Landing that first PR job is tougher than most people care to admit.
That’s because there is no paint-by-numbers career trajectory for communicators. Some people take a year off and travel, some move home to save money, others go abroad and begin a new journey elsewhere.
No matter your circumstances, some tips can help you navigate through the uncharted waters of finding a position in the PR industry.
Here are the do’s and don’ts for landing a job in PR:
1. Research the companies to which you’re applying. Make sure you have a solid understanding of their offerings, culture and values. Doing your homework beforehand provides you with the foundation for thoughtful questions.
When interviewing, having a firm understanding of the company also demonstrates your enthusiasm and aptitude for the organization and industry at large. Pro tip: Come prepared with at least one or two questions!
2. Build your network. Don’t be shy to ask for business cards or LinkedIn profiles when you meet someone new. You never know who you’re going to meet down the line and when they might be able to help you (and remember, that’s a two-way street).
You would be surprised at the vast number of strangers you will meet who are ready and willing to help a new college graduate. Returning favors is a large part of networking, so be sure to pay it forward or offer a helping hand if you can. If you can’t help, find someone who can.
Establishing relationships with all kinds of people will always be helpful, even if they aren’t in your direct line of work.
3. Brush up on your writing skills. In the communications field, most jobs require a writing or grammar test as part of the job application process or interview. You may think you’re the expert at crunching out papers before the due date, but do you know when to use “who” or “whom”?
4. Discuss your accomplishments. There’s a difference between being arrogant and sharing your success. In a world where we are taught to be humble, women especially have become indoctrinated into minimizing their achievements to appear modest. Own your success, but do so from a balanced perspective that includes the contributions of your team and advisors.
5. Be patient. Part of the job hunt is finding your purpose as a human being. The inevitable rejections are just as crucial for growth and self-discovery as landing your dream job. Take the time to learn what you love to do and what you dislike—and remember that you can always change your mind! Take criticism and feedback in stride—this resilience will define you in the years to come.
1. Don’t wing it. That technique might have gotten you through your undergraduate career, but those wings won’t fly in the real world. You never know what your interviewer is going to ask you, and it’s best to be prepared. Read up on common interview questions and practice answering them.
It might seem trite, but practice really does makes perfect. Enlist a friend, family member or your shiniest mirror and practice anticipated questions. Your nerves will inevitably get the best of you and your thoughts will escape you. Mock interviews can help you gather your confidence and get you used to articulating your thoughts.
2. Don’t clutter your LinkedIn with connections you’ve never met. Filter through invitations to connect. Though there is some truth to the adage about “six degrees of separation,” try to go for a “quality over quantity” approach when building your professional network. No 22-year-old knows 1000+ people in established careers.
3. Don’t wait until the last minute. Whether it’s an aptitude test, personality test or a written test, give yourself time to go back and reflect. Get feedback from friends and family when possible, and remember, editing is part of the process!
4. Don’t embellish your resume. It is better to have a clear understanding and grasp of the fundamentals than exaggerate. You must build the foundation before you build the house, and potential employers will know that you are lying.
5. Don’t take the first opportunity you find. It’s easy to pigeon-hole yourself, especially if you’ve been on the hunt for months. Still, don’t settle for a job just because you’re the last of your friends to be working full-time. Every moment is an opportunity, and whether you choose to believe it or not, everything happens for a reason. Finding the perfect job might take some time, but with a little preparation and an open mind, your future in the PR industry is just around the corner.
If all this information leaves you even more lost and discouraged—take a breath. There are many opportunities in the communications field, content creation, public relations, marketing, digital, or a blend of all of them. Know that there is a path for you as long as you give your search the necessary research, time, and effort needed for success.
Jennifer Daniel is a public relations account coordinator at Sage Communications.