It’s a tough job market out there. No doubt about it.
In environments like this, the most committed wins. (It’s always been that way.) Those willing to bust their tails will find a job. It’s the difference between those who say, “I want to work in PR,” and those who say, “I need to work in PR.”
If you want to compete against other candidates, you need a methodical approach to the job search. You need to cut through the clutter. Good news is it’s easier than you think.
Consider folding the four components into your job search:
1. Start a hard-target search. Don’t just look for a job—look for the right job. I’m not saying you hold out all hope for that dream job working for The White House. But I am saying you should develop a list of all the organizations and agencies where you would love to work. Start there, and focus all your time and energy on those targets.
2. Master your elevator speech. I was pretty surprised at a recent Help A PR Pro Out (HAPPO) happy hour event. I met some incredible students, but very few of them had a polished elevator speech. When asked, “What do you do?” I got some soft answers. Before you go to a networking event, you have to be damn sure your elevator speech is tight. Practice that speech. Write it out. Hone it. Get it down to a science.
3. Brush up on the basics. It’s not that tough to stand out from the crowd. For example, the first time I met with Sarah Anderson, a young student who’s been working with me, she came prepared with specific questions and had clearly done her research on me. She knew who I was and what I cared about (for the most part). Very few people put in that amount of time and effort prior to a meet-up. Be one of those people. It will pay off. It certainly did for Sarah.
4. Solid follow-up is critical. When and how you follow up after that coffee or networking event is absolutely critical. My suggestion? Start with e-mail (provided you have the person’s e-mail address). Send a short note thanking the person for his or her time. Mention a point or issue you discussed when you spoke. Then, offer information you think might benefit that contact. For example, after the HAPPO event the other night, I sent someone I spoke with briefly a quick note. I noticed during my time chatting with this person that he’s a bit of a beer snob. Me too! I included a link to a great beer community site I thought he might enjoy (Pintley, if you’re interested.) Not a huge deal, but it’s a nice way to separate myself from others in this contact’s frontal lobe.
Arik C. Hanson is the principal of ACH Communications, a digital communications consultancy. A version of this article first appeared on ArikHanson.com.