For my informational interview, I decided to interview a family friend that I have known for many years. Rich Mitchell works for Ernst & Young, one of the “big four” accounting firms. Although he is a CPA and works primarily with specific markets of the company in the Northeast region of the country, he also deals with public relations and other communications areas. He received his bachelor’s degree at the Ohio State University, and has been working for Ernst & Young in Akron, Ohio for the past 20 years. Since Rich lives in Ohio, I conducted the interview on Skype one afternoon to find out about his career. The interview lasted for about 15 minutes, and here is the conversation, broadly condensed so it is not so long.
Working at such a large firm, a typical week for Rich usually starts early and ends late. He prefers to work out of his office, which is about 30 minutes from home, and is constantly talking to clients and receiving emails from the time he gets in his car, around 6 a.m., to the time he leaves work, around 5 p.m. During the day, he attends meetings with various clients of the company, discussing issues dealing with company image, current media and press surrounding the company, and working to “grow certain markets” that are firm clients. When I asked him about one of his most memorable accomplishments or projects he has worked on, he laughed and said he is constantly working on so many projects that he learns from them all in different ways. Although he works in public relations, Rich is not a member of PRSA, although he says he would like to gain more knowledge in the industry by becoming a member soon. He has only been working in PR for the past 2 years, and he is taking time adjusting from his accounting background.
Rich told me that he wishes he had taken a stronger interest in writing and developing organizational skills before he began working in the field of public relations. He says he was aware that working with public relations would entail a lot of writing and typing, but not to the extent that he uses it on a daily basis. He uses his Blackberry primarily for sending emails and such, so he told me his writing skills are not that formal. Since he has been with the company for so long, he has interns and younger employees who write the formal press releases and other documents because he does more of the speaking on the phone and traveling to meet with clients. Rich says he is good with Excel and older computer programs, but the only form of social media that he attends to currently is Facebook. He says his wife and daughter know much more about using Twitter and blogs than he ever will. I asked him if he thinks it is important for new public relations graduates to know how to use social media, and he “definitely thinks it is something that will be common among all areas of the industry.” This made me feel confident about the knowledge I have been obtaining all semester in my social media online class!
The three tips that Rich gave me about going into public relations are:
- Be prepared to do a lot of busy work you probably won’t want to do.
- Use your creativity and think outside of the box for solutions.
He could not stress the importance of networking yourself and your name and sending out resumes to any possible employer. He told me “It’s all about who you know,” and I have found this to be true in so many instances in my life. From handing out business cards, sending someone a quick email, or making a phone call, Rich said little actions can make a big difference in the future. After the Skype webchat was over, I felt more confident that working in public relations is something I am passionate about and hope to make my future career. It obviously takes time and experience to move up in a company, but I am willing to do that in order to be successful.