Looking for a job in public relations or know someone who is in the market? As college students head back to school and begin the post-graduation job hunting, it’s probably a good time to think of how you’re going to differentiate yourself to land that great PR job at the agency or company you’re pursuing. As any successful company or marketer would preach, you not only have to have a good product (in this case, you), but you also have to figure out your unique selling proposition (USP) and how to best explain that to your target audience (in this case, your potential employer). Having gone through this process just a handful of years back, as well attending quite a few career fairs from both sides of the coin, I’ve compiled some tips on how you can put yourself in the best position to land that PR position.
1.) Check Yourself
It seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many people don’t take the time to make sure their cover letter and résumé are addressed to the right company, the right industry (i.e. “I am looking for a job in human relations”), the right contact at the company, etc. At my last company (a PR agency), we get a lot of résumés saying the candidate is looking for a position in advertising, in which case they should probably contact an ad agency instead.
2.) Welcome to 2013
The PR industry is constantly evolving and it’s imperative you stay up with it. Still banking on your knowledge of social media with a presence on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube? They’ve became tools of our trade and there are strategies to engaging in social media. Be knowledgeable of companies who have employed meaningful social media strategies and content marketing and be able to reference them.
Side note – if you are on any of those social networks, be sure to think twice about your profiles and what you post. They’re some of the first places your potential employee searches. You might want to reconsider that profile pic of you downing a beer bong on spring break, or that Tweet about PR girls just being talking heads. Being online makes you transparent, so be careful.
3.) Networking is Key
You severely limit yourself by only relying on job posts to find open positions. Networking events, PRSA meetups and the use of social media will all help get your name out there. Be active in the PR and business community and you’ll be sure to have opportunities come your way. Follow PR industry influencers and people from potential firms or companies in which you are interested, and then add relevant commentary to get your name in front of them. We have interviewed a ton of people that were referred by a friend we met at an event or online – and even hired a few that way.
4.) Informational Interviews
Often underutilized, informational interviews are a great way to learn not only about your potential job or career field, but also about the company you’re interested in pursuing. Narrow down your list of companies or agencies you’re interested in and setup an interview. CareerBuilder.com editor Kate Lorenz has some great insight on how an information interview works.
5.) Always Be Selling (Yourself)
Maybe not today or tomorrow, but realize anyone you meet on a daily basis could become your next job lead. It’s important to always be dressed appropriately, keep a positive attitude and always let people know you are in the market for a PR career. Author and motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, said, “Network continually – 85 percent of all jobs are filled through contacts and personal references.”
6.) Don’t Be Afraid to Take an Internship
I know you’re looking to land that dream job right out of college, but sometimes you’re going to have to take an internship. We all feel we are overqualified to start yet another internship, but it can often times be the best route for a company you have identified as your ideal employer. Taking an internship when a full-time position can’t be found may be your best option – especially if it’s with an interesting company or in an industry you’re looking to pursue. Hey, that’s how I worked my way into my first company!
7.) Do Your Homework
So you got an interview with a PR agency or company, now what? Take some time and research them before you show up for the interview. It sounds obvious, but we often got the deer-in-headlights look when we simply asked, “What do you know about BLASTmedia and what attracts you to our agency?” Duh, right?
Look over the company’s website, check out the types of clients they represent and read the company blog. Who knows, you might even get tips for securing a job at that company like this post! If you show up to an interview asking the employer what they do you might as well go ahead and put your résumé in the paper shredder as you walk back out the door. In addition, come prepared with specific and original questions that show you have done your research. If you read on the company’s blog that they are expanding their office, a great question would be: “I noticed you are experiencing some growth – are you planning to continue your efforts in the technology sector or are you looking to branch out into other industries?” Then offer a statement based on the answer, such as.”It seems wise to stick to technology given the amount of new companies popping up every day. I would love the opportunity to be a part of the growth and help forge new media relationships for your clients.”
8.) Show Your Personality
In your cover letter and at the interview, don’t be afraid to show your true personality. This doesn’t mean going overboard or being your Saturday-night self, but companies and PR agencies want to see your personality, as we are in a field that hinges on it. If you’re unique, let it show. We know all of the canned interview responses so we expect you to be sincere and original in your responses.
9.) Send a Thank-You After an Interview
There are many reasons why you want to write the interviewer a letter expressing appreciation and thanks for the interview, but here’s a few of the top reasons:
- Show your appreciation in their interest in you
- Reiterate your interest in the position and the company
- Remind the employer about how your experience or qualifications would be bring value to the organization
- Show that you have good manners and know to write a thank-you letter
10.) Be Persistent
It’s a prerequisite in our industry, so why not show off your persistence before you are hired. This can obviously be taken to the extreme, but if you really like a company, be persistent in getting your foot in the door, securing an interview or helping your résumé move to the top of the stack through great interview follow-ups.
Hopefully this helps those PR job seekers out there looking to break into the industry or to get back into the field. However, just as I’ve told clients and potential clients hundreds of times – no amount of messaging, marketing, networking, etc. can hide a bad product. Hard work, desire and a willingness to add value to an agency and their clients is – and always will be – a must.