Kickstart to Public Relations of Tomorrow

By: Aznan Mat Piah

How would you brace yourselves to ensure that you would be readily  employed by the industry upon graduating from the university?  Communication and human sciences students of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) were recently reminded that they must develop their potentials during their  university days as the employers would prefer to hire graduates with  “extra or plus qualities”.

The reminder came from two  senior communication executives, Mr. Izad Haji Raya of Proton Holdings  Berhad and Mr. Nik Effendi Jaafar of Employees Provident Fund in a forum  session organized by the public relations practicum students of the university.

The practicum event was indeed a window to the  internship program, prior to their attachment with the industry, aimed at  giving the opportunity for the public relations students to demonstrate  their professional skills and to gain practical knowledge.  It was also  intended to expose them to current knowledge of the industry through  interactive sessions with practitioners from the field.

Students  were told that employers would rather go for “the street smart” than  the “book smart” per se.  “You might have scored a CGPA of 3.5 or 3.6  but if you cannot prove that you have the “extra or the plus factors”  that employers are looking for, you do not stand a good chance to be  employed”, the speakers said.

As the industry is becoming  more competitive, the employers no doubt tend to be choosy and want to  hire the best graduates not only in terms of academic performance but  also in terms of their ability and skills, and their personality to  deliver their work efficiently.  With the increase in the number of  graduates entering the job market each year, employers cannot just  settle for the mediocre, instead they are determined to look for the  good candidates who have the potential to perform well in the market.  That was the message driven by the speakers at the forum.

Some  120 students who attended the session listened attentively to the  speakers when they were enlightened on the expectations of the industry.  The speakers cited examples of the interview process which they conducted where they found students with good CGPA, who logically should  not have problems to be hired, but failed to convince the interview  panel. They seemed to be lacking in communication and thinking skills  and were not able to articulate their minds as to their ability to  examine issues or to solve problems.

Students were also  told they should not be satisfied to learn just about communication  techniques and theories. Instead, they should be well disposed to the  content aspects when handling public relations in an organization.

Public  relations practitioners need to know the issues that are developing  within the organization. Therefore, they must have a good working  knowledge about the organization especially in terms of its core  business, its involvement with strategic publics and the stakeholders,  and where the overall interest of the organization lie, which means they  must have a strong background on relevant matters or subjects that  influence the survival of the organization.

This also  means they must show interest in current affairs and must be prepared to  work hard to conduct their own study and research about topics related  or of interest to the organization.

Apart from the two  senior speakers from the industry, students also had the opportunity to  learn from their seniors during the sharing moment session held in the  afternoon. Ahmad Nazreen Shah from Petronas and Mohamad Rizzuan Abdul  Razak from New Straits Times Press who have been in the industry for two  years, had enlightened the students with a number of tips on what to  expect upon graduation.

They highlighted the importance of  having the right attitudes, the secret of managing bosses, the need for  a conducive working environment, and to serve the organization with  dedication. They also told the session about the challenges they had to  go through in their first six months in their job. They mentioned the  need to prove themselves of their ability to adapt and survive in the  working environment which is far different from student days.

I thought the two sessions were very significant where the students were actively engaged in the discussion.

Another  session by Puan Sherifah Muznizah Syed Mustafa from Carigalihess on  interview skills, had also drawn considerable interest, where students  were given an insight into some of the tips to enhance their appearance  during job interviews which stressed on the significance of preparing  resume, creating first impressions, and developing the right mindsets  for the job. Puan Sharifah has vast working experience in human  resources management having worked several years in multinational  companies.

The practicum event was officiated by former  rector Prof. Dato’ Sri Dr. Syed Arabi Idid who later gave an inspiring  speech to motivate the students. Prof. Syed has always showed great  interest in public relations activities. The head of Communication  Department, Dr. Che Mahzan Ahmad also attended the event and delivered a  speech that stressed the importance of applying theories into public  relations practice.

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