Last week Lovell Communications was fortunate to spend a few hours with a group of students from Lindsey Wilson College’s chapter of Lambda Eta Pi (the national communications honor society) and introduce them to the ins and outs of “agency life.” Many of the students are graduating in May and will be searching for their first PR jobs shortly thereafter. Before they came to our offices, some members of the Lovell team got together to discuss things we wished we had known about or considered as we prepared for our first jobs in the industry. Below are a few things we shared with them:

#1 Build a portfolio

You may be thinking…I’ve never had a job…what could I possibly put into a portfolio? Well, if you are a recent college grad, chances are you have plenty of materials that are worthy. Have you written an article for your college newspaper? How about a well-researched paper you wrote for a class? Good writing skills are something that will set you apart from the pack when applying for a job, and a portfolio is a great way to market what you have to offer.

In addition to writing, potential employers will be interested in any experience that relates to public relations. Perhaps you could showcase a campaign you prepared for your PR Campaigns class. If you don’t already have a campaign to share, volunteer your services to write press releases or help plan an event for a local business, not-for-profit organization or church.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a ton of work to include in your portfolio, as employers know you are applying as an entry-level candidate. The key to remember is quality vs quantity. Showing up to an interview with an organized portfolio will speak volumes about your preparedness and enthusiasm to potential employers.

#2 Familiarize yourself with the tools of the trade

Media relations, media monitoring and social media are three of the main tasks an entry-level PR person can expect to work on. Below are a few tools that PR students and recent grads can familiarize themselves with while preparing to land a first job. Not only will you be able to market these skills to future employers, but you will be one step ahead of the game once you start your job.

Google Alerts: Monitoring the media for client news, as well as their competitor’s news, is a very important part of public relations. Google has a great tool for having any relevant news you are interested in sent to your email as it appears online. Simply go to and type in the keywords you would like to monitor for.

Factiva: Most university libraries have a Factiva account for students to use for research papers. Factiva is a database of all of the print and online news articles around the world. PR practitioners utilize this database on a regular basis to find articles written about their clients that may not have appeared online.

HARO: HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out, is an email subscription that PR practitioners can subscribe to for free to learn about what stories reporters are writing. Three times a day, HARO sends out an email with a list of queries from reporters looking for sources for their articles. This is a great way to find opportunities to get your client some press. You can sign up to receive these emails at a and give pitching a try if there is an article that you think you have a source for(I see queries looking for college student sources all the time). If you land a story, it should go straight into your portfolio!

HootSuite: Social Media has become such big piece of the PR puzzle. And, while you may already be an expert on Facebook and Twitter, HootSuite is neat tool to become familiar with when you are trying to update social media for a number of clients. Essentially it will allow you to schedule and monitor posts across a number of social networks. You load in the tweet/updates, and it will do the work for you.

#3 Consider temporary work or post-graduate internships

Don’t overlook opportunities that are temporary or unpaid right off the bat. The job market is extremely competitive right now and having that little extra experience from a temp job or internship may be just what you need to push yourself through the door of your first full-time job. Additionally, the place where you temp or intern may be looking to fill a position down the road.

Thanks again, to the Lindsey Wilson students for visiting us last week and providing the inspiration for this post.

What do you wish you had known when you were preparing for your first PR job?

***On a side note, Paula Lovell adds that you should learn Excel and know how to create a flashy PowerPoint!