Marketing and PR: Career or Lifestyle?

26 September 2012

An astounding one in five students will drop out of Australian universities in their first year.

A large proportion of these students drop out due to failed course expectations, unhappiness and stress. This is because many find themselves overwhelmed with the work that goes into a particular profession, realising that their prior perceptions of the industry are merely myth.

Marketing and public relations courses are no different and I would argue that the reasons for these unrealistic perceptions are based on characters like Don Draper and Samantha Jones.

Shows like Mad Men and Sex and the City seem to paint an unfinished picture of what marketing and public relations is all about. We watch these shows and are immediately drawn to the classy charm of Don Draper and the glamorous lifestyle of Samantha Jones both of whom reap the benefits of money, sex and fabulous parties.

However, the problem with this portrayal is that we start to perceive the marketing and public relations discipline as a lifestyle, not a career and therefore our expectations when entering the industry are met with disappointment.

As a final year marketing and PR student, I empathise with students who have this attitude to the industry. The initial shock when you discover that marketing is more than just attending fancy parties and creating catchy slogans is quite severe.

Many graduates expect to leave university and be hired straight away with a $100k salary package. This unfortunately is unrealistic and naive. I have learnt that climbing the corporate ladder is a long and tricky task and those unwilling to put in the effort will find themselves stuck at the bottom rung.

This reality stresses the importance for all prospective students and graduates to do their homework about a course, job or opportunity before jumping in the deep end. Internships and career information days are great resources in discovering the truth about what it means to work within an industry.

While I have learnt that the marketing and public relations industry is not defined by money, sex and fabulous parties, I have also learnt that those pipe dreams of success aren’t impossible if you put in the time, research and hard work.

Don Draper once said, “We’re flawed, because we want so much more.” And he has a point. Once we stop desiring the impossible we can start achieving realistic goals which is something every student and graduate should take value in.

Samantha Barretto
University of Notre Dame Sydney

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