By Justin Goldsborough | November 28, 2010
Note: HAPPO (Help a PR Pro Out) is an online community started by Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon. It’s members strive to help PR pros who are looking for jobs connect with organizations looking to hire in order to identify potential opportunities for both sides. I am the HAPPO regional champion for Kansas City. The next HAPPO online event is Dec. 8. Follow the #happo hashtag on Twitter for more details and to get involved.
Looking for a job is hard work. Frustrating, embarrassing, lonely are all words I’ve used of heard others use to describe the process. Frustrating, because you don’t know where to start. Embarrassing, because it’s takes so long. Lonely, because it seems like you have to do it all by yourself and you’re the only one looking, while your friends all have jobs.
I experienced all three of these emotions and more as a grad student at Northwestern in 2003 trying to find my first job out of high school. I wanted to find the job all by myself. I researched the opportunities myself, wrote the cover letters myself, updated my resume myself, put together the clip packets myself, reviewed all the materials myself. I didn’t reach out to friends, family, my adviser, even the placement office. Pretty impressive, huh?
Try pretty stupid. I felt lost throughout the entire process and was frustrated that I was lost. I was about to graduate with a masters of journalism degree, shouldn’t I know how to go about getting an entry level journalism or PR job? Now I know the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.” But back then, I just kept blindly applying for jobs, often with mistakes in my cover letters, resumes or clips because I’d been the only one to review them. Talk about embarrassing. How about sending a cover letter to The Kansas City Star and realizing you forgot to capitalize the word Star. Something a second pair of eyes would have undoubtedly caught. And that’s just one example.
But by far, without a doubt, the worst part of my grad school job search was trying to go through it alone. Especially because I didn’t have to. Northwestern had and still has a myriad of placement office resources. My friends would have been more than willing to help. I could have called up any colleagues from my Sprint internships, especially the ones I knew from IABC, and they would have lent a hand. And my family would have done whatever they could, even if that was just serving as my much-needed second set of eyes.
I know all that now. But I was bound and determined to do it all myself, no matter how lonely I felt while doing it. Asking for help would be a sign that I couldn’t do it myself and I didn’t want to bother anyone. Everyone was so busy. It wasn’t until a year later — when I was offered a PR job at Sprint back in Kansas City only to have it frozen after I moved home — that I started asking for help and seeing the returns. I went to an IABC job fair for undergrads, despite being embarrassed to attend it since I was already in the “working world,” and made a ton of new connections. I did informational interviews and met people that way. And my then-girlfriend, now wife Maggie even offered her creative eye to help me build a more professional-looking portfolio.
I share this story because, as cliche as it may sound, after I got my first KC job doing internal communications at Applebee’s, I vowed to help others avoid the same mistakes I made. That’s why I was so attracted to HAPPO (Help A PR Pro Out) when my friends Arik Hanson and Valerie Simon started it earlier this year. They took something they were passionate about, something we all have to go through, and created community around it. By putting themselves out there, they made it easier for PR pros looking for a first job, or new job, to put themselves out there as well and come together with folks who had raised their hands and offered to help.
The #happo tweets started on an event basis. As KC regional champion for HAPPO, I was honored to be a part of what I thought was a campaign with a stop and an end. But instead, what I was lucky enough to become part of was something we counsel our clients at FH to strive for in their consumer outreach – a passionate community advocating on behalf of a brand and advocating to help others.
I had plenty of outlets to ask for help when I was in grad school. Plenty of outlets I ignored. But I never had a group of people like the HAPPO community willing to partner with me in my search to find a job. If you are a PR pro out there who’s looking for a new opportunity, don’t make the same mistake I did. And if you already have a a job you love, join the HAPPO community and help someone else who’s in that position we have all been in at some point.
The next online HAPPO event is Dec. 8 on Twitter. And we are working to set up offline community events to follow. Follow the #happo hastag on Twitter to get the details on Dec. 8 and to start networking now. What you’ll find is a group of people who are willing to help those PR pros out there who are feeling frustrated, embarrassed and lonely in their search for a job they like that can help put food on the table, provide health care benefits and take care of all those things we’ve all worried about when we were unemployed.
Above all else, since I’ve started networking through social media, I’ve been amazed by how willing people are to help others out — people they’ve never even met F2F. Whether you need that help or you can provide it, HAPPO is the community for you. See you there .