Career Guide

“Do’s” for Helping a Public Relations Job Search: Pay it Back/Pay it Forward

Continuing in the HAPPO spirit, I thought I’d remind my fellow public relations professionals of how important it is to “pay it back” and “pay it forward” in return for their good fortune in being gainfully employed.

As a PRSA Jobcenter mentor, I’ve responded to more than 100 inquiries in the last year about searching for public relations positions and landing “the ideal job.” These questions have covered nearly every conceivable topic, including cold calling, search techniques, bad bosses, jumping ship and jumping fences, compelling resumes, coaching references and network building. I’ve seen or heard the good, the bad and, frankly, the downright ugly.

Looking back, what consistently strikes me is a general failure to comprehend the art of “doing well by doing good.” I’m talking about paying it back and paying it forward. While it may be a generalization, many gainfully employed professionals are quick to forget the nature of job searches, and the frustration endured by job seekers. Sometimes it bears remembering those times when they were on the opposite side of the interviewer’s desk.

With that in mind, here are a few “do’s” for any working stiff who is contacted by job-searching professionals anxious to get out of the unemployment queue and into a paying public relations gig:

  1. Respond to requests for advice, connections or referrals. Sure you’re busy, but could you spare a moment to help a friend, or even a potential friend or colleague?
  2. Heed the past. The last time you were looking for a job, do you remember how disappointing it was not to receive responses to your inquiries or requests for assistance? Why not devote 15 minutes of your lunch hour to making a couple of calls or sending a few emails to help connect folks in your network?
  3. Return the favor. Is anyone who helped you during your career currently facing challenging job prospects? How about the vendor who saved your skin, or the client that kept you in business when times were lean? Reciprocity is a two-way street; get busy helping.
  4. Be proactive. When a recruiter calls looking for referrals, take a moment to offer the names of friends and/or colleagues who might fit the job description.
  5. Look inside your own four walls. Are jobs going begging in your own company? Reach out to contacts who may be qualified, and encourage your company to interview them.
  6. Say a good word. If professionals in your network are looking for new opportunities, consider endorsing their capabilities. Websites, such as LinkedIn, are a great platform to sing the praises of folks who have done a particularly spectacular job for you as your boss, employee, supplier or mentor (or as your nemesis!).
  7. Help a public relations student. Support aspiring professionals through your college alma mater or local Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. Take some time to serve as a mentor, just like the professional(s) who at one time showed you the way, or gave you advice for avoiding common career pitfalls. While spreading your own wings, take a couple young people under them.
  8. Pass along this message to your friends, colleagues and even family. Share this blog post, or repost it on your own blog. Tweet about it. Link to it from your Facebook page, and push it out via your Linkedin groups.

Paying it back and paying it forward is the moral thing to do. In this — or any — economy, helping others always pays dividends and sets a great example for others to follow.

If you can help someone land, it might one day help you take off.

Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, serves as Secretary on the PRSA Board of Directors and is the
CEO of Redphlag in San Bruno, Calif.

About the author

Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA


  • Hello: Bravo, Gerard. I wholeheartedly support your message here. Like most in public relations (and other professions), I’ve been on both sides of the equation. Right now, I’m seeking a new full-time position here in Chicago. I don’t have a job to give, but I’m always open to assist anyone who wants advice and direction, especially those breaking into the industry. I continue to volunteer my time advancing Accreditation through my work on the Universal Accreditation Board and PRSA Chicago. There’s no question in my mind that I’m still a vital, contributing public relations professional, and I have a modest roster of small clients who’ll support that statement. When I was “fully” employed, I always found time to help a colleague or someone referred to me. Your post should be read by all professionals; it’s sound advice. I will promote your post now.

  • Thanks Gerard. Your suggestions are right on. We all need to help one another. The cliche is true: None of us got here by ourselves. I’ve lost count of the number of resumes and email referrals I’ve reviewed and shared. But having changed jobs three times in the past six years (not all by choice), I was inspired, encouraged, and uplifted again and again by colleagues willing to share advice during my job searches. These are tough times for many and it’s the least we can do for one another.

  • Edward and Barbara:

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful comments and insights. Help me spread the word.

    In this environment you just never know when the shoe will be on the other foot.

    I am reminded of a Chinese quote that goes like this:

    If you want happiness for a day, go fishing; If you want happiness for a month, get married; If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune; If you want happiness for a lifetime. help someone else!

    Best regards,


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