It’s almost the New Year and for many that means job hunting. College students will be entering their final semesters of senior year and will suddenly find themselves faced with the very real challenge of getting a good job after graduation. In PR, landing a good job can be difficult as the competition for the best jobs is fierce. To help aspiring PR pros land their dream gig, here are some things you can do to stand out from the crowd.
1. Get an internship, or two, or three- Most PR agencies will not consider you a “strong” applicant for an entry level postion unless you have had at least two (or even three) internships within the field. Learn all you can in your internships and show potential employers you’ve learned the basic PR skills, like navigating clipping services, producing coverage reports and building media lists. These tasks may seem basic, but they are time consuming to learn, and an internship is the best way to get familiar with programs like Cision, Burrelles, SproutSocial and Vocus.
2. Display strong writing skills– If you claim you’re a strong writer but have a typo in your cover letter, resume or writing samples, you’re not off to a good start. PR is a ton of writing and editing, so it’s important to show every potential employer that you can effectively use AP Style and edit your own work. Since it’s often harder to catch your own errors (that’s why even the best reporters have editors), always have a friend or classmate proofread your resume, cover letter AND the body of your e-mail.
3. Pay attention– When you’re job hunting you may send out your resume and cover letter to a large amount of companies, meaning you should always be editing your work before hitting send. It’s embarrassing and down right insulting to read about how passionate you are about getting a job at a different company. Always know who you are sending your materials to and write specifically for them.
4. Forego teen speech– For many young adults it’s easy to get caught up using adolescent language. Whether you are networking or interviewing, it’s always important to speak like a grown up. This means avoiding: um, like, totally, definitely, uh huh and all abbreviations. (I know, right?….) Speak like a child and people will treat you like one, speak like an adult to earn respect. At our office we recently created a “fer” jar. Every time you say “fer” instead of “for” you put 5 cents in the jar. It’s a great reminder to pay attention to the vocabulary we use, and of course the plus side is that we never have a shortage of change for afternoon coffee runs to Starbucks.
5. Get social– Knowing how to use social media correctly is huge in public relations; it’s how we connect to our audiences. If you don’t have a LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook get them now! Many PR employers won’t even consider you if your Instagram, Twitter and Facebook aren’t actively used.
6. Learn to network– Sometimes it IS all about who you know. Landing a great job doesn’t always require sending your resume to every agency under the sun. The best way to find a job is to find people who can help find you a job. Having a referral, even if it’s someone who met you once at an event, will give you instant credibility and often will earn you an interview ahead of someone else.
7. Get Involved in PRSA/ New Pros– A follow up to #6. Join your local chapter of PRSA (Public Relations Society of America). We asked current PRSA San Diego President Reema Makani Boccia why job hunters should be involved with PRSA and here’s what she had to say:
“The most important thing PRSA facilitates for its members is the opportunity to establish and foster relationships with other PR professionals, media and the community at large. As the largest trade organization for PR pros nationally and locally, PRSA has the potential to expose its members to a whole network of professionals that they may not otherwise have access to. The more you get involved, the more you get out of it, and perhaps make a few friends along the way!”
8. Business cards– Never attend a networking event empty handed; no one will know how to contact you. Some employers forget their business cards or run out before you have a chance to capture their info. So take the initiative and make your own cards (Staples and Office Depot offer pre-perforated business card templates that work with most printers), it won’t go unnoticed.
9. Follow-up– PR is a competitive field and jobs move quickly. Following up with potential employers is key to landing the job. Don’t wait two weeks to inquire about a position or send a thank-you letter a month after an interview. You need to act fast and prove that you really want the job. That means an e-mail the same day (or definitely within 24 hours) and if you really want to stand out, send a handwritten thank-you card in the mail the moment you leave the interview. They’ll get it the next day and be amazed by your planning and professionalism.
10. Read and read some more– Read anything and everything: newspapers, magazines, novels, autobiographies, etc. Whether you read “Lord of the Rings” or “Twilight,” sharpening your mind through reading will keep you up-to-date on current events, make you smarter, and best of all, will make you a better writer.