Millennials are having a rough time in the job market.
Recently I was looking to hire someone and was inundated with responses, some of which left me wondering whether certain respondents had even read the post before firing off an inadequate résumé.
Two things amazed me:
1. The number of responses. Within one hour, I got at least 20 résumés. Pretty impressive speed the kids have these days. It also means there are hungry employees out there.
2. The quality of responses. Though there were clearly some candidates who possessed high quality and professionalism, a larger number didn’t know how to follow directions or write a good cover letter.
Here is my attempt to give a little boost to millennials applying for PR and marketing jobs and to make things easier for everyone involved in hiring:
Read the entire job listing
Easy enough? Wrong.
I hate to sound like a mom here, but slow down, kiddos. Take the time to read before you apply. Remember, quality over quantity.
To get better results, apply for those jobs that feel closest to your experience, knowledge, and/or interest. As an entry-level applicant, you may not have the experience, but if you can flex your knowledge about the subject presented in the posting, you’ll sound more interesting and go much further.
Remember, much of what PR and marketing professionals do is research, so use this opportunity to show off your researching skills.
If the job posting asks you to include your résumé, references, and a cover letter, do it. If it asks you to include links, do that. This isn’t very hard.
I’ve had conversations about this with other professionals. They agree that we simply don’t have time to go through all those résumés, so the ones that don’t follow the rules get cut first. It’s as simple as that.
If you are lacking in an area and know it, call it out in your email, so that we (employers) know that you’re at least paying attention and you can potentially get to the next round.
Do your research
This can be very beneficial when done right. If you’re getting ready for an interview, be sure to look up the company and its accomplishments beforehand.
Check out its client list, and see whether you have any connections there.
Check out on LinkedIn the people who will be interviewing you. If you don’t know for sure, take time to check out the company employees. If you’re not well versed in the company focus, familiarize yourself with key words, current trends (this is as easy as Googling or looking it up on Wikipedia), and even check out their social media sites to see what they have been talking about.
The big worry in today’s economy is that there aren’t any jobs. That’s not entirely true; what’s lacking is money. In the meantime, keep yourself busy.
Volunteer your skills to a nonprofit organization that interests you. Approach companies similar to the one you’d like to work for, and let them know you’d like to intern. Get involved in your community, church, or local events. Take on projects for friends, relatives, or family friends. Write, write, and write some more.
The great thing about the digital age is that anyone can publish a blog. There are tons of opportunities to write and contribute. Determine some areas that interest you, and go for it. This way, when you apply, we can see that you are not an idle person and that you have been gaining experience in alternative ways.
Pay attention to details
As easy as that may sound, when we get caught up in the speed of life and begin to feel rushed, things slip. This may not be intentional, but in the job market you have only one opportunity to make a first impression. Pay attention to your résumé and your cover letter. Spell-check. Twice. And understand that spell-check doesn’t catch missing or misused words.
Highlight your accomplishments
Make sure you highlight the notable accomplishments in your résumé. Did you secure media coverage? Double the number of Twitter followers? Develop an internal communications policy for your nonprofit organization?
Regardless of whether you’re getting paid, these are accomplishments that your potential employer would be happy to hear about. You can list it under your positions or, better yet, create an area for accomplishments near the top of your résumé, so they are visible and not scattered throughout.
Networking comes back to you at the most unexpected times. There are plenty of events to attend and people with whom you can talk.
If you’re not already networking in your local Public Relations Society of America, Social Media Club, or marketing association, get on Meetup.com and head to some events. When you go, bring something to offer—and a business card. Give yourself a networking goal of a number of people to connect with.
Also, start networking on LinkedIn and Twitter. On LinkedIn, send personalized notes, join groups, and comment on different industry topics. On Twitter, follow people you admire, news agencies, and trends.
Above all, always follow up.
Dress for success
This applies to networking, interviews, chats with your mentor, and anything else that involves your professional life. Dress the part.
You may not need to go to networking events in a full business suit, but dress like you’re serious about something. Appearance matters, especially in PR and marketing. You’d be surprised what a clean appearance can do, especially if your competition is, well, less buttoned up.
Think about your career
If you have yet to find a position, you have time for this. Take some time to think about your career and what you want it to look like.
It’s OK if the position you accept today doesn’t last the rest of your life—employers understand that—but make sure you have some goals in mind. Make sure that with any employment you take, you can learn and grow from it in some way. (That way may be different from what you expect now.) Stay enthusiastic about your future prospects, and always ask questions.
As for my hiring process, I found someone who got the inside track beforehand. Now you have it, too. Good luck with your search, and keep your mind open to new possibilities.
Ronjini Mukhopadhyay is a public relations professional with eight years of experience in both agency and in-house public relations. A version of this story first appeared on her company website The Silver Telegram.