(By Christine Ropke)
As a recent college graduate, I can sympathize with young students nervously preparing to finish their last few credits and make that jump into ‘the real world’. In today’s recessionary times, the pressure is on to find a job quickly, start paying off student loans and cover the basic costs of living.
So how does one obtain a full-time position in PR today? Certainly, the age-old adage: “It’s not what you know, but who you know” still stands. But there’s much more to it than simply networking to land the job of your dreams and a bit more homework goes a long way too.
Getting a foot in the door
The first thing to recognize when seeking your first full-time job is the importance of internships. Internships can open doors that interviews for full-time positions cannot. Despite the dearth of companies hiring for permanent staff at the moment, most still have internships available and, hopefully, paid ones at that!
My time at Aspectus PR began as an internship and subsequently flourished into a full-time position. As such, experience shows that internships not only provide the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the industry in which you want to work, but come with a real possibility of a permanent position. You will then have had both the experience of working in your chosen field and the opportunity to get to know your fellow team members and office culture.
The other great thing about searching for an internship or full-time position is that job sites typically allow you to search for either. If you’re a soon-to-be graduate, start with your school’s career services center. Most offer résumé boot camps and interview workshops and should also have a job site for your use. A few of the best commercial sites to search for jobs or internships however, are JobCentral, CareerBuilder and Monster.
Getting your résumé in shape
Once you’ve found a vacancy that’s right for you, it’s time to get your résumé in shape. Relevant and appropriate contact information is a must, as are accurate grammar and spelling: ensure the email address listed is one you check frequently (and sounds professional – not firstname.lastname@example.org for example) , proof the entire document and then proof it again. Ideally, you should then have someone else you trust to give it a final onceover.
It is also important to tailor your experience such that your key attributes best meet the skills-set for which your potential employer is looking. Although job specs vary, management experience and team-work are always valued, so be sure to highlight how you have demonstrated these where relevant.
When applying for a PR position, you will also need to showcase any experience in communications – and writing in particular. Be sure to include any past internships or previous positions you’ve held with similar subject matter. And keep it to one page, unless you are extremely experienced in your field or have held a number of relevant positions previous.
Once you’ve secured your interview, the next step is to prepare for it. Begin with reading relevant publications for the space. Fast Company and Advertising Age are excellent sources for those looking to break into marketing, advertising and PR. In addition, read the papers and magazines closest to the industry sector you are targeting. Some of the news sites we read daily are The Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and Bloomberg Businessweek. It is also critical to take time to conduct some research on the company to which you are applying.
Once all the written work and research has been completed, résumés sent and interviews secured, networking is the final task – specifically social networking. Similar to your résumé, your social networking profiles will tell any potential employer a lot about you. It is therefore advisable to Google yourself, because your employer almost certainly will.
Also, don’t forget to check the privacy settings on your Facebook and Twitter pages to ensure that your information available for public consumption is just that! Lastly, keep your LinkedIn profile current. Employers scour LinkedIn for new hires and frequently advertise open positions on their company pages, as well as checking regularly on Twitter and Facebook for potential candidates.
Finally, just as it’s important for brands to remain top-of-mind, it’s equally important for job seekers to remain visible to potential employers and those who might be able to help connect you with the right people: stay connected with former employers and professors while maintaining conversations with others who might be relevant.
The great news about learning to network properly and presenting yourself in the best way possible, both in person and on paper, is that it will set you up for success wherever you go. You’ll be able to interact well with your coworkers, clients and business prospects and, if you change companies down the road, you’ll be ready to market yourself again.