They say April showers bring May flowers.
April also brings waves of students about to graduate, filled with anticipation, pounding the pavement in search of that first job in PR and marketing.
But this year, finding that first job will require a combination of digital and practical skills.
The competition is fierce. The economy is just now beginning to turn. You have to stand heads and shoulders taller than your peers to even get an interview.
Here are five tips to help new grads land their dream job:
1. Create content
Your ability to create compelling content is integral to your success. Be a storyteller. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, companies are desperate for content and for the employees who can create it quickly and well. Content creation is not limited to writing, but your portfolio should include blog posts, case studies, news releases, and articles.
If you don’t have those examples yet, it’s not too late. As PR recruiter Lindsay Olsen explains, you can easily start your own blog and write about your industry, professional topics, and current events. Read the leading bloggers in PR and marketing and comment on their posts. Volunteer for smaller non-profits that need help with content creation. Help them tell their stories. Write a news release for an upcoming event. Develop a case study for them. Create a short video that illustrates what they do.
2. Display digital proficiency
Working in PR and marketing today requires a level of digital proficiency that goes beyond simply using Facebook or YouTube. You need to be able to conduct online research efficiently, understand search engine optimization, show proficiency with tools that monitor and measure online communications, create and manage an email campaign, build a spreadsheet in Google Docs or Excel, and perform simple video editing.
Your level of digital proficiency must also include a solid understanding of what not to do online. Don’t have social network profiles that show you in unprofessional or compromising situations. Don’t use social tools to spam people or buy followers to pad a social network account. Don’t send texts or images that slander or defame anyone.
3. Showcase leadership skills
Employers are looking for recent graduates who can demonstrate a level of leadership and common sense. They want to know that you can be trusted with tasks that call for judgment or leadership. Are you someone who is willing to pitch in and help? Can you take a task and run with it without much supervision? Do you listen well? Are you organized? Are you honest and forthright?
Few of us have all of the traits of a leader, but most of us possess some leadership skills, even if we aren’t always aware of them. Take some time to do an analysis of who you are and list your strengths and weaknesses. Doing a personal SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) will help you identify your own leadership skills and understand how to showcase those skills in action.
4. Highlight creative problem-solving abilities
A highly sought after “soft skill” in today’s economy is creative problem-solving. This is a process that involves identifying a goal or objective, gathering information, clarifying the problem that you are trying to solve, generating ideas, building a solution, identifying how results will be measured, and then creating the plan of action for its implementation.
Think outside the box. Connect the dots. How have you done this?
Go back through your experience to date. Where have you exhibited creative problem-solving? Is your résumé lacking? It’s not too late to change that. Look around your school or community. Who needs help? What problems could you help solve? Follow the creative problem-solving process and document that experience as an example for prospective employers.
5. Demonstrate ability to translate technical information
You don’t have to be highly technical to be successful in today’s digital world. However, you become extremely valuable to an organization when you can demonstrate your ability to work with technology experts and translate information you get from them into language the client or manager can understand.
If you haven’t done this yet, do some research online. Learn about the basic language used in building technical solutions and work to understand what is involved in creating a website or developing an app. What is the process and how can you provide a programmer or technical expert with the information he or she might need? Look around you. Go to your school’s technology department and start asking questions. Listen.
The fact you are even thinking along these lines and able to discuss this in an interview will make you stand out. If you are able to demonstrate instances where you have acted as a liaison or translator between technical experts and the less informed, so much the better—for you and for your prospective employer.
It’s April. It’s not too late to take these five tips and apply them to your situation. Building out examples of your abilities in each of these areas will make you stand out above other candidates and help land you that first job in PR or marketing.
Allen Mireles is vice president at Arment Dietrich. This story first appeared on the firm’s blog Spin Sucks.