I was recently approached by a young woman who is finishing her junior year of college and majoring in PR. When she found out I worked at an agency, she immediately started to pick my brain. “What can I do to get ahead?”, “How do I get a job after graduation, especially in this economy?”, and numerous more.
When I was graduating college and entering into the work force, I was among the fortunate few who landed a fantastic job before my final commencement. The economy was much better, and more employers were willing to take on entry-level positions. But with so many qualified and well-established people out of work, for a student just entering the mix has an incredibly tough road.
As I sat and talked with this girl about her future, and the path that I took to get where I am, I thought the conversation would make a great blog post for all those out there in the same situation. I did a little digging and found some great advice form various sources, including the PRSA and another blog, Mopwater PR, hosted by the DC-based firm Miller Littlejohn Media Group. The tips below come from Amadna Miller Littlejohn, editor of Mopwater PR + Notes.
- “Be a squeaky wheel. Many newbie job seekers send their résumé and then do nothing. Making one or two follow-up calls is not enough. Until someone tells you “the position is filled,” keep calling, e-mailing and inquiring. Sure, it may seem like you’re annoying, but you are making yourself memorable, and that’s key.”
- “Know your target. Make sure you include the terminology used within that industry, and/or by that company, when submitting your information to them. This can range from the job titles to the industry/company jargon they use.”
- “Don’t rely on your computer. Yes, the Internet is a powerful networking tool. And, of course, network on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But, face-to-face contact can be more powerful. Attend local professional networking events in industries you’re interested in. Interested in a marketing career? Attend your local American Marketing Association chapter mixer. Each month, attend as many “live” networking events as possible. Not only will you make a lot of contacts, but also you’ll become better at “selling yourself,” which can help when you interview.”
- “Make business cards. Don’t arrive to networking events or job interviews without business cards. You can even make your title “Job Seeker in Finance” (or whatever you’re looking for). On the back print a few bullets about yourself-education, degree, strengths, etc. These can be like mini-résumés, and they give you something interesting to hand to people (versus writing your contact information on a napkin at an event). Make your own cards, and get them printed inexpensively through online services like LogoMaker.com.”
- “Thank you cards. Whenever your return home from an interview or networking event, or even from casual encounter with someone you met at a party where you discussed your employment, send a hand written thank you note to everyone you met. People tend to send thank yous via e-mail, but a hand written note makes a big impression nowadays because very few people send them!”
- “Be “employed” through volunteering. If you’re unemployed, use some of your free time to volunteer at a local nonprofit. That reflects well on you when interviewing. You can say that you volunteer 15 to 20 hours per week for XYZ organization and your tasks include A, B and C. Employers want to know you’re “doing something” other than looking for a job full-time. It also shows them you’re hard working and not just sitting around your home waiting for a job.”
- Get an internship. Employers want people with more experience. As we all know, as a recent graduate, you aren’t going to have much. No your camp counselor gig probably won’t help you. Reach out to local agencies, manufacturers and other businesses to see if they have the need or interest in an intern. Once you are at an internship, understand that you will probably be doing a lot of grunt work and most likely not getting paid for it. No one starts at the top. Always ask knowledgeable questions, do your work well and listen to everyone and everything you are taught. You never know when it might come in handy. If your lucky, the company you are interning just might hire you upon graduation. If they don’t, you have valuable qualifications you can add to your resume.
- “Publicize Your Job Search: Blog About It. Tweet About It.If you’re job hunting, you probably have a little time on your hands, so why not set up a job search blog, or a Twitter page at the very least. You’d be surprised how much exposure you can get from putting your experiences out there. Believe it or not, some people just love to help others, and may see your need and be able to hook you up with an interview, job announcement or more. But they’ll never know about your search if you don’t spread the word that you’re looking.”
- Head to the Top. Talk to people who know people—preferably people who know lots of people. Befriend the heads of your local (and national) professional organizations. Request a sit-down with leaders in your field. I know what some of you are thinking. “Why would the leaders want to talk to me?”You’d be surprised at what people are willing to do when you ask them. Find someone who knows your target and request an introduction. If you don’t know someone who knows the person you’re trying to reach, use Google or LinkedIn to connect the dots. Make a phone call or send an e-mail introducing yourself. Detail your experience and your goals. Ask for what you want. They may not have a job to hand you, but chances are, they’ll know someone who will. And be patient. Once you begin talking to the right people, and they begin mentioning your situation to their people, something will eventually open up.
- Start a blog. Not “just” a blog-a blog that covers the news and information about specific companies, or industries, where you’d like to work. You can then contact the company(s) and let them know you have a blog that is “about them and their industry.” This can attract their attention and give you an edge over just submitting a résumé. Even micro-blogging on Twitter using this strategy is smart.
There are hundreds of things that you can do, to help start your career on the right foot. The key is to be persistant, knowledgeable and forward thinking. The students who take extra measures, will have a better opportunity down the road.
If you have any other tips to share with young PR Professionals “in training” please leave them in our comments.
Posted by: Lauren