Entry-level professionals in public relations have a wide range of expertise, including some gaps, in knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) in core areas—and are willing to improve their KSA gaps through professional development opportunities, especially if supported by their employer, according to new research from the Institute for Public Relations and the Public Relations Society of America.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s 16-to-34 age group will make up nearly 24 percent of the labor force in 2024. Understanding the strengths and gaps in KSAs is key to having a successful workforce. The survey of nearly 400 entry-level professionals with fewer than five years of experience also explored two areas which have received much attention in business, but have rarely been applied to public relations: Grit and Emotional Intelligence.
“Identifying the core capabilities and gaps in the industry’s entry-level professionals is critical to ensuring we have the best workforce we can in the profession,” said Dr. Tina McCorkindale, APR, president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations, in a news release. “It’s clear that these professionals are willing to learn new skills, especially if paid for by their employer, which is great news for the profession.”
Entry-level professionals identified themselves as having advanced levels of knowledge in multiple areas of writing, critical thinking and public speaking
Conversely, entry-level professionals rated research capabilities and environmental scanning abilities as low. Surprisingly, results related to social media platforms for business use were mixed.
Entry-level professionals need to improve their business skills and ability to apply theories, and be able to apply business acumen, including financial literacy, to their everyday job responsibilities
They should also be steeped in theories to help understand attitudes and what drives behavior.
Nearly all (98 percent) respondents said they would be more open to learning new skills if their employer paid for all or part of their training
The majority reported paying out of their own pocket for new training programs. More than three-fourths of respondents (81%), said the degree to which their employer funded professional development was a significant factor in staying at their jobs for the next year.
Women rated themselves as grittier than men, with grit defined as perseverance or passion for long-term goals
However, compared to previous studies on grit, both female and male professionals rated themselves lower on their ability to work strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and lack of progress.
The study also gauged respondents’ Emotional Intelligence, which includes self-control, sociability, well-being and emotionality, which entry-level professionals rated themselves the lowest in, saying they find it difficult to recognize their internal emotional states and to express their feelings to others.
“Hiring managers continue to tell us that they evaluate new professionals based on their skills, grit and emotional intelligence,” said Laura Kane, chief communications officer of PRSA, in the release. “These insights provide us with a roadmap for rolling out professional development opportunities for current and future members.”