Being in a fleet with a TS or vent that has some good pvp players in it is the best resource you can use. Get them taking about ways to develope your build and your timing, then ask to join them in the queues or if their willing, in a private match so they can watch what skills your using and when, then guide you on what your doing wrong. As you learn, I'd lean towards surviveability, then as you get more comfortable, start moving towards tweaking you build towards more damage potential. A good start is:
emergency power to shields 1&2
Haz emitters1, transfer shield strength2
2 attack pattern omega1's
2 tac team1's
This will give you a pretty defensive build to start with so you can stay alive long enough to start getting the hang of things. Check out the keybinds forums as well. They are your friend :-)
Being effective in an escort is the toughest thing to master in the game. I have spent the last year mastering the piloting and timing. I could write a novel on the subject. Or talk on teamspeak for 6 hours straight regarding escort builds and piloting. I will be on tonight for a bit if you are east coast us, pm captainhorizon for a quick 1v1 to see what you are up to. I'm really not that great in dogfights, but at least we could banter about.
But in general, if you are pugging and have no cruiser with extend backin you up it's all about spiking everything you have into 3-5 seconds and then getting the heck out of dodge. Very few pilots can escort solo puggies and be effective. Think of yourself as the closer. Do not decloak until you see someone weakened. Then pounce. Push through rsp's, push yourself to the limits. Save go down fighting until your hull is at 35%, hit BFI and delta and RSP and let it rip. Stack your buffs, don't run any of them solo, not worth it. Tac team, run it twice. Beam overload3, crf3 and hy3 are your big hitters, omega3 is mostly defensive.
And when all else fails, ramming speed. Might as well take one down with you....
Have fun kill bad guys.
also, the 528th gladitorial games would be a great way to cut your teeth. And the 12th fleet has an event this Sunday too. Play with these guys and ask questions.