Graduation season should be joyful, but in the past few years, the media coverage has been dominated by slim employment prospects, hefty college loans, and depressed salaries. Yet things are looking up; for one, the public relations industry is booming, and new grads know it.
As the resumes pour in, here’s my (updated) post with tips for finding a job in an agency or corporate PR department.
Work your contacts. Ask everyone you know for either one name or one piece of advice on landing a meeting. Don’t ask for a job, ask for insight about the industry. It’s much harder to turn that down, and your goal is to make connections that lead to more connections.
Work your interests. If you fall short on contacts, think about what you may have in common with hiring managers or agency executives. Social media is your friend here. If you share a school tie, hometown, or favorite TV series with a prospective employer, lead with that in your approach.
Be different. PR is often about helping clients to stand out, so be your own best PR person. Package yourself by focusing on what’s truly different and relevant about your background, education, drive, or real-world experience. Tell your story briefly in a cover letter. Be compelling, focusing on obstacles overcome, early learnings, or role models.
Don’t spam. It’s amazing how many emails we get with another agency’s name in the body, or with telltale font changes or other evidence of an e-blast. An obvious mass email tells a prospective employer that you’re not serious. Prospecting for a job is a lot like pitching media; the personal approach is time-consuming, but it’s well worth it.
Be social. As in following prospects on Twitter, engaging them on Facebook, and participating in industry or company LinkedIn groups. Consider Facebook ads, an introductory video of yourself, a career-themed Pinterest board. Show that you understand the medium and how to use it.
Offer independent thinking. When you do get an interview, be ready with your opinions. Read up on recent PR campaigns, hot-button industry issues like measurement or integrated communications. If an agency owner asks what you think of a website or a campaign, have a point of view.
Be a media junkie. Or be media. Start blogging. Drop names, visualize stories, show that you’ve not only done your homework, but that you consume a broad diet of traditional and social media on your personal time and take an interest in PR industry and business topics and developments. You are what you read.
Be curious. Always have questions. Even if you’re speaking with six executives in a row and have heard the corporate spiel from each of them, prepare a question. Even if you know the answer. Your job is to show engagement.