Home > Uncategorized > Philosophy and PR have “how” in common

Philosophy and PR have “how” in common

If you’ve read my “about me” section, you know that I majored in philosophy, not public relations. Seemingly unrelated fields, yes, but I guarantee you my college degree has been a major contributor to my success in and enjoyment of my profession.  Today, I’d like to explain why. If you’re seeking work and have been forced to look outside your existing realm of education and experience, this might help you discover what you might enjoy doing, what you’re capable of, and why your “soft skills” are assets to potential employers.

As many people do, I had an intense existential crisis upon graduation, sparked by the certainty that I no longer wanted to devote my life to professordom. How, exactly, do you make the quantum metaphysical applications to the study of consciousness into an asset for a potential employer who’s not a unraphael-Plato-Aristotle_yoestiversity or a book publisher?

I figured it out by accident. I was poring through job listings, and came upon a PR position at a marketing communications agency. I read the description and applicable skills and thought “Boy, that would be fun, and I would be really good at that.” I read the required qualifications and thought, “Boy, I don’t have any of that.”

Despite having no coursework, let alone a degree, in communications, and despite a glaring lack of the requested three to five years of agency experience, I sat down to figure out why I was so convinced I could do the job.  I finally figured out that nobody cares about the content of my study, but they might care about how I studied it. Let’s take a look at “what I was doing” (the processes and skills applied) when I worked, rather than “what I did” (the actual product).

As I studied and worked in philosophy, I learned how to research; how to critically analyze a concept or thought sequence; how to apply external influencers to understanding and elucidating concepts; to construct and communicate an argument; to write elegantly, concisely, and persuasively; to think strategically to anticipate and mitigate problems; and to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated concepts. All this, coupled with my enjoyment of talking to strangers, made me a prime candidate for the field of public relations.

I sent in a resume and an aggressive (and slightly arrogant) cover letter describing who I was, why I was applying, and why they really ought to hire me. Turns out, poise, tenacity, and chutzpah are also hallmarks of a successful PRer, because they decided to bring me in for an interview. A second interview and a couple of writing assignments later, they hired me.  I was lucky to find a firm that believed enough in me to train and guide me, and I’ve benefitted ever since from the intelligence, talent, and patience of the principals at that agency.

If you find an open position that’s outside your comfort zone but you think you can handle it, ask yourself why. It probably lies in what you know “how” to do rather than what you know.  Sing it in an A+ cover letter. With luck, you’ll find someone who’ll take a calculated risk on you, too.

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