s about sublimating the all-important Y-O-U for the sake of the organization.  Yes, we do have a couple of employees who sport (subtle) body-art and metal accouterments… but they weren’t worn (or showing) during the interview.

Got the job interview scheduled? Great!  Now do some research.  Read the agency’s blog (or all of them, if there is more than one).  Read several weeks’ worth of posts.  Take a look at the client list.  Take a look at the newsroom.  Read the bios of the principals and other top execs.  Read up on the competition, too.  Then, COME WITH QUESTIONS.  If you don’t have a handful of thought-provoking questions, it’s a fail, dude.

And if you’ve been in a round-robin of interviews, and exhausted all your questions along the way, I still suggest you never tell your last interviewer, “All my questions have been answered by your colleagues — thanks, though!” Instead, either a) re-ask those same questions, to make the interviewer feel important, or better yet, b) ask follow-up questions based on previous answers.  This shows that you can think in-the-moment.  That’s a big plus.

OK, now, you GOT THE JOB!  Congrats!  Give me 2 more minutes to suggest what you do with it…

The Millennial Generation is already known for being self-involved and in-a-rush.  Luckily, many of you have the talent and drive to impress curmudgeonly Gen-X and Boomer employers, and we soon learn to look past those smarmy qualities.  But the fact remains that those perceptions will be hard to shake.  It will only get worse if you engage in a lot of job-hopping to find the perfect fit.

My advice then — and you may see it as biased — is to stay put for a while.  I am talking 3 – 5 years, at least.  There is no such thing as a perfect fit.  You must create the perfect fit.  This is your apprenticeship period.  It is supposed to suck.  There are supposed to be crummy days when you feel under-appreciated.  Such days will occur no matter who signs your paycheck.

But there are rewards for loyalty, I promise.  When I look around the table of my senior staff meetings at SHIFT, for example, most of the people at the meeting have been with the Agency for 5 – 10 years.  Some of them started out as interns, and now they run million-dollar teams.  All of ‘em are under 40 (i.e., it doesn’t take forever).  I am sure there were MANY days in the course of their careers at SHIFT when they felt underpaid or under-appreciated.  But sooner or later, those situations were rectified; adjustments were made; it is a process — one that required loyalty to something bigger than their bank account.

Meanwhile, I can’t tell you how many resumes I receive from “former vice presidents” of large PR agencies who are pretty clearly not VP material.  They were overpaid and over-promoted — prizes often awarded to folks who skip from agency to agency in search of a new title or extra $$$.  And when the economic downturn made that fact tough to hide, they find themselves scrapping for Account Manager positions.

Summing up?  Cultivate your personal brand.  Do your research.  Commit to quality.  Align yourself to the agency’s cause for the long-term.  Remember that it’s not all about you.  Then go kick some ass.

Thanks for listening,

Your Future Employer (who is HIRING, by the way)

Posted on: April 21, 2010 at 9:46 am By Todd Defren
113 Responses to “Open Letter to Millennials (PR Industry Edition)”


  • paul Roberts says:

    A very late reply posted here. Sometimes it is better to cut your losses.

  • jessiex says:

    Wow, Todd, You certainly touched a nerve with this one! 595 retweets! Astounding. You’re quite on target with your points. And perhaps some insight into WHY they are they way they are will be found in the pages of this short PDF, “Millennials in the Workplace: 10 Tips” Owning my stance, I’m working with the author, someone whose work I’ve read, admired and promulgated for free for over 10 years before I ever met him. Rock on!

  • Julia says:

    Excellent words of wisdom.

  • Ron Davies says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. What makes this interesting is how what stays the same for each generation differs only slightly from those before it.

    Just 20 years ago, most people were in the same job their whole life. Forrester I believe now indicates that one can expect 5 to 7 jobs in their career lifespan. It is possible a couple of those jobs are only 2 to 3 years long then, no?

    I do most the screen-hiring at my company, and I won’t even look at the resume. I interview looking for character, then screen to qualifications. I am completely disinterested in quals before I see character. They are utterly meaningless.

    I am no spring chicken, and my retention and performance in my field speaks for itself in terms of the people I surround myself with only the very best professionally, and in my staff.

    How well-written a cover letter is matters little to me, but does need to be good enough to get to sit across from me to get to know your character.

    Great post,

    Ron Davies

  • I think the bigger problem here is one of expanding adolescence. It really has to stop. A 25-year old teenager is not just sad; he’s unhealthy. At some point, parents need to reclaim the responsibility of equipping their children to become capable adults. Arguably, the mid-life crisis is little more than a clumsy reflection on the unresolved issues of adolescence. As adolescence expands, the inability of young adults to feel a sense of purposeful identity expands exponentially. The “quarter-life crisis” with its prevailing inabilities to decide or commit is not only a product of expanding adolescence, but most likely has roots in some unresolved issues of childhood to boot. Sad and unfortunate.

    So for those who’ve already reached their twenties, a bit of tough-love like is described in the article might be helpful if it were consistently applied.

    IF it were consistently applied.

    I think what the world of work needs more than anything is mentors, not managers. And my experience has been that young adults really do want mentors.

    • Todd Defren says:

      Looking back, becoming a father at age 23 – and living on welfare for a brief time – was a pretty huge wake-up call. At the time, I was despondent. Today I am so glad I went through all that anguish.

  • Paul Kiser says:

    Dear Todd:

    First, I am 52 and I appreciate your post…as an example of how people can’t accept change staring them in the face.

    Your blog is the perfect expression of every ‘old person’ I know who believes that the employer is God and the Employee is a slave. How’s that working out for you? Answer the question in three years.

    In 2003, Tom Peters came out with another stunning observation about how the New World is going to look and so far he’s been spot on. Tomorrow’s workforce will not be the workforce I grew up in and it’s about d#&m time. What a stupid system we have created by trying to place the organization as greater than the individuals who work for it. Policies and rules to muzzle their creativity and layers on layers of stupid idiots with titles that work to keep anyone below them down by a system of Chain of Command that filters out every new idea as risky.

    This recession has temporarily given old guys a reprieve of what is to come. I’ve written a blog on the Perfect Storm that is coming. You should read it. I’ve also written on the stupidity of the chain of command. You should read that as well.

    To all young professionals, here is my advice:

    1) Don’t work for anyone who wants you to sign a non-compete. They want to take your life away but offer no job security in return. Don’t do it.

    2) Always use your own email address. If you use a company email they can strip away all your past correspondence away just before they lay you off.

    3) Build your own reputation through a blog. Let people know that you are the expert, not the old guy with the title.

    4) Never work for anyone who thinks you should be grateful they gave you a job. A company consists of the work of the individual and without you they are nothing.

    5) Read Re-Imagine! by Tom Peters. It is seven years old but people will be talking about it for the next ten.

    • Todd Defren says:

      I’d say, “It’s working just fine, thanks,” IF I agreed with your summation of my viewpoint, Paul.

      Asking for a modicum of professionalism and loyalty is not akin to believing “the employer is God and the Employee is a slave.”

      Let’s agree to disagree. ;)

  • Tom says:

    Shift is hiring? No thanks, we will pass silently in the night and I will steer clear. My cover letter is not perfect; but you can’t see past the wrapping on the present/the potential within…i would have been YOUR top talent(today, tomorrow and well into the future)! I have an addiction and won’t apologize or ask forgiveness: I need vision, mentoring and leadership.

    You offer textbook advice, complain of a generation’s faults and demand loyalty without committing anything in return. I need more…best of luck.

    • Todd Defren says:

      So – to be clear, Tom – are you saying that it’s OK if you send a typo-filled note, that is intended to bolster the reputation of a paying client, to a professional media contact?

      If so, we are bound to disagree. It is not the employer’s job to teach employees how to be professional, how to spell, how to be courteous. That cover letter is the very first indication of such matters of professionalism, and diligence, and care.

      And who said that we commit nothing in return? We provide a competitive salary, in 3 of the world’s most exciting metropolitan areas, and the chance to apply cutting-edge communications principles to some of the globe’s best-known companies. Plus, we’re nice. And cool.

  • Brad says:

    As a Gen-X’er, I appreciate this post and its intention, but I think it is being written with a negative tone (maybe from being burned by some Gen Y’ers). I agree with Jess Bennett that the WHY millenials are the way they are is very important. We all have grown up in different contexts and times that heavily influence who we are and our behavior. I think I relate more to Gen Y than my own Gen X because I have those same expectations as Jess mentions that there are no limitations to what I can do. And why should I “settle” for an ordinary job simply to show consistency and loyalty. If I am enjoying the work and context of where I am working, then I will stay and be “loyal”. But to be loyal for loyalty’s sake seems antiquated to me and is more of a Baby Boomer mindset of work hard for 30 years and then enjoy life in retirement. I think Gen X and Gen Y are more concerned with enjoying life now since there is no promise of retirement down the road.

    I think the entire notion of a “career” or “job” is being shifted and that more and more we are all going to be independent contractors that plug-in to different work opportunities that take advantage of our individual strengths, talents, experiences, etc. With the collaborative opportunties made available by the internet and technology, we no longer have to be in the same place as someone we are working with. This notion of a 8-5, 40-hour per week job where we all sit and in reality be productive only 80% of the time (for the truly productive people) is simply out of date with what we younger professionals want in life. I for one want to be MORE productive than my parents were, but in areas that I’m interested in and that I feel contribute to society. But being more productive doesn’t always mean putting in more hours of work. The concept of working by the hour is going to shift as well as we get more focused on the results and less on the process IMO.

  • Jess Bennett says:

    Hi Todd,

    This article captured a pervasive feeling within my age group (early/cusp millennial) that has been difficult to describe. Please read it.

    The world has changed so much as we’ve grown up, particularly the speed and media of communication.

    Our parents have told us anything is possible because they’ve seen evidence of this with their own eyes. Women are an integral part of the work force, the US has a black President, and many of the jobs people have today did not exist ten, five or even three years ago.

    Endless opportunities are a good thing, right?

    Well they can be, but they are also mighty daunting. It’s strange and confusing to grow up in a world that’s not supposed to have limitations. And it certainly makes it difficult to manage our expectations; real-life experiences fall short of the expectations we’ve been raised to have. Did quarter life crisis exist fifty years ago without a name, or is it phenomenon that is new and unique to my generation? I’d speculate that it’s the latter.

    I certainly don’t long for a world with more limitations. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to be living and working in a time when new ideas and inventions appear every day. It’s absolutely invigorating.

    Todd, I think your post and the advice therein is constructive. I just thought it might be nice to address the ‘why’ of the millennial attitude, in the event that this context might round out your perspective a little.

  • Luke Gibson says:

    An excerpt from my own, very old blog…

    “[While there is a] philosophical flaw on how this generation was raised, I do think most are quick to label the America’s newest workforce as sub-par. Perhaps they are entitled and lazy, but the Internet throws a wrench into any judgment made about Gen Ipod– perhaps their latest performance in the real world is not a “failure”, but the origins of a major shift in American culture. And I think most would agree that American’s cultural fabric is being rewoven. So why are we expecting that our thinking, our ideals, the way we do business, any every other aspect of our society are not going to change along with it? It seems we are judging a new generation on an antiquated scale.”

    • Todd Defren says:

      “It seems we are judging a new generation on an antiquated scale.”

      Call me cynical but I don’t think I am actually asking a lot: be patient and loyal and work hard. If those attributes do not lead to success, then shame on us (older generations).

  • Becky Johns says:


    Fantastic post. I’m a Millennial (who managed to land a full time communications position after graduating from college) and I think it’s so important for people my age to read stuff like this. Thank you for being blunt, clear and honest in your evaluation of what’s important for us to consider on our job hunt.

    I hope you’ll do a follow up post talking to Millennial about networking. Sure, we’re labeled “digital natives” and there’s an expectation that we’re using and understand social media all the time. This is mostly true, but there’s a big difference between being savvy to how digital communication works and being savvy to how digital communication works for business, clients and making connections.

    Social media has created an opportunity for all of us to be more widely networked than ever. Many college students still don’t understand how important it is to get involved in their communities and chosen industries as early as possible. Up-and-coming PR pros need especially to focus on this, since this industry largely functions on making connections and forming relationships with people, groups and media professionals. I’d love to see an open letter touching on advice for networking via social media, events, conference, volunteering, professional development opportunities, etc and why building a network is important for both a job search and success once in a PR position.

    Becky Johns

  • King23James says:

    This is a fascinating topic for many reasons. I do agree that Millennials have a lot to learn, but I don’t think we’re any different than any other generation was in their 20′s. I do want to know how much you judge someone via their social media use because it does make me uncomfortable. For example: My personal blog is styled as me giving my sports opinions like a guy sitting on a barstool, where as my professional social media blogging is done on my company’s blog. Many of my tweets are sports related but I also talk social media, but my Twitter feed isn’t always professional (I am very conscious of what I put out there, but I do like to joke around, I’m not someone in a suit in my picture who only tweets links to Social Media, Marketing and PR articles). My LinkedIn profile is professionally done and I take great pride in my work as well.

    I also have to take issue with the “Stay put for 3-5 years” take, but my situation is unique. I’ve been on the job for about half a year now being paid a very low hourly wage, but doing higher than entry-level work. I’ve been promised a salary and benefits when new business comes, however my low level of pay has created a level of frustration in my personal and professional life. It’s not ALL about the money to me, however I DO want a salary competitive to what I do in this city and I want a living wage. Should I really stay in this situation for 3-5 years, as you would like me to do? I’m only miserable because of what I’m paid, but what I’m paid way below the ballpark figure of this job. I’m willing to pay my dues and I don’t mean to come off as a “brat Millennial who thinks he’s worth more than he is,” but I want to be paid a fair salary. At this point I can’t afford to move out of my parents’ house because of what I make. Perhaps my perspective of your post is skewed because of my situation, but I have to disagree with the “stay put” angle.

  • Lindsey says:

    I see where you’re coming from in writing this post: a different generation, a different background, a different skill set. You have something we “millennials” do not possess just yet; experience. We want to learn from you but we also want you to take our ideas seriously because they are good.

    Many of the jobs we “millennials” hold were not even created when we went to college, let alone when you attended college (no offense.) How do you expect us to grow and feel as though we are contributing above and beyond our capabilities when such opportunities are not available at your companies? Would you like to devote your life to a company who is not devoted to you? I ask this in regards to today’s corporate culture which unfortunately has been forever altered after the recent recession (which, you should know, is all we really know about the corporate culture because it’s all that we have been exposed to.)

    How can we reach our full potential when job cuts, salary cuts and furloughs makeup the modern work environment? I love hearing stories about, “When we first worked here it wasn’t like this.” And, “We used to have…”.

    As a “Millennial” who has jumped jobs, I find parts of this blog to feel like a lecture.

    “The Millennial Generation is already known for being self-involved and in-a-rush.”

    “It will only get worse if you engage in a lot of job-hopping to find the perfect fit.”

    We’re not looking for perfection. We are looking for a fair salary and the opportunity to grow. Would you stick around if that weren’t being offered to you? It’s not that we’re afraid of hard work, but you’re right- we are smart. If you can’t show us the light at the end of the tunnel, why on earth would we make the journey?

    P.S. Please don’t refer to us as a “gang.” It’s offensive. Thanks.

    • Todd Defren says:

      “We are looking for a fair salary and the opportunity to grow. Would you stick around if that weren’t being offered to you?”

      No. But when it IS offered to you, I’d hope you stick with it, even if there are rough patches along the way. THAT was my point: that there are ALWAYS rough patches along the way.

      P.S. – At least we X’ers call the Millennials smart: the Boomers called the X’ers “The Slacker Generation.” That’s a far worse label than “Self-Involved,” trust me. We got through it, so will you – and so will your kids, Lindsey, when YOUR generation starts calling them “The Whiner Baby Generation” or somesuch. The cream always rises to the top.

  • Danny says:

    Very interesting. I thought the article provided some salient and good information. As for the respondees a lot of the responding comments sound as if they are unaware that we are still recovering from the Great Recession. The Great Depression lasted over 10 years. So 1) jobs are not easy to come by for anyone. Milllennials may not have been in the job market circa 1998. During that time interviews and jobs abound. The country has lost millions of jobs with expectation of replacing them in the near future. Reality check 2). For then next Oh probably? ten to fifteen years baby boomers and their subsequent following generation are going to be the masters of industry and commerce. Albeit, America has a love affair with youth, it has greater love affair with money. And we do not exist in a bubble. Te Chines,Brazil and India are very much in decorum. And it appears those countries are where real economic growth will reside.
    So being condescending and hostility about being unappreciated and the novelty of what you bring to the table for one is nothing new comes. That’s one reason we hire young people in the first place. And that attitude comes across as strident and sophomoric. We all were young once and believe it or not Bill Gates and Paul Allen made their millions and billions early in their careers. So until one gets control of the economy. (side bar, In fact it was the baby boomers that started casual dress in the workplace”. So suck it up pay your dues and when you too are wearing a striped blue suit in the board room. You can complain about the next generation for not adhering to the traditions of Commerce. As an Ol Shool’ former black hippie. I get it, do you? –”Make love not War, for the times they are a changin”

  • Asaad Faquir says:

    Oh my…

    As I commented A LOT on @Bill Sledzik’s original and well put blog. Your post just further emphasizes the fact that a culture clash of fairly epic proportions is looming on the horizon. While I am a “cusper” Millenial, I find bosses and hiring managers unprepared for the realities that abound the NEW ECONOMY, the NEW JOB MARKET, and the NEW BREED of employees that are entering the workforce.

    As I skimmed the comments section, I noticed a lot of commentary on stereotyping of Millenials… to those who see that as unfair, it isn’t, it is fair, most Millenials are overachievers and smarmy and know it all… and that is perfect. You have every right to be that way. Most Boomers were in there late 20′s (as I am now) or mid 30′s before they landed their “breakthrough job”. They were just as smarmy, don’t let them fool you. They shoveled manure, and called it experience, in reality, they just shoveled manure.

    Next up, EMPLOYERS, guess what, this group is coming… attitude and all. You want them to step and fetch, CHALLENGE THEM… don’t know how to challenge them, ASK THEM. If they fail, TEACH THEM, FIRE THEM, FAIL THEM. As @BillSledzik says many haven’t been failed before. The same way you learned from being pushed and punished, so will they.

    On the topic of loyalty… lets face it. Corporate loyalty is dying if not already dead. Case in point the massive amounts of unemployment for those 45 and older or rather, the non-millenials. Do you think Millenials have any interest in being in that same position (although economic reality suggests we will be)? Of course not. We want money now, we want responsibility now and we deserve it. The world is changing at a pace that most Boomers and even Gen-Xers cannot keep up with… which by process of elimination means the majority of Y’s and Millenials have the skills to maximize your businesses. The world today is instant, why not let those who only know INSTANT handle it?


  • matt haupt says:

    Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of the millennial bashing? I know, I understand your post, and I think a lot of what you said is good advice for anyone coming out of college. But again, anyone coming out of college. Times are different, I understand that, but is it really as drastic as people make it seem?

    I am a millennial and I feel like this is lumping my age group together unfairly. The whole self-involved thing really does get me, when I see so many peers working for non-profit organizations and are usually the first people to help out other colleagues when there are problems, or they need assistance.

    I think this whole millennial stereotype needs to take a rest.

    • Todd Defren says:

      FWIW, Matt, I resented being part of the Slacker Generation. Chin up.

    • Julie Wright says:

      Stereotype? Everything I’m reading in the blog post, Matt, rings true to my experience. Matt, if I could be more precise: this blog post is uncannily accurate to my experience with Millennials as an employer.

      Todd, I knew I loved your blog, but this post just sealed it for me! Thank you for taking the time, and I hope that Matt and others take the time to really process its messages.

  • Alissa says:

    Okay, so I sit the borderline between Millennial and Gen Y (although the definitions vary greatly!). I think this post is really well said. I’ve been in the work force for about 6 years. I’ve held 4 different jobs in 3 different companies. Every job I have gotten was because I did my research on a company, maintained a professional appearance, and sculpted a perfected cover letter (individualized for each company, no less), a polished resume and well-thought out questions.

    I know what you mean about the extraneous details on the resume. A boss of mine once told me that there really is no reason to have a two page resume. If you’ve got a good resume, you can highlight your details in one page. I can’t believe how many interns have given me two-page resumes!

  • Thanks for a terrific article. Employers need more discussion around this. More than any other generation, in over 20 years of hiring, I find Millennials are a unique breed.

  • Jason Keller says:

    Dear Employer,

    Thank you for telling me what I have been hearing for the past 18 months. Yes I know that you want a flawless cover letter, yes I know I should know everything about, even what flavor cheesecake you usually get. Yes I know to dress appropriately and look and act professional.

    So now you have vetted the one pothead I know in my class, you haven’t really eliminated the other 1200 of us graduating from my university alone.

    I am not naive enough to say that your are wrong, but I am aware enough to say that you aren’t necessarily doing your best job to hire top talent. It seems as though you are relying on your reputation and established credibility. Thanks for being so traditional. By doing so you are highlighting the fact that I have no credibility and that my credentials can fit onto one page. You are essentially leveraging against those with no leverage. By doing so you seem intimidating and someone I need to desperately impress.

    (this is where you are supposed to say “so? your point?”)

    What is going to happen is that you are going to hire some suck-up from Cornell named Andy Bernard who has reached his maximum potential.

    If the interview was about “us” instead of “you” you would have been able to find the employee who offers more than just talking points. If you came into the interview with your guard down so would we and then you would really to get in my head and be able to identify if I am on the same page as you. Yes a lot of ignorant Millennials think that it is all about “me.” I don’t think I am a member of that population but some of those folks do have talent and if you let them think it is about them then you could see their return potential.

    As for me, I know the world is tough and look forward to working my ass off to prove that I belong. I look forard to our high-pressure interview and hope that I impress the hell out of you. But just know that I am not doing it for you. I am doing it for me and to prove to myself that I belong.

    • Todd Defren says:

      Jason, fair points. But you lost me at “your are wrong.” ;)

      More seriously – if the employer is not making it “about us” then you’ve come to the wrong interview. I get that.

      This is not about “Employer = Clueless, Self-Important Asshole.” Nor is it about “Gen-Y = Self-Absorbed Dickhead.”

      It’s about making sure that the Employer, who presumably has already done something to earn your respect, FEELS that respect – which opens them up to beginning to respect YOU – you know, the perfect stranger who really wants to work there.

      • Jason Keller says:

        Well said Todd.

        As a caveat I love these posts and appreciate the insights provided. As for my post’s lack of clarity, it was my poor ranting technique.

        I was trying to note that interviewees are already intimidated and know who you are. That is why they put on a staged appearance made to impress.

        I would make the argument that if you as an employer were less foreboding, you can probe into interviewees minds more effectively. Millennials are suckers for conversational self disclosure and will open up more insights if the environment accomodated it more.

      • Todd Defren says:

        I hear ya, I really do. FWIW, our own interviews tend to be pretty freakin’ casual oftentimes. Sometimes too much so! – but it does tend to relax people a bit. I always prefer an interesting conversation to an interview.

  • Sarah says:

    While I agree that this is some very useful information for any job-seeker, let alone those in the PR industry or those of the Y Generation, I find it patronizing, and I imagine any millenial job-seeker of any seriousness would find the tone offensive. Dude.

  • Mike says:

    Thanks Todd, spot on as usual. I’ve interviewed dozens and dozens of millenials over the past 2-3 years and for every diamond in the rough, there seem to be twenty candidates who don’t hide that it’s all about them. From asking about $ a few questions into the interview or asking how quickly they can get promoted, to knowing nothing about my agency, clients, culture, etc., it can be disheartening.

    I don’t mean to make all millenials guilty by association. Far from it, as I’ve got some stars who are card carrying millenials.

    However, my “favorite” response from a millenial who I had offered a job to: “Thanks, but I have three interviews next week, can I wait to decide until I see if I find something that is more of a fit?” My response: “Consider the offer rescinded.”

  • John says:


    As a corporate-side, senior guy now hiring additional talent, your words of wisdom ring true for the whole universe of our practice. More than ever before, what we do as communicators, as PR folks is about other (underscore) people. The ability to empathize, sympathize is more needed than ever–and intuition helps heaps more. For as much as media consumption has changed how we work, it–coupled with changing work and social mores–stands to hinder Millenials–and, for that matter, anyone in the profession not always thinking of the messages and audiences so much bigger than they. The tailoring of one’s work interests to their life interests is so significantly human, it is felt often as strongly in the back-half of one’s career. At no point, however, should one believe that that desire trumps the need of the one who needs the talent. Unless, of course, the talent is self-manifested and self-directed (i.e. self-employed).

  • Leesa says:

    Great post. My colleagues and I were just discussing the need for building up personal brands, and I think you make an excellent point about how it’s better for you to have already “heard” of someone before you even see their resume.

  • MIKE MANEY says:

    Can always count on you for a good post that *anyone* looking to crack into PR should read. Some additional thoughts to build on what you wrote:

    * It’s not just about the employer or you; it’s about both of us. I’m listening to the words you say, the tone you use and your body language to make a near instantaneous decision whether you are someone I want to spend the next two years working alongside and coaching. I hope you are doing the same. But remember, I’m the buyer and you are the seller. There are a lot of products on the market that look a lot like you do. Sell me on why I should buy the product you are selling.

    * Don’t worry about me throwing your poorly written, templates cover letter and resume into the trash. Worry about me taping it to my wall of shame for others to see.

    * Don’t even think about touching a thesaurus when you write your resume. Trust me, I’ll know you are padding the text to take up white space. Instead, dive deep into your work history and educational/life experience to tell me something that’s different and unique about you and how it could help me or my clients. Things like telling me you were a hot dog vendor in Yankee Stadium or drove the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile around the country. Trust me, I’ll talk to those two (real) people before I talk to you about how folding shirts at A&F prepared you for dealing with tough clients.

    * Yes, I will Google you. No, I won’t hire you if I can’t find you. This is an industry of extroverts, not introverts. It’s no longer ok to just sit back and play puppet master…you have to be part of the action.

    * I don’t need to see you in a suit, but you damn well better have a sport jacket and an ironed button down shirt. It’s not about formality, it’s about confidence and presence. Show me you can play with people whose years of results have made it so their clients don’t care what they wear as long as they produce.

    * I’m ok with the nose ring. Just don’t show me your nipple ring during the interview.

    * Research. Research. Research. If I know more about you than you know about me, my clients or my team, we’ve got a problem and your interview is going to be muy rapid.

    * Want to stand out? Ask me questions that I’m not already thinking about. It’s ok to, respectfully, make me silently feel dumb in this situation.

    * I moved around a bit when I first started out. Not sure if 3-5 years early on is realistic, but it doesn’t matter. When we talk I’ll know pretty quickly if you are in this for greed or whether you are in it to build a long lasting career. Oh, and I’ll check up on you across my network, so there’s no hiding crappy work (PR is the West Virginia of industries…we’re all related somehow).

    • Todd Defren says:

      Your comment is better than my post.

      • Mike MANEY says:

        Hot topic for me. I guest lecture at a large East Coast university once a semester and see what’s about to hit the marketplace. Granted, it’s only one school, but it is easy to see who is going to make it and who will be the ones emailing me their ransom-note-impersonating resumes and cover letters. Keep up the provocative posts! I point your blog out to the students each time I get in front of them. The smart one(s) read it.

  • Darryl Siry says:


    Your views on this are all well and good, but I think it is wrong to present this as the consensus of the PR industry or employers in general. When a potential employee and employer engage in the recruiting process, it is indeed a two way street. You are evaluating them and they are evaluating you (whether that annoys you or not). You can apply whatever evaluation criteria that is right for you and your firm, and your potential recruits can do the same. If there is a mismatch, then it is best for both sides that you don’t go forward.

    For that reason, I think its bad advice for you to suggest that people change you they are during the interview process by covering a tatoo or removing a piercing. They should present themselves authentically to determine if your company culture will be an inviting place for them. Working in an environment where you can’t be your authentic self is mentally debilitating in my opinion.

    So your advice in the post is still valuable, but only as a guide to what expectations Shift PR and similarly minded firms have for recruits, and is not necessarily good advice in general.

    All the best

    Darryl (@djsiry)

  • DAVID says:

    I don’t think most organizations are properly equipped to keep “rising stars” within their organization, because the top-performers can get more experience, pay, and title faster by job-hopping.

    Our generation does not believe in “loyalty” so we’re going to do whatever we believe is our best self-interest just as I expect the employer to do what is in theirs. I don’t think it’s right to heckle young people for doing what’s best for themselves – I would encourage other young people to do just that. If you want employees to stay longer, you need to make them want to work at your company over the competition in the job market.

    PS – like many of the people commenting, I am also a job-hopper, due to acquisitions, companies going out of business, etc. You shouldn’t blacklist resumes with short tenures, just ask them why then make an individualistic judgement.

    • Carter says:


      I don’t think Todd is suggesting that job-hoppers be blacklisted, but if you have a number of jobs in a short amount of time on your resume, you should expect a question about it.

      If your answer is “more pay and a better title” I’m going to question your value to my team, and for good reason.

      Why should I make an investment in a candidate if he/she is just going to leave after a short time? To use a sports analogy, I’m not looking to build a team of free agents that turns over every few years, I have a franchise to run.

      Can you make more money and get cooler business cards by jumping around? Absolutely. That’s why it’s a manager’s job to make sure that they’re creating opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else, opportunities that go beyond money/status.

      When I make a hire, I’m not just thinking about what kind of potential someone has as an Account Coordinator–I’m thinking about what kind of Account Executive they’ll be, whether they could be management material in a few years.

      That’s what I’m considering when I make a hire. I think it’s fair to expect the person on the other side of the table to be looking for the same.

      • casacaudill says:

        I agree wholeheartedly with this. In fact, I’ve hired people who I know will be a great AE down the road, even if I’m not immediately convinced about their AC skills.

  • Laura says:

    This post seems to be good job-hunting advice for everyone – not specifically Millennials because many people have been ill prepared for their interviews, submitted grammar filled cover letters, and squandered opportunities. Many GenX-ers and Baby Boomers have done disrespectful and unprofessional things to their colleagues – like take credit for someone else’s work, suggest someone on the team be less productive because it makes everyone else look bad, and tell a Millennial to be “sloppier” and “less perfect” (in appearance and work produced) because “it will be more relatable” to others.

    With that in mind, I have to admit that as much as the bottom-up changes suggested in this post are worthwhile for all of us to consider, the focus on Millennials is short sighted and ignores the fact there are also some top-down changes that would benefit us all. “There are supposed to be crummy days when you feel under-appreciated. Such days will occur no matter who signs your paycheck.” Really? I completely disagree, and it seems like a lazy choice to say we are okay with under appreciating people today because once they’ve paid their dues we might decide they are valuable and appreciate them in the future.

    I will agree that work isn’t always the most fun, but that’s okay and overlooked when the management creates a structure that cultivates an environment of mutual – not one way – respect. It isn’t easy to do, but it is possible. I’ve seen it happen, and it is a mystery to me why more of us don’t aim for it. We spend the vast majority of our time at work. Why should we be okay with anyone spending days or years of being walked all over?

    Several years ago, I worked under the best manager I have ever known. Our team worked harder, stayed later – and actually enjoyed doing so because the director built us up and created an environment of mutual respect. I’m not saying the director came around patting everyone on the back and giving lots of feedback, but he made sure we all knew we had his respect and appreciation. We also knew our hard work made him look better to the president, board, and external stakeholders. The harder we worked, the better he looked – and the more he shared his appreciation for us to others. That in turn made us all want to work harder because we didn’t want to let him down or not meet the image of our team that he’d created.

    The better we treat our team, the harder they will work and the less they will feel under-appreciated. The fact that under-appreciation was how it was for some of us does not mean that is how it should be for anyone “no matter who signs your paycheck”. We can change the notion that the first years of employment are supposed to be horrible. If we do, I bet the respect we give to our next batch of incoming workers will be returned. Maybe we don’t like that Millennials have recognized the flaws in our system and are not accepting them. If we expect respect to be a one-way process, we get a sorority/fraternity hazing process. We treat people poorly and exploit them early on because someone did it to us. Why are we then surprised to not have their genuine respect?

    Work should be a place where we recognize that everyone has something to offer. Yes, everyone. If we expect that we all come to work wanting to do a good job and get through the day in the most pleasant way possible, we might find that we all do better, feel better, and go farther. Perhaps the more respect we give and the more responsibility we each take, the better we will all look to each other and the more we might even learn from one another.

    There seems to be a better approach than blaming Millennials, and I encourage us all to recognize it. Millennials, might I add, are the product of the environment the GenX-ers and Baby Boomers created so take that finger and turn it around. There might just be some “smarmy qualities” Millennials have to look past as well. If we stop blaming and start looking a little harder in the mirror, there’s probably a lot we can all learn from one another rather than simply furthering the flawed system that has made us each feel bad along the way. We can all be part of the solution, and I hope we will all make that choice before we start blaming the next generation for not respecting the disrespectful system we created.

  • Therese says:

    This is a great post, although I do disagree with some of the points made. I am currently looking for a new opportunity and I decided I needed to put my notice in at the prior firm I worked with so I could focus on just this. It may not sound that bright, with the level of competition that exists and the state of the economy, but it was something I felt I needed to do.

    I do agree with a lot of your points; you should do your research; you should ask questions, and not for the sake of asking questions, but because you care and you want to make sure it is a good fit. I agree that writing skills are important, but I think it also depends on the position. Is this more of a creative position or a technical corporate communications type of position?

    “Let me be even more specific. When you are hunting for a job, it’s not about you. It’s about me, the employer. I recently chatted with a fellow industry vet who regaled me with stories of twenty-something job candidates whose questions included, “Why don’t you tell me why I’d want this job?””

    I disagree with this above statement. I am 29 and I did not do things the traditional way: go to college, obtain a degree, internships, etc. I am currently 2 years shy of my Bachelors and have been working for nearly 15 years. So, with that said, when I was in my early 20′s I did take the first job that I was offered; I asked questions only because I knew that was expected; and, I put all of the power in the employers hands.

    However, I will never do that again. It is about me, it is about how happy I will be in that position, it is about how the position will challenge me. It is about you as well, but more importantly it is about me. If I am not happy or if I don’t feel appreciated then I am not going to be at my best; and if I am not my best then there is really no point in me being there.

    Interviews are a two way street; it may not seem this way since you are sitting in the employers territory when doing the interview, but it truly is, at least in my humble opinion.

    Note: “Why don’t you tell me why I’d want this job?” <- I would never word it this way as it sounds arrogant.

    I know this post seems to be geared specifically at the Millennials, but the reason I accepted any old job in the beginning was due to me not understanding my own worth. I grew and I learned that happiness in your job is extremely important and you should make sure that it is a good fit on both sides.

  • Sid Raisch says:

    Once you get the job, or if you are among the alphabet generations and have the job please consider those other than your own generations who may purchase the products or from the companies and organizations you are working for. If you aim all your marketing messages to attract people like yourselves by appealing to what would appeal to you there will be a lot of us older folks who will see through it and take our money where WE are also appreciated. Youth is attractive for a while. Youthfulness and wisdom together are more attractive to the over 40 crowd. You don’t have to wait to become older to appreciate that older people have developed a richer, deeper psycho-graphic level than you have, just like we don’t have to be younger to figure out what attracts you. The question may be, should we want to attract each other – how?

  • OK…I wasn’t going to chime in since I’ve been on this rant for what seems like forever. But, as usual, Todd, you’re right on everything you say, including the part about writing. Take a look at my most recent blog (posted while blood was still boiling on Sunday!) on this very subject.

    I’m delighted to hear that you ditch letters/resumes with errors. That’s what I say day after day in my classes at Curry College; now I have another respected public relations professional echoing my words.

    Some day…

  • The first 2/3′s of this post seems like common sense – I don’t really understand why it’s directed at Gen Y. The advice applies to everyone.

    I wanted to comment specifically on the section about after you get the job, how you are supposed to stay loyal to your company for 3-5 years, at least. This has not been important in my experience, and would have been detrimental to my career. If I had stayed where I was for 3-5 years right out of school, I wouldn’t be the Director of Digital Communications at my agency or have an MBA from one of the top 5 business schools in the country. I’m proud of my accomplishments and the roundabout way I got to where I am now. By the way, I’m 26 years old.

    The next argument could be that I must be like one of those job-hopping, unqualified VP presidents… yeah, okay. At the end of the day, I’m in the job I’m in because I was the best candidate for the position and for the company. Todd clearly prefers candidates with solid experience at just a few companies, while another employer might prefer something entirely different. That doesn’t make one person better than the other; perhaps just better for a certain position at a certain company. I completely respect Todd’s stance on what he’s looking for – I just know not to apply for any jobs with his company now.

    My advice to everyone who reads this – follow your own path! You know what will work best for you and what pace you should move at in your career. Loyalty to your employer is a good thing, but there is no rule for how long you stay. There are rewards in taking calculated risks that you’ve thought through – especially in a bad economy.

  • Paul Furiga says:

    Dear Todd,

    Excellent post. I just commented on @BillSledzik’s post, which is a great companion to yours. One point I want to make that I haven’t seen here yet:

    While it is possible that some nasty Boomers or Xers make the demands you suggest of their Millennial colleagues out of pure spite or evil intent, that’s rare.

    My 30 years in journalism and PR have demonstrated to (sometimes through painful experience) that these demands and standards apply equally in the marketplace of ideas, regardless of age or age-based stereotype/generalization. As PR pros (or Millennials or Boomers or Xers or whatevers), there is no exception.

    The world of work is equally cruel (and wonderful) to us all. Is this generation being branded, perhaps unfairly? Uh, duh. It happened to boomers, and I’m sure it’s happened throughout history. Are the future leaders of the PR biz and the world in this generation? Again, duh.

    Until the biology of humans (and human nature) is fundamentally changed, we are all going to have these formative experiences that should mold us into better human beings, leaders and PR pros.

    Thanks for saying it plain and providing good advice and counsel for the bright young minds who will be charged with making the field even better in the future.

  • As a Senior Account Manager at SHIFT on a team THAT IS HIRING (hint, hint) my biggest pet peeve is when someone tells me they don’t have any questions for me. I get that you’ve just spoken with an AC, AE and SAE but as the person who could be your future boss, you’re going to want to impress me. If you tell me you don’t have any questions for me you’re also telling me (1) you don’t care about my opinion and (2) you can’t think beyond the basics – neither of which is going to make me want you on my team.

    Beyond having NO questions, the other biggest mistake you can make is to only ask me about your hours and your salary because this tells me you’re not a team player, you won’t work hard and you’re likely not invested in SHIFT but rather the place that gives you the most money (heck, that might even be us!). My team is badass and we work hard – you’ll need to show me that while we’re here getting just one more briefing or three more hits, you’ll roll up your sleeves and be here right alongside us.

    PR is hard, I won’t lie. You could have been the best damn student ever to grace your program and aced all of your PR classes but it doesn’t matter (because agency PR is nothing like they teach you in school, trust me). Come in with a humble attitude, willing to learn and then work as hard as everyone around you and your job can also be very rewarding. But – you have to earn it because I’m not just going to give it to you because you graduated from a good school.

  • windump says:

    if you can get more money someplace else – go for it – loyalty is for losers

  • Mike says:

    Really solid post. As a millennial, I know I’ve fallen into the trap of being a little too casual with writing my cover letters and not doing all of the necessary research before an interview. With a little less than a month before I graduate, I have recently become aware of how serious applying for a REAL job can be.

    This post was eye-opening and I’m glad to have read it. You mentioned “niceties of follow-up,” but didn’t dive into it much. Would you mind expanding on this a bit?


    • Todd Defren says:

      Yea, sorry, I meant to – but the advice is simple. BE SURE to send a nice follow-up note, referring back to some conversational bits from your chat at the agency (i.e., customize it).

  • Sara Kate says:

    Dear Todd,

    I applaud and thank you whole-heartedly for this advice. As a “Cusper” of the Millenial generation, I’ve been in the workforce for a few years and I wish I had been fortunate enough to have this advice when I first left college and was applying for jobs. You have done a great job of giving a little tough love, which is exactly what young job-seekers need right now.

    Thanks again,

  • Thanks for the great advice!

    I have been job hunting for awhile now, and on my first interview I think I came off as a “totally into herself entitled millennial” but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I was extremely interested in the job, and I had a ton of questions! I didn’t realize I only had 15 minutes with each of the 4 interviewers, and I ended up spending the whole time with the first person asking questions about the job and not what I could do for the firm. It was a learning experience, and I won’t make that mistake again. Truth is, I am willing to work hard, do grunt work, I even traveled to Chicago on my own dime to take the interview. I don’t expect to be put up in a five start hotel, or have an unlimited expense account, I was just genuinely interested and didn’t know any better. This is what we millennials refer to as an interview FAIL. I will readily admit that. I will definitely take this letter into account next time I have an interview. I have been doing most of it already, but I could definitely improve in some areas.

    At the same time, I have been told at interviews for entry-level jobs that there are other applicants who have 5 years of experience applying because of the tough economy. If I’m competing against non-millenials, I don’t think it’s fair for you to see that I’m 24 and automatically assume I fall into this “obnoxious millennial” category, and read into my resume, my answers etc, and assume the worst about me. Maybe this sounds like a whiney millennial thing to say “boo hoo it’s not fair”, but age discrimination is illegal.

    Older generations thinking that the younger generations are lazy and entitled is not a new phenomenon. Sure, we may be out of touch with the real world, but that’s because we haven’t worked in it yet! On the bright side, young entry-level candidates have their advantages- we aren’t set in our ways, you can train us how you want us, we have tons of energy, we’re excited about the industry, we’re up on what’s new and happening in the world. Don’t make the mistake of writing us off!

    • Todd Defren says:

      If I was willing to write ya’ll off, I wouldn’t care enough to write the post. The Millennials are mostly AWESOME. Just need a little help steering the course…

      And DON’T WORRY about candidates with 5 years’ experience wrangling for the same job. They tend to be overqualified and (this is a huge generalization) once the economy gets better, they either ask for big raises (to “catch up” to where they think they should be) or find greener pastures. Most employers know this, but maybe want to scare ya into pushing all the more eagerly for the job…

  • Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Todd. And sorry I’m late to the party. I spent the past 4 hours teaching and advising a bunch of Millennials. It’s what I do.

    I’m a big fan of this generation, and even raised two Millennials of my own, now 25 and 28. One works in advertising, the other in PR. Crazy, huh?

    The Millennials are bright, ambitious and adventurous. And nothing seems to scare them. I like that. But let me reinforce one of your key points– the one about patience. OK, I wasn’t the least bit patient early in my career, either, but I tapped into the wisdom of those “greatest generation” folks I worked for. I spent 4 years on that first PR job, which meant I had a good bit of knowledge and experience when I made the first big move. I was ready.

    The job-search advice you offer is exactly what I offer students in the classroom. Difference is, you do the hiring. They’ll listen to you!

  • I agree with your points Todd. But, I’d like to contend that this is more of a “young kids” issue than a generational one. Generation X were known as the Slacker Generation, after all. Until they grew up. :)

    For fun, let me throw in how to hire Gen-Xers
    “Generation X won’t do things because they have a deep sense of mission, or loyalty to an organization. They have nothing but disdain for corporate politics and bureaucracy and don’t trust any institution. They grew up watching their parents turn into workaholics, only to be downsized and restructured out of their chosen careers. They believe work is a thing you do to have a life (work doesn’t define their life).”

    “The changes don’t stop once Gen-Xers are hired…Remember, this is the generation brought up on instant gratification.”

    “Now that you know Gen-Xers don’t come cheap, you need to know that some candidates seek something besides money: They want to improve their quality of life (exhibit 2). A raise of more than 20% wasn’t enough to entice one established Gen-Xer”

  • As a senior in college preparing to enter the work force in a year, I greatly appreciate this post. Thanks for the sound advice, it will be put into practice.

  • Megan says:

    Hi Todd -

    Great post. However, one follow up question comes to mind regarding a practice specific position, which isn’t the right fit. As a PR professional new to the industry, 2.5 years, I entered into a practice area that I thought as a recent graduate may be a good fit. I’ve given it over two years now, and two seperate jobs, as I just recently moved after spending two years at my first agency. I changed positions due to the fact that the new job would offer me opportunities outside of the practice area that I have been seemingly assigned by my superiors; unfortunatley, this has not happened and I feel that I’m being pigeon-holed into becoming an expert in this particular field. This is distressing to me as I know that I do not want to focus on this area for the long haul.

    I’ve applied to a few other positions in other practice areas that I believe suit me better, however, I feel it will be difficult to convince potential future employers that despite my background that I’d be a great fit for their position.

    In essence – how do I even get an interview for a job in a different practice area when my resume offers little? I’ve done my best in reworking both my cover letter and resume to reflect the skills and experiences that I have relevant to a new position, but have not seen much traction.

    • Todd Defren says:

      My advice: Be as candid and sincere as you’ve been in this comment, AND, be sure to show off the great work you did even while in the “WRONG” position, i.e., I did pretty great work in the wrong field and know I can do truly great work in the RIGHT field.”

  • Charlsie says:

    Great post! Thank you for the honest advice and for injecting your sense of humor too. I always appreciate when you give it to me straight. Puns never hurt either.

    As a millenial, advising millenials at NC State University, I can relate to the issues that define our generation. Your suggestions will be a great topic for discussion with my students as they plan their job search (and as I go through my own).

    As a recent grad, I have primarily held short-term positions consisting of mostly internships, temporary jobs, and a graduate assistantship, in which my contract is nearing its expiration. As I join the masses of millenials searching for an entry-level position, I am hoping my resume doesn’t read “flake” to agencies and hiring managers. After reading your advice, I was left with a few questions. Primarily, how can I show that I am loyal and not a self-absorbed job-hopping twenty-something and how do I let employers know that I am focused on their interests and success as well as my own?

  • FMJohnson says:

    Here’s a recent article in The Atlantic that goes deeper into this topic:

    How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

    “Many of today’s young adults seem temperamentally unprepared for the circumstances in which they now find themselves. Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has carefully compared the attitudes of today’s young adults to those of previous generations when they were the same age.

    “Using national survey data, she’s found that to an unprecedented degree, people who graduated from high school in the 2000s dislike the idea of work for work’s sake, and expect jobs and career to be tailored to their interests and lifestyle. Yet they also have much higher material expectations than previous generations, and believe financial success is extremely important…

    “Ron Alsop, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and the author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace, says a combination of entitlement and highly structured childhood has resulted in a lack of independence and entrepreneurialism in many 20-somethings. They’re used to checklists, he says, and ‘don’t excel at leadership or independent problem solving.’

    “Alsop interviewed dozens of employers for his book, and concluded that unlike previous generations, Millennials, as a group, ‘need almost constant direction’ in the workplace. ‘Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules.’”

    • Todd Defren says:

      Scary: “to an unprecedented degree, people who graduated from high school in the 2000s dislike the idea of work for work’s sake, and expect jobs and career to be tailored to their interests and lifestyle. Yet they also have much higher material expectations than previous generations, and believe financial success is extremely important.”

  • This is so spot on–and not just for PR agencies. I’d like to send this to a few folks who have taken a twirl through my consulting firm.

    I might add too, once you get the job please don’t expect all the perks of senior staff. You haven’t proved yourself yet. Privileges must be earned.

  • Guhmshoo says:

    Deer Todd,

    Thank U for this grate post. I wuld luv to werk for U and yer grate ferm. U shuld hire me cuz I’m jist got a Shift Comm. tatoo on my but.

    Sorrie for all the errers. Im texting on my smrtfone.

    Millenially yers,


  • Todd,

    Great advice for any young job seeker but especially for PR professionals.

    I would also add “respect” to the mix. While you’re correct we, as employers, quickly learn the skills young professionals bring to the party, that doesn’t mean they are going to be VPs tomorrow. Instead, seize the opportunity to learn from senior level managers and demonstrate to them your eagerness. In turn, most senior managers will also treat young professionals with respect and desire to learn from them. None of us started at the top and it’s important young pros understand they need to begin there as well.

    It’s the sharing relationship, built on trust and respect for each other, that is the key to growth and success.

  • This letter is like gold for millenial job seekers. Our talented generation has a lot to offer our employers if we would simply humble ourselves and get to work. Gen X has done a good job adopting to the social media we were raised on. Gen Y should adopt the more traditional office/interview etiquette that we are so unfamiliar with.

  • Kelly Lux says:

    This is the best advice I have seen in a while…it’s the message I have been trying to get across to the students I work with at Syracuse University, one of (if not) the best PR schools in the country. I love your advice on getting involved in social media, it still seems to be a hard sell, but in my opinion a no-brainer. Another important point here is to make the cover letter about the employer ~ students have a really tough time talking to the employer about what they have to offer them specifically, it is usually just a rehash of what they did in their internships. I’m going to RT this to my followers on Twitter and send it around to all the career people here at the University. Thanks!

  • Josh morris says:


    Thanks for talking some sense into me. Coming from a current industry professional, it’s nice to have a reality check and become grounded again.

    I’m going through the job search and applications processes right now and although I don’t want to admit it to be more than I can handle, it’s definitely not a walk in the park. I’ve always been an optimist, and a bit of an idealist, but the deeper into my search the more of a realist I’m becoming. “I’m a great student, great person and I know great people, so I should be a shoe-in to my dream job, right?” I laugh at myself for ever having thought that way…

    Talking to other PR industry pros, the main advice I get is: do grunt work, be the go-to new guy and bust your ass no matter where you find a starting gig and the rest will take care of itself. No, that perfect position for me may not be my entry level position, but I know it’s out there and in due time I will make it happen.

    Thanks for the advice!


  • Rachel Kay says:


    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been interviewing for some time now, and it pains me that in such a touch economy that applicants don’t take some extra time needed to impress me. I actually have had more than one interviewee, when asked what it was about my agency that made them want to apply, that it was simply that I was hiring.

    For me, the most important thing is a knowledge of the clients and industries I cover. Simply put, my clients are so important to me (for obvious reasons, I wouldn’t be in business with out them). But aside from the obvious, I truly love each and everyone of them and in my mind, any applicant should show a similar passion in wanting to work with them specifically. If you can’t do any research on my clients let’s not waste each others time. Come in and tell me what intrigues you about them, and what knowledge or skills you have that will elevate my programs and help us bring them even more success.

    Rachel Kay

  • Kelly Rusk says:

    Besides some over-generalization, I think this is pretty accurate and good advice for many.

    However I do strongly disagree with “There is no such thing as a perfect fit. ” and your thoughts on staying put.

    I say this from the perspective of a sort of “early” millennial who’s been in the workforce for almost 5 years now.

    I *had* the perfect fit. I had the greatest job in the world, I would still be there if it weren’t for unforeseen circumstances (the company was acquired and not the same afterward, though I did stick it out and try for another year).

    Therefore the last 4 years, I’ve been doing a bit of jumping. After having the perfect fit, I don’t really want to “settle”.

    I have really LIKED every job I’ve had and put forth my best possible effort, but not LOVED the way I did the first, and I want that again. Not because I’m selfish or entitled, but because I without a doubt provided the BEST work to my employer and achieved my greatest success which I still haven’t matched since. It’s a two-way street.

    So my point is, you shouldn’t fault a young person for a range of experience, I have no regrets about any of the positions I have taken, and I’ve taken every one with the intent to stay put for a while. Also I feel the range of experience I’ve had has been of great benefit to me. I do long for a position I will stay in long term AND produce the best work possible for the benefit of myself and my employer.

    • Todd Defren says:

      I empathize Kelly, I do … I am not suggesting that you subject yourself to abject misery for years. But, as an employer, when I see that someone has rarely stayed for more than 2 years at any one job, I think: “self-absorbed – maybe a malcontent.”

      Keep in mind that it is not only you making the investment: the employer makes a SIGNIFICANT investment in recruitment, training, etc., all of which is LOST if you’re gone 12-24 months later. I’d rather invest in someone I have a sense is right for the job and will be loyal for a good long while. It doesn’t always work out, but it remains the goal.

      • Michelle says:


        I agree with you in theory, but I think the reality of today’s market makes it difficult for many (especially work force newbies) to stay in one job for 3-5 years. With M&A, downsizing, etc. may jobs are in jeopardy and employees would be foolish to not always have a resume polished and an eye on other opportunities–not because of disloyalty or money-grubbing but because of what’s going on in the profession. Also, although you cite the expense of training a new employee and ROI as a reason an employee should stay, again, in today’s climate and with many states being “at will,” there’s no guarantee that an employer is going to show the same loyalty. I teach PR in a top-10 journalism school and I counsel students to plan to spend about two years in the first job, unless of course they love the company/organization and then, by all means, stay!

        One other comment I’d like to make (though I primarily agree with all of your points) is that while I agree that all job-seekers should understand and engage in social media, not all of them should blog. For someone committed to working in SM/tech/etc then absolutely–an online presence is essential. For someone who may have another focus, use LinkedIn, FB, Twitter strategically, follow thought leaders in your area, make observant comments, etc but do not blog unless it’s something you are committed to keeping up with and actually have something to say.

        Just my two cents. Thanks for a great post.

      • Todd Defren says:

        I understand your point. I just disagree. While OF COURSE there are exceptions (don’t toil too long in misery; oops, my agency got acquired; etc.), overall there is just WAY TOO MUCH job hopping in PR. It’s a detriment to the profession, all around.

      • Kelly Rusk says:

        But doesn’t an under performing employee cost you much more in the long run? I mean, I guess it is a fine line, I’ve seen people get in a huff about minor issues and whatnot. Attitude is most important.

        All I’m saying is I don’t think it should be a hard and fast rule. Also living in government town, I see many young promising workers quickly become jaded and disillusioned-I surely don’t want to turn into that because I felt I *had* to stay put.

      • Todd Defren says:

        I think we agree more than we disagree, Kelly. ;)

      • Perhaps the solution to job-hopping is to show value to employees on a consistent basis and encourage their growth.

        Also, we have to be realistic here…

        MOST graduates/entry-level practitioners are NOT going to have more than two years at a company before they get to you … especially in this industry. Most people don’t know what public relations is until they get in their Junior or Senior year anyway, and even then, you have to find out what you want to do in public relations.

        We as a profession don’t even completely agree on one definition of PR so how can employers expect new grads/entry-level workers to stick with one place of employment prior to graduating? It just doesn’t work out that way. This is a unique profession with a vast amount of duties and skills that vary upon sector and position. Give entry-level workers a chance to find themselves.

      • Todd Defren says:

        A chance? Sure. Two chances? OK. FIVE chances (i.e., 5 different jobs, 1-2 years each)? Sorry, not getting hired. Pattern established.

        We might lose good candidates this way, but we see plenty of good candidates with more stable track records, too.

        Keep in mind that the employee departure not only hurts the agency in terms of lost investment: the agency ALSO needs to explain the churn to the client. Never a good conversation to get into.

      • Elizabeth Poeschl says:


        That’s the beauty of internships. Because I had four 3-month internships at PR firms/agencies before starting my career, I knew exactly what to look for in an agency and position to guarantee that it would be a place where I could stay for years. I know that you’re not one of them, but too many people our age don’t even think about their career until graduation or even after graduation. I’m not saying that everyone should know exactly what they want when they graduate, but they shouldn’t expect to get their “dream job.”

        My friend is a perfect example of a self-indulgent millennial. He expected a certain salary (in engineering) and turned down numerous excellent offers because they weren’t high enough for him. He even told a company that their more than generous offer was “insulting.” In the end, he got the salary he wanted 8 months after graduation, but now 2 months later, he’s unhappy at the company and already planning to move to another company. Great guy, but I don’t know why anyone would hire him.

    • Angela says:

      I would also have to argue that staying in the same place for 3-5 years might be a little much for two main reasons.
      1- As a fresh PR gal/guy it can be hard to get a job. But when you do, you may not understand what should or should not be required of you–even if you have had internships. There are agencies out there that prey on entry level PR folks. They pay them terribly low salaries (telling them that is just how it is) and otherwise take advantage of them. It is not until one looks elsewhere (with a least some experience to back them) that they find out that where they were was not the norm.
      2- Smaller agencies often do not have the budget nor the room to promote, especially if there has been a cure group for quite some time. For that reason one might need to look elsewhere before the 3-5 year mark to get ahead.

      Otherwise, great post!

      • 1986 says:


        I think I’ve landed that agency that “preys on entry level PR folks”.

        Six months into my first job, I command 35% of the billing in a 4 person PR shop (that is part of a 30-40 person agency), have personally signed on a new client (albeit small), and have been selected to co-coordinate projects and represent the agency solo in a few month stint abroad for a newly signed client in China worth upwards of 100k/month. The co-coordinating SAM will remain stateside.

        Those accomplishments proudly have blood, sweat, and tears (lost social life?) behind them. My work quality exceeds my title (AAE), pay (42k), and age (23). My direct supervisor agrees.

        Yet, upper management balks at a raise (to 50-55k) and title bump (to AE). I agree that experience is essential for boosting marketing acumen—but my performance and aptitude for PR/marketing in my specific vertical should be recognized.

        I’ve never shied from hard work, don’t care for job-hopping, but my stomach churns at being pinned in a company that doesn’t reward investment—with salary, paid continuing education, or otherwise. Worse for me is that lack of reward dulls my motivation 50+ hour workweek by 50+ hour workweek without overtime. And I can’t let that happen.

        Is my attitude Millennial? Am I misjudging my situation?


      • Todd Defren says:

        SHIFT is hiring!

      • Bill Van cleaf says:

        @1986, your point reveals the common management view that Millennials are spoiled little brats and should be grateful for everything they’ve “given” us.

        Boomers might call us smart, but they don’t treat us that way. I AM smart, more thoughtful in my decision making than I am often given credit for, and look for guidance from I trust when making important decisions. Like you, if I’m coming forward asking for more, it’s because the request is well thought out and based on performance. Nothing Millennial about your attitude, it’s about receiving the same respect and consideration that others with more “experience” demand.

      • bill van cleaf says:

        A note to my future employers: Please judge me based on my portfolio, character, ability to think critically and other things I hope come out during interviews. What you think you know about me as a 28 year-old is most likely wrong.

        While I tire of Millennial bashing, I’m more bothered that this generation is singled out, and the same critique isn’t being applied to Boomers and X-ers.

        I know that this happens as each generation comes of age. Given that there are currently three/four generations in the workforce, maybe it’s time to reevaluate these stereotypes (yes, @Julie Wright, these are stereotypes). While hiring managers are asking how they can work with younger employees, we’re asking the same thing about older ones.



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