Congratulations, you’ve just finished school! Now what?
Brace yourselves. The job market out there is pretty tough. OK, it’s really tough.
Just how tough exactly? According to Twentysomething Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in marketing to young adults, of the 2 million or so graduates of 2011, around 85 percent will return home.
Now here comes the good news. As a public relations/communications student, you are part of one of the fastest growing and most forward-looking industries that this country has to offer.
So, don’t despair and follow some of these tips and strategies below and you will be well on your way to finding gainful employment as a PR professional:
Stay plugged in
Get involved with your PR community! Networking has become something of an art these days, and it allows you to meet key people in the industry, build contacts, promote yourself, and find work. Sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook have become excellent tools for developing and maintaining connections that later could be advantageous to your career.
With over 21,000 members, Public Relations Society of America is the nation’s largest and most respected community of public relations professionals. The organization is committed to upholding the ethics of the public relations profession as well as providing support to its members by sharing contacts, offering training, and giving recognition to selected members. There is an annual fee to join but it’s well worth it. To join, follow this link: PRSA
Get a post-grad internship
Sometimes jobs are hard to come by at first, so be open to working as an intern—even for free—after graduation. Internships present students and post grads alike an unrivalled opportunity to gain experience, explore career options, and gain insight into their profession of choice. Once you have landed that internship, don’t be afraid to push yourself—work nights if you have to. You’re young, and you don’t need sleep, right?
Start your own firm
It’s not as crazy as it sounds; it’s a great way to learn PR fast. Four recent grads from the University of Texas decided to opt out of the traditional career path when they created Titled Chair, an advertising agency that has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in Austin. If they can do it, why can’t you?
Volunteer for a nonprofit
Nonprofits are everywhere and most of them need a PR person to get them more visibility in the media, recruit donors, raise funds, etc. Become integral to their success and you can leverage it in your portfolio. Even better is to look for a non-profit that deals with something you are passionate about, not only will you be gaining great experience, you will go home feeling quite satisfied.
Go the journalism route
If you are willing to cross over to the “other side,” a few years working as a journalist will make you a very savvy candidate a lot of PR firms would kill to hire. Media relation skills are an important aspect in almost any PR job, so what better way to learn the ropes than to fill the shoes of a reporter or journalist for a while? The job market in journalism may seem grim, but there’s probably a local newspaper or website looking for a good writer and reporter.
Work in corporate communications
Large companies constantly have openings for communication majors; while not all are in the PR department, there’s ample opportunity to move around and learn different disciplines such as investor communications, employee communications, or maybe even account planning or brand management.
Try the world of politics
Nowhere is two-way communication more important than in politics. Most every politician at the state level and beyond uses the help of a PR consulting firm or in-house consultant. You could help voters understand their candidates better or translate complicated messages into clear understandable text. Candidates are gearing up for the 2012 campaign and looking for help, including President Obama
Remember to stay positive; if at first you don’t succeed, keep trying till you do—it will pay off. Not many of us industry veterans got it right the first time through. Happy job hunting!
Dave Manzer is a PR professional in Austin, Texas. A version of this story first appeared on his blog.