By Kali Bean
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose
While nearly seven years have passed since my college graduation, I still remember my first day of senior year when it occurred to me that this was going to be my last first day of school. It was maybe a bit dramatic, but I’ve always had a thing for over-indexing on first and last experiences in life. The emotions that followed were a mix of joy, excitement, anticipation and then completely paralyzing fear.
I knew I needed to turn that fear into an eagerness and focus that would drive me to success. Easier said than done, right? As I ventured from point A to point B, I had many mentors and advisers guide me along the way. Here are the top five things I’ve learned – and that every PR student should know – to land that dream PR job:
Nail the basics: AP style is no joke in the PR industry, and many prospective employers will ask for a writing and/or grammar test. Pay attention in class because this isn’t something you can fake.
Network like a pro: There’s nothing more intimidating than walking into a roomful of professionals you don’t know. But networking doesn’t have to be awkward and uncomfortable. Try getting involved with an organization, like your local PRSA chapter, and volunteer your time. Suddenly you have a purpose. Not to mention, working the registration table at an event is a great way to meet everyone who walks in the door, and you can pinpoint attendees from organizations you want to work for.
Taking names: When you collect business cards, write notes on the back to help you follow up later. There’s nothing more frustrating than sorting through a pile of business cards after an event and trying to remember who mentioned they’d be hiring in a few months. Writing simple notes on the back of cards will help you follow up after the event.
Informational interviews: I can’t emphasize the importance of informational interviews enough. It’s a great entry point to prospective employers. It will help you understand if your career goals align with the company. Don’t forget to do your research in advance. You may be interviewing them, but it’s important to come with a strong understanding of the company, and be prepared with smart questions to show you did your research. Don’t forget to ask if they foresee any jobs opening up at your level, and leave them with your resume. After all, that’s why you’re there. After the conversation, send them a thank you note, and don’t be afraid to follow up down the road. Having done many informational interviews with students, I can say that I’ve never been annoyed by someone following up with me every couple months to check in. It helps establish a relationship, and it will keep you front and center when something does open up.
Get started with internships early: Internships will not only pad your resume with great experience, they’ll also help you understand what you’re looking for in your career. I like to think of internships as a three-month interview for the prospective employer and the intern! Bonus: In the PR industry, many agencies hire interns with the goal of hiring them full time. Contrary to what may be popular belief, interns aren’t cheap labor. When a company hires an intern, they’re investing time to teach and train that person for a career in PR. Plus, if you’ve made a good impression and they can’t hire you, they’ll surely recommend you to their peers in the industry. Just don’t forget to ask!
While college graduation is exciting and frightening all at once, you are in complete control of your career. If the above tips don’t work the first time, rinse and repeat. So stop stressing about those pending college loan payments, and trade in a happy hour with friends once a week to get yourself out there.