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Archive for the ‘Advice For The PR Grad’ Category

July 6th, 2009

PR Grads doing all the right things…

A while back PRChannel published a series of posts on “Advice for the PR Grad“, PR pros from around the world wrote in to share knowledge and give advice to those recent grads just starting out.  This time we sought out a different point of view – recent grads who have followed all the advice, but in this economic climate are still finding themselves ‘jobless’. Here’s a spotlight written by a recent grad finding herself in a jobless situation despite doing ‘all the right things’.

There are endless tips out there from pros helping recent PR Grads take-off on their professional endeavors. Although I’ve done most everything the pros suggest, I still find myself jobless. Some say that if you haven’t landed a position within the first month after graduation, then it takes an average of eight months to find your first post-college position.

Well, I graduated two months ago, and have followed to the “T” every piece advice given to me from various sources in my efforts to put theory into practice. Thus far I have gained several contacts, secured a few interviews, even was a top ten finalist of the MS&L Worldwide Chicago Internship Challenge of 2009, but no full-time job. All (or at least most) of my efforts started back when I first set foot on my college campus; indeed, I’ve done everything from paid and unpaid internships to workshops on interviewing. But my efforts were put into high gear three months before graduation. Here are more details of what I’ve done.

  1. Get involved: Over and over career services, employers and professors will argue that “practice makes perfect.” I’m not perfect but practice has helped me decipher where I want to be in the future. My collegiate involvement and employment background have given me the opportunity to perform various PR activities, presentations—and most importantly—I have worked as a team leader as well as a team member. I completed a B.S. in Public Relations and Broadcasting, but when I declared them as my majors I was unsure what each profession really entailed. Getting involved and networking led me to my first internship in radio allowing me to learn, hands-on, what each was all about. My first internship was during the summer of my sophomore year at a local radio station. I was exposed to every department, including sales, promotions, productions account and even engineering. This hands-on experience started the ball rolling—and I’ve done a total of five internships in both PR and Broadcasting; only 2 were paid. These positions include: Promotions Intern at a radio station; Program Coordinator for a YMCA branch; Public Relations Intern for the Communication Department at NWMSU; Creative Promotions Intern for a television station and Firm Director for a Student-run Firm.

    These internships have helped me narrow down what I want to do. I’ve learned much about the industry, found some of the greatest people and advisers, networked and received stellar recommendations during my internships, but I have not found the position that I want to pursue.

  2. Build Bridges: Ever heard of “make sure to always leave a good first impression?” More than just making a good impression with the people you meet and/or work for, it is extremely important to keep in touch with them—they can be your ticket to a better job. This becomes especially important with the media’s rapid change because it not only shows you stay current with the media but it allows you stay connected to those who you are no longer working for but would like their support and, hopefully, their recommendation.

    I have created several profiles on online networks like LinkedIn, Monster, Experience and Facebook, which I regularly update and make sure they look very professional. I have a couple recommendations on my LinkedIn profile, some are from internships I did and the others of supervisors from the University (Northwest Missouri State University) I recently graduated from. I spend an average of 20 hours a week exploring twitter, LinkedIn, and other network links. Having said that, I think it’s actually knowing who I “follow”, contacting them, and the type of content I post on twitter that has generated such opportunities (including this one! I found PRChannel on Twitter) Through Twitter I have found and applied for a total of ten positions.

  3. Clean and Revamp: Speaking of updating and looking professional, I have reviewed my resume around fifty times within the last two months. I have cleaned it up so that it looks well-organized and, most importantly, so it shows results. I think of it as a cheat sheet for employers; they can see the results of my projects while I was an intern, or as an employee. I also had several contacts, who are all part of the workforce, take a second look. In addition, I subscribe to several different newsletters where I read about how I can bolster my presence online.
  4. Word of Mouth: Talking to everyone you meet and know is the key to networking. I’ve kept in touch with friends who graduated last year for their advice and/or leads as to who is hiring. Through this I found two different companies that I was really interested in and as a result I applied. I’ve found this process to be more efficient due to my friend’s influence and recommendations.I normally request to know more about the position available and who exactly to contact before I submit a cover letter and my resume—if it is through their website. In the case of the positions where I had a contact I will wait to see which method works best for the human resource office, which usually is through their direct email. This is always better than just emailing a generic company email address.

In my research I have also been very flexible about the location of where I apply. I do not mind moving to another state for a job position and I’ve made it very clear in my cover letters and emails when requesting more information.

A professor once told me that in order to be successful in your job search you must make it “a full time job to find a job.” His words remain in the back of my mind, making me restless as I’ve had to get a part time job in order to pay bills and stay afloat—sadly I’m still a “college student” in that sense.

This post was written by Alejandra Alvarez, a recent grad from Northwest Missouri State University with a double major in Public Relations and Broadcasting. She lives in the very center of the U.S. but hasn’t always; indeed, before moving to Kansas City she lived in California for a few years. However, her story starts in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Fluent in Spanish and English, she’s still looking for a full-time position where she can exercise them both. Want to give Allie a job? Get in touch with her using Twitter (@alliealvarez) or visit her LinkedIn profile.

February 6th, 2009

Advice For The PR Grad – Final Thoughts and Additional Resources

Here it is…the last post of our Advice series!  Just a few more helpful tidbits – then a few extra job hunting resources and more places to go if you aren’t completely overwhelmed by now :)

“I’ve talked with many recent grads throughout the interview process. Many are missing solid and relevant writing samples for the position they are applying for – but not having gotten your first job yet should not be a excuse. Rather, grads need to find a way to use and sharpen their writing skills. They could volunteer to write news releases or even offer to write or produce an entire website for a local nonprofit. Or they could help a friend or relative get the word out about their business. The idea is to simultaneously grow your portfolio and find a great first job.” ~ Rachel Hunt DPR Group

“Stay current! The media landscape and consumer behaviors are rapidly changing so I always look for applicants who are up-to-date on the latest media news, familiar with the newest media outlets (both online and offline) and understand what consumers are reading, watching and talking about.  My clients are very diverse but they all value us for being ahead of the curve with our expertise and so I look for people that can bring that same mind set to the team when I am hiring. Let potential employers know that even as a recent grad you bring value to the table as someone in the know and on top of trends. I personally subscribe to a large number of daily newsletters, alerts and feeds to stay on top and recommend it highly as way to ensure you’re always in the loop. “Embrace Digital! The digital media space is expanding by leaps and bounds and any recent grad will surely be spending a huge amount of their career working with digital so it is essential to get involved and get confident early on. With all of our clients we make sure digital is a part of the media-mix and with many we execute digital tactics that go well beyond the traditional digital campaign. An ideal candidate for me is someone who sees the value in digital and is willing to constantly learn, try new things and grow in their expertise. If you haven’t had the opportunity to work directly in digital yet there are excellent case studies, seminars, resources and information online to learn from – and the great thing about digital is that it is changing and evolving everyday and there are no hard and fast rules. I think recent grads actually have many advantages over more senior folks in PR because the industry is changing so much right now. They bring fresh perspective to traditional media and, more often than not, they have an innate knowledge and willingness to learn in digital media. Additionally, success is no longer guaranteed by how big someone’s rolodex of contacts is so recent grads have the opportunity to jump into a more level playing field to make new connections and possibly change the game for all of us! In the past 6 months I’ve interviewed and met numerous recent grads, hired several of them and watched them absolutely kill it for our clients with their hard work, fantastic ideas and willingness to always learn, try and grow.” ~Victoria Shaw VP, Integrated Public Relations | AMP Agency

The public relations professionals we reached out to also gave us several resources that grads can take advantage of during a job hunt:

PR Open Mic – An ad-free and nonprofit social network for PR students, faculty and practitioners worldwide. Kristin Maverick, Director of Communications at CarrotCreative says “It’s easy and free to join, they host events and offer a platform to promote yourself and your skills.” She also pointed us to Path101, a career discovery destination that offers an advice column to connect with PR pros and experts that answer questions directly.

Also check out the IABC Student Connection, specifically the article Adventures of a New PR Professional by Rebecca Armendariz, and Ned Lundquist’s weekly newsletter featuring jobs for communications professionals.

If all the advice we stock-piled still isn’t enough for you check out these blog posts from various PR pros:

What Young PR Pros can do NOW to Help Their Job Search – from Angela Moore of Starfish PR
10 Places to Find Jobs on Twitter – from Drew Gneiser via the Daily Axioms Blog
5 Tactics to Land a Job Using Social Media (Plus Tips to Do it Right) – from Kelly Rusk’s Web2.What?
Advice For Graduating College Students – from Amybeth Hale
Landing a Great Job – Tips for Success – from Vojtech Horna’s Blog CzechPR

February 5th, 2009

Advice For The PR Grad – Be Bold and Creative

In a tough job market it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd by being bold and creative throughout your search.


Andrea Kobylnik, a Bilingual PR pro has this advice for someone new to the Public Relations field. She holds that participation in social media is key for new PR pros.  She recommends: “Think out of the box and show how creative you are! For instance, you can start writing a blog about your area of expertise.  It’s a great opportunity to show you are innovative and that you have ideas that others probably don’t.  Reading and commenting on other blogs, participating in social networking sites, micro-blogging, etc. can help you not only establish a relationship with other participants of social media but also find a job.  Your blog and your participation in the social media speak about you; they are the reflection of your knowledge and originality.  Write every day about your innovative ideas and you’ll see the results!”

You should also think ‘outside the box’ in terms of where you apply.  Zac Rantz, Communications Coordinator, says “One area the new PR people might look would be the education field.  Schools are moving to new technology and those in the PR field might be the right ones to help usher them in.  It could be a part-time job doing the district’s e-newsletter or managing their website, but that could lead to getting your foot in the door when they can hire a full-time person.  You could also look at doing design work on brochures or other informational handouts.  It never hurts to ask.” By considering other opportunities besides traditional agency experience, you may find yourself facing less competition for the jobs that are available.  “There are some amazing jobs available in digital PR (and in the quality SEO firms who need digital PR skills). I would encourage anyone to think about the industry in those wider terms” ~Will Critchlow

Christina Koshzow, Managing Director at Branding Brand points out that “Every company has a different definition of public relations, so remember that some opportunities will not be listed as “PR” positions.  Keywords such as “community outreach,” “media relations,” “publicity,” “communications,” or even “marketing” can often lead to jobs that require similar skill sets.”

“Look in unusual places.  If you know what industry you want to do PR in, search those industry trades/sites for PR jobs.  Don’t just look for jobs in PR trades.  For example, if you are interested in Entertainment PR, scan Hollywood Reporter or Variety for their job listings.  There are trades for every type of business and for some industries like say cycling, you’re not going to get many PR people scanning Bicycle Retailer for a job.” ~Tracy Bagatelle-Black

“Contact marketing and advertising agencies that do not have public relations departments. Often times they are seeking someone, but haven’t pooled their resources into a full-fledged job search. You can also ask them if they would be willing to accept freelance work in the interim.  Don’t ignore the smaller PR agencies (such as myself). There are plenty of us out there and we often would love to hire a recent graduate, but haven’t had time to perform a job search. Often times you will have more responsibility at a smaller firm and build more experience. Do a search in Google for pr agencies in your area and send them a resume/cover letter.” ~Melissa Cassera, Publicity Specialist – Speaker – Author

“Do not discount the importance of small, mid-size and boutique firms.  Everyone will be looking at the biggest firms that get profiled in college recruiting blogs and career services offices.  But the smaller places require candidates to research and find them, and this creates a barrier to entry that many candidates won’t jump.  Look at PRWeek and other industry publications to identify PR firms outside of the usual suspects.  Research those firms — look up the management bios on LinkedIn, put a Google Alert on them and see what has been written about them, ask your network if they know these firms specifically (you’d be surprised how much info you get when you’re specific in your requests).  Tailor your cover letter and networking pitch based on the info that you find and approach these firms.  The market is bad, but firms are always hiring.  You will need to dig deeper and you want to go where nobody else does.” ~ Caroline Ceniza-Levine, co-founder of SixFigureStart

Once you find a company or firm you are interested in working for, make sure you stand out from the crowd of applicants!  “I once had a grad that sent me a box wrapped as an over-sized Kit Kat about a foot long. When you opened the box, she’d written: “Give Me a Break”. Don’t forget what industry you’re in – show your PR colors from the outset.” Joshua Phillips – Emanate PR


“Be passionate or don’t bother – In the public relations field, if you don’t like what you’re doing, you won’t be very successful. So find out your passion – through internships and pro bono work – and find a job in the PR field that enables you to express it. If you  really enjoy working with small businesses, getting a job at a huge PR firm in New York or Los Angeles where you’re doing high-end corporate-type campaigns might not be the right fit for you. If you are passionate about healthcare, working for a PR firm that specializes in information technology will not get you out of bed in the morning. Be a Rock Star – The “just calling to say hello” or “happy birthday” phone call, the willingness to meet a client for coffee before your work hours begin, staying late to do one last edit of a news release or proposal – these are the little things that go a long way. There are many people among us who are followers – worker bees who want to come in to work, do their work and go home. And then, there are leaders – the Rock Stars – who make work fun, fulfilling and rewarding. Be a rock star in your organization and you’ll be rewarded in ways you never imagined.” ~ Holly Rodriquez, Media PR Officer for University of Richmond

“Kick the “hopeium’ habit. (Just hoping for a call back!) Make the decision makers notice and remember you, especially with larger agencies. Call and touch base, check in, send a note, thank you notes are a great tool; the more a company is exposed to your name and pit bull attitude the more willing decision makers will be to hire you or help you network if your are not able to fill their position. Or you could do what I did…partner with a friend and colleague to start your own boutique PR firm, make your own job and love every minute of it! :) ” ~Amy Kauffman – Partner Bluebird PR

Jan Bracamonte, Director of Public Relations with Crosby/Wright has this advice to offer.  “In an effort to get a foot in the door, e-mail the head of the PR department (PR Director, etc.) and request an informational interview. Ask for only 10-15 minutes of the person’s time; explain what interests you about the firm and what in particular you hope to learn from him/her. PR pros are more willing than not to share info about their firm and how they got into the business. Everyone, no matter their industry, likes to be asked for their “professional opinion” and to be seen as an expert. Play to this, but, when you actually get the meeting, don’t do a hard sell. Find ways to ask questions that show the person your work ethic and experience. Ask the person at the end of the informational interview if he/she wouldn’t mind if you sent them your resume for consideration for future opportunities. You’ve accomplished two goals: you’ve allowed the PR professional to put a face with a name and you’ve ensured your resume doesn’t fall into the e-mail abyss.”

“My strongest advice is to send your resume with a cover letter to owners of firms that you are interested in without waiting for the company to list a job with a recruiter or website.  Since initiative and proactive activity is prized in the field of public relations, do all that you can to demonstrate these qualities, instead of merely stating that you possess them during the interview.  After the resume is sent, follow up with the human resource department or higher executives at the firm to demonstrate your strong interest in working for the particular organization and your ability to perform  polite, yet aggressive, follow up.” ~DeAnne Merey, President, D M Public Relations

“Do your homework and personalize your outreach (no one – media or businesses – want the template letter; visit their website, find out the type of work they do and how you can complement their services).  Be persistent (in your pursuit) just as your employer would want you to be with your work (emails are not the only way; use the phone, stop by w/resume in hand). It’s ok to be persistent; a tenacious individual is someone I’d consider hiring!  Be willing to pay your dues at an organization – do whatever is required and get a well-rounded understanding of the organization. Be willing to work your way up because employers value good talent and appreciate loyalty! Jumping ship after 6 months when things aren’t so rosy does not build character.  Find ways to add value and breadth to an organization. If a company or agency is focused on traditional PR/marketing and you have experience in social/viral marketing arena, tout your services and know-how as adding something new!” ~Lynn Luczkowski, owner of L2 Communications

February 4th, 2009

Advice For The PR Grad – Interview Tips

It’s common sense to come to an interview prepared, but what exactly should you be ready for during an interview for a public relations position?

First of all, chances are that you’ll have to hand over your resume before you get an interview – so we asked for advice on making the best possible first impression.

“Show results, not just tasks.  Everyone puts – Wrote press releases, coordinated events, drafted articles, etc.  Very few (especially entry level) actually show results.  [Example - Secured feature story on the front page of the food section of The Tampa Tribune. Saw 30 percent increase in sales at the local restaurant.]  Show HOW PR efforts can be measured.” ~ Sandy D’Elosua- Senior Account Exec at RFB Communications

“Resumes are useless to find opportunities. They are solely a cliff note to an interview. Resumes should be used as conversation cards for your interviewer.  Resumes are lame anyway, use something more demonstrative that shows who you are and what you’re passionate about. Get a portfolio together – something that shows what you’ve done – how you did it, how it impacted people. If you don’t have materials for a portfolio, donate your time to a non profit and get them press ;-) Antoine Dubeauclard , President Media Genesis

“The most common mistake I see grads make when they apply for a position with us is not making the effort to find out who — by name — they should address their cover letter to. When I receive a cover and resume addressed to “To Whom It May Concern,” I don’t bother to read it, I just toss it. I figure if they didn’t take the time or make the effort to call our agency and ask to whom they should address their query, they are not someone I would seriously consider for even an entry-level job. I purposefully do not include HR information on our Web site for the simple reason that if you are really interested in working for our firm and have done your homework, which includes figuring out the proper HR person, then I might be interested in talking to you. The second most-common mistake is not putting your name in the title of the file containing your cover letter and your resume. If I am conducting a job search, I’m likely to get quite a few e-mailed resumes and letters. If yours is labeled “PR_Resume_Jan_09.doc” it’s going to get lost or I have to change the file name, which is a pain, and goes down as a mark against you in my little mental book. In college these days they spend a lot of time teaching how to write the perfect cover letter and resume, but they don’t spend five minutes on these two tips, which for me are opportunity killers because they demonstrate a lack of initiative and awareness. And don’t get me started on typos ….” Buck Banks VP NewmanPR

Dr. Michael Smith, Professor of Communication at La Salle University in Philadelphia says “Treat your resume like American Express used to have you treat their card – don’t leave home without it.  Take a stack of resumes (or resume summaries) wherever you go.  One of my former students got a good job in marketing while tending bar; a rep from the company he really wanted to work for came in and he “just happened” to have his resume with him.  She got it–and got him in the door.”

Perfecting your resume is a great first step – but what about advice for the actual interview?

Susan Strayer has 3 pieces of advice for getting prepared to give a great interview.  “1-Have examples ready about how you would get PR attention for a company’s product, service or event–you will likely get asked for an example on the spot in an interview. Do your research on the company so you’re ready to provide specific details.  Be prepared to share why you chose that strategy too. 2-Review examples of crisis (think peanut butter and salmonella) or embarrassment (think Merrill Lynch CEO’s million dollar spend on his office) and how you’d respond if you were the company’s spokesperson. 3-Create a portfolio with releases, tearsheets, photos from events, quotes, etc.  It doesn’t have to be extensive, but having something tangible you can bring to a networking meeting or interview allows you to share it live and get immediate reaction as opposed to sending a link by email later”

Allison Fogt, Account Manager for KiddPR similarly suggests that grads “Build a portfolio with samples of relevant class or internship work and any resulting media coverage.” She also says to “Make sure your personality shines through in the interview.”

“1-Really know the definition of public relations vs. advertising – 95% of the people i interviewed over the years could not give me a good definition. 2-Bring sample work even if its from a class you took. 3-Be prepared to take a writing test – writing under pressure and producing great work is a priority at a pr agency. 4-If you currently have a job and are asked when you could start working in the new position do not answer “immediately” as this will tell the interviewer volumes about your sense of loyalty, responsibility and sense of fair play.  If someone doesn’t give their former employer two-weeks’ notice I won’t hire them. 5-Speaking of references – come prepared with a typed list including contact information and offer it even before you are asked. 6-Be prepared to ask intelligent questions – don’t ask who the clients are or what exactly the agency does – if you don’t know this cancel the interview – time wasters are not appreciated and most certainly won’t be hired. 7-Bring something to take notes on – have a pen handy – if the interviewer gives you advice write it down – the way you handle information intake is a good indicator of how you will function as an employee. 8-Read as much as you can – newspapers, magazines – know the media outlets – if one more person tells me that they only read “People” I will just scream and find a new industry.” ~ Dindy Yokel

And then there is the advice on what NOT to do.  Sandy D’Elosua gives this advice that may be surprising to some grads.  “Never say you are a “people person” when applying for a job in PR.  This profession is all about writing, so it clearly demonstrates the applicant knows nothing about the profession when they walk in saying this.  I remember my first course in public relations at the University of Florida, the professor stood in front of the lecture hall and asked, “how many of you are people persons?” The majority of students raised their hands.  Then he said, “get out now; this is not the profession for you.” Also, “Stop saying, “I will be an asset for your company”… or “I will be a great addition to your team.”  After the applicant proves his or her worth, let the team decide whether he or she is an asset.  This could be viewed as off-putting to the person hiring.”

Jan Bracamonte, Director of Public Relations with Crosby-Wright sent us a DON’T for interviewing: “For many seeking jobs, they don’t take the time to learn about the agency before they apply. So, they send a generic cover letter and resume without first answering the most important question to the person hiring: “Why are you a good fit for my firm?” Yes, I want to know about you as a professional. But, know your audience and how you can benefit them.”

That’s it for today, tomorrow’s advice: Think Outside the Box

February 3rd, 2009

Advice For The PR Grad – Networking

Yes, it’s all about who you know.  Our pro’s had advice on how, when and where to network and build relationships with other professionals…

1. Get involved in organizations:

Allison Fogt, Account Manager for Kidd PR says to “Take advantage of networking opportunities with PR professionals in your area. Introduce yourself at PR organization luncheons. They will appreciate your initiative, and you may have an edge should a job opening become available.”

“Start attending networking events or join a business club while still in college! In most major cities across the country, there are plenty of groups for young people and recent grads who are looking to be involved in the business world, and many college campuses have business clubs/fraternities. You can use CampusCompare to research which schools have these valuable networking clubs.  In today’s job-search world, everything is virtual. Employers oftentimes are overwhelmed with a plethora of resume submissions, so even the most qualified candidate’s resume might just be lost in an inbox.  With the face-to-face interaction you’d receive by attending networking events, you have the opportunity to really shine and make an impression on potential employers. “ ~Brittany Burton

“Join your local Public Relations Society of America and get to know the members. Go to the meetings, talk with people, and offer to serve on a committee and do an outstanding job. This will help you prove your eagerness to work and abilities in the field, and you’ll make a positive impression on the very people who are most likely to find out about PR jobs in your community before they are announced to the general public. If you’re interested in working in PR for a nonprofit, you may want to do the same with your local Association of Fundraising Professionals as well.” ~ Mary White, author of 101 Successful PR Campaign Tips and co-founder of MTI Business Solutions.

“Networking  — I would email PR and Marketing conference organizers and ask for a student discount when I first graduated college.  Conferences like Marketing & Online Communities Conference, SummerMash NYC, Social Media Club and PRSA events are a great place to learn more and network with as many people as possible.  I even had personal business cards printed for free using Vista Print.  Other than that, I networked online.  When I first graduated college a new web site was launched.  It was an invite-only career networking site for top university graduates.  This was a fantastic resource, as I was able to connect with top young professionals in my industry to bounce advice off of and network for jobs.” ~ Matt Clark. Lotus PR

2. Don’t knock the informational interview!

“Join organizations – Organizations like Toast Masters, Junior League, Chamber of Commerce, and faith based groups can give you opportunities to practice speaking, writing, and interpersonal skills. Don’t disdain the “informational interview.” – In tough economic times when many places are not hiring, a positive encounter may pay dividends down the road in better times.” ~ Joseph Starrs – Director, Institute on Political Journalism for The Fund for American Studies

“Call people with the objective of learning what they do and what it’s like. It removes all the pressure. You’re not asking them for a job. You’re just trying to understand what their job is like. If you do this well, you’ll get a mentor who may be a good referral source to other opportunities (shhh don’t tell people, but that’s how people REALLY get jobs.)” ~Antoine Dubeauclard – President, Media Genesis

“Learn to lunch! Lunch is a great way to casually build your professional network and get to know about your colleagues and the profession.” ~ JP Clark Regional Communications Manager, Grainger

Meeting people through professional networks is great, but more than a few of our PR pros pointed out that you should always be on the look-out for potential opportunities.  In other words…

3. Talk to everybody!

“Also- talk to everyone and anyone you can. Airplanes, grocery stores, at the mall… schmooze everyone you can. You never know who’ll you meet. Jobs aren’t found through the classifieds- they’re found through networking. And make sure you keep those connections from the past- a mark of a good public relations professional is the ability to maintain relationships.” ~ Melissa Cibelli PR Specialist

Amy Kauffman, partner at BlueBird PR, advises you to “have an elevator speech ready, sell yourself like you would pitch any of your clients. Go to as many alumni, professional or communication organizations events/happy hours. There are a ton in every city, you just have to look them up! (I know you spend hours on Facebook, aren’t YOU worth that time; invest in your own personal stock!)”

“Create a home-made business card with your contact information, alma mater and degree. Take every opportunity to network, whether it be with the person you stood in line with at Starbucks or the friend-of-your-cousin’s-boyfriend you met at a party. Here’s a personal anecdote: After college I was waiting tables while I was searching for a full-time job, and began talking to one of our guests about my job hunt. After dinner I gave him my information, and after a series of emails we met for lunch and he passed along information for every contact he had in the PR/Marketing and business world. This type of personal connection is invaluable and we still exchange emails.” ~Brittany Burton, Campus Rep Coordinator,  CampusCompare.

Mike Santoro, President of Walker Sands Communications says “Network, Network, Network. You should start and maintain connections with PR professionals early because you never know when a position will open up. It’s all about who you know, since great references will often provide a verbal boost to your resume that can give you the upper hand and land you the job. Plus, the PR profession is truly about networking and how you can connect with the media. Demonstrating those networking skills early is a great way to get started in the field. Keep updated with online social media opportunities, but realize that face-to-face interaction is also important. Join Twitter. This is a fantastic networking tool to meet professionals, get advice, get job/internship leads and find out about PR events to attend.”

4. Network Online

Many pros pointed out that while building relationships in person is crucial, a PR grad should also take advantage of the online networking resources available.

Heather Huhman, founder of encourages people to “sign up for Twitter, start following thought leaders in public relations (specifically, the area of public relations that interests you most, such as health care), and get engaged via the various PR hashtags: #PRadvice for asking pros questions, #EntryPR for entry-level jobs and #PRintern for internships. “

“Networking is crucial. Anyone you know can potentially know someone who is looking to hire. Use social networks like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word that you’re a talented, bright grad looking for a job. Don’t stalk anyone, but it’s good to be persistent. Plus, knowing your way around social media is a huge plus these days. And don’t think that because the firm doesn’t have an ad up on Craigslist that they aren’t looking to hire. Apply to all of the firms you want to work for, even if they aren’t advertising any openings.” ~ Termeh Mazhari

“Put your best “Facebook” forward. Social networking sites are great ways to stay in touch and share information with friends – but prospective employers are watching, too. Last fall’s Greek mixer may have been a blast, and you may really covet the “Beer Pong Champion” trophy you earned that night, but do you really want to share those memories with your future boss? Once you start looking for internships or full-time employment, your social networking pages need to undergo a thorough review. It’s fine to keep photos of your friends, hobbies and interests up, but keep everything in good taste. If you wouldn’t want it broadcast on TV or in the paper, take it down.” ~ Jason Menke, Communications Consultant

5. When you network, you are your client

The road ahead is largely determined by the bridges you’ve crossed. It’s trite, but the advice of “don’t burn any bridges” is still sound. Communicators are a tight knit group, and they seek each other counsel, advice and guidance. They also talk amongst themselves about their experiences working with other communicators. You are undeniably the most important client you’ll ever represent, so make every effort to build good relationships and keep them intact. Even if you end up working for a difficult boss, do what you can to leave on good terms. In my 15 years as a professional, I’ve been hired by the same manager twice, and my first boss out of college was instrumental in getting me my current gig – she’s now a co-worker who recommended me for my position.” ~ Jason Menke

Amy Armstrong, PR Partner with Armstrong Troyky, sent us a sample from a cover letter she actually received – it said “…After spending the last year of my professional life in public relations and event planning, I am convinced that PR- unlike, say brain surgery or local area network design- does not require special education, knowledge, or background for success…” Ouch.  Amy’s take on the email?“In my entire 25+ year career in PR and marketing, this is the WORST job query I have ever received!  I have hired hundreds of candidates out of college for entry level positions and have never seen anything like this! Quick tip….never insult people in the profession you are trying to get into!”

Which brings us to our last bit of advice for this section.

“Don’t burn any bridges.  The PR world is smaller than you think and you never know when you will cross paths with members of the media, PR-related vendors and other agencies in another life.” ~ Dan Lobring

Coming Tomorrow: Interview Tips

February 2nd, 2009

Advice For The PR Grad – Internships

If there was one thing that all of our PR pros could agree on it would be that experience is important.  Grads should have some type of work experience under their belt before applying to their first post-college job.  Get an internship, do some volunteer work, something related to the field…anything.

Here’s what the pros had to say in their own words:

Mike Santoro, President of Walker Sands Communications says “Get experience however you can. PR firms always need interns. An internship is a great way of getting in the door, as those internships often turn into full-time jobs.  Of course, if nothing comes directly from it, you’ve got resume-ready job experience and some portfolio work that will make your next search even easier. If you can’t get your foot in the door at a firm, look to use your skills elsewhere to build that needed experience. You could help promote a local restaurant or theatre. Or help with internal communications at a corporate job. It’s crucial to tell a success story in that first interview so try and get it wherever you can. My firm is actually currently seeking PR interns for the summer” Chicago PR Summer Internships

“If you haven’t already, get an internship with a government agency or non-profit. You will have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects and often have more responsibility than you may get in a corporate environment, plus many of these internship opportunities pay better than entry-level pr agency gigs or corporate jobs. It is great experience that you may not be able to afford to get later on” says JP Clark Regional Communications Manager for Grainger

“The best advice I can offer new PR grads jumping into the shaky job market is to swallow your pride and don’t be afraid to knock on every door, no matter how remote the possibility. When I graduated from college with a degree in corporate communications, I had already completed three PR internships and still struggled to find a job. I ended up calling a regular from the bar I was working at (had to pay the bills!) who owned an advertising agency. He offered me an internship in their PR department, which pained me since I’d already done three internships and now need to make real money, but I enthusiastically accepted and resigned myself to tackling menial and sometimes humiliating tasks cheerfully and thoroughly. And within three months I was a PR account executive running my own accounts. Just keep a positive attitude and be persistent, it pays off. Once your foot is in the door, do everything you can to make a company want to invite you in for good.” ~Katrina Limbaugh, Director of Communications at Zig Ideas

Experience doesn’t necessarily mean Internship.  Mary White, author of 101 Successful PR Campaign Tips and co-founder of MTI Business Solutions encourages grads to “consider doing PR oriented volunteer work for a local nonprofit. This will give you  a chance to get some practical experience to put on your resume, and to get to know influential people in your community.” If you do land an Internship she says to “Treat the internship as if it is your dream job – what I mean is, take it seriously. Act as if you are making a huge salary and can’t afford to lose the job for anything. Work hard, prove yourself invaluable, and make a positive impression in terms of your attitude, skills, eagerness, etc. You just might find that the internship becomes a job, or at least a few terrific referrals that can help you land the job of your dreams. “

Recent grad Jennifer Seeley knows first hand what she is talking about (she nailed an Assistant Account Exec position at RFL) and has this piece of advice for getting that all important experience.  “With this economy and this job market, beggars can’t be choosers. Many of my friends wanted to find jobs in very specialized fields of public relations (ex. sports or entertainment public relations) however, this is such a narrow field, that finding a specific job was impossible for them. At our age, the most important thing we can get is experience in all aspects of public relations.  Applying for jobs/internships is a numbers game…send as many resume’s and cover letters out as possible. If you have a solid resume/cover letter, eventually you’ll build interest.” She also suggested job seekers “expect the unexpected. As cliché as this sounds…what I found myself doing after graduation was the complete opposite of what I had always thought I’d wanted. This wasn’t a bad thing at all; it just wasn’t what I had initially expected.”

“Take an internship while still in college! Employers are looking for someone who has taken the initiative while still in college to explore the field and gain experience. A previous internship will also minimize on-the-job training and allow you to impress your employer with your prior achievements. If you don’t already have an internship under your belt when applying for jobs, your resume will be at the bottom of the pile, because so many other students will already be ahead.  CampusCompare is actually hiring PR interns right now” ~Brittany Burton, Campus Rep Coordinator…p.s. here’s the link to the job

Alright, we’ve established that having some sort of experience is important.  In fact in the PR field it’s closer to a must-have.  So go check out those links to internship opportunities – see what we did there…

But don’t worry, even if you’ve graduated without internship experience Meg Fullenkamp, PR Specialist with Captiva Marketing says its not too late “First, don’t be afraid to do a post-grad internship. My first internship was after graduation at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. It was for 2 months, not much pay, but I learned so much and got to work with major editors at publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and more! This internship gave me valuable experience that made me more attractive to employers.  Secondly, don’t be afraid to do more than one post-grad internship. After my time was over at Opera Theatre, I landed a position as an intern in the marketing communications group at Fleishman Hillard. I had applied at FH twice before and didn’t even get an interview. My internship at Opera Theatre made me extremely attractive on paper and I landed the job. While my six months at FH were crazy, it was great having such a large agency on my resume.”

“Take an internship your senior year or immediately after you graduate. This will give you the opportunity for an on-the-job interview. PR firms look at their internship programs like farm systems. The best talent is brought up to the majors. If you cam excel at the basics, you will be considered for a major league roster spot. Work hard. Work long hours. Do what us asked of you and then some. Be a sponge and learn from the jr staff as well as execs.” ~ Donald Martelli CP with MS&L

Last, but not least, we received 2 pieces of advice that were especially relevant to finding a job when the economy is less than stellar.  Mandy Kimmer, Marketing/PR Coordinator for The OC Club also struggled to find a job straight out of school in 1983 and since then has been let go from a few positions because, unfortunately, the PR and Marketing budget is often the first thing to go during an economic downturn.  Her advice is to “(1) get some experience as an intern while in school; (2) be patient and try to get in a company that has potential, but (3) don’t wait for the perfect job – you need to be a responsible adult now and get a job, so take what you can find, and keep looking; (4) send resumes even when employed.”

Also, its important to remember that when very few people are hiring an internship may be all that is available.  Claire Gibbons, PR Account Director and Exec. Communications Trainer at Rawle Murdy has this to say “Internships are one of the best ways to get in the door at your dream employer. Don’t expect to be paid, which means you’ll need a part-time job as well. But, if you come in everyday with a positive attitude, if you are armed with strategic ideas and suggestions, if you consistently look to add value – even if it’s grunt work – when budgets loosen up, they’re not going to want to let you go.”

Next up in our Advice For PR Grads series: Networking

January 30th, 2009

Advice For The PR Grad

It’s obvious that we are living in troubled economic times, and new grads are facing a pretty tough job market.  So we decided to reach out to PR professionals with the goal of collecting the very best advice they had to offer.  The response was amazing – our inbox, and various other social media spaces, were flooded with responses from both seasoned PR vets and recent grads who have had success in their own job hunts.

We received so much advice it would be impossible to include it all in one place.  Rather than making edits and leaving out huge amounts of truly valuable advice we’ve decided to do a week-long series “Advice For The PR Grad”.

So stay tuned – starting next week we’ll be presenting a huge amount of quality advice broken up into different areas of the job hunting process and the PR industry itself!

Here’s a preview…

“Lots of young people have come to me over the years about trying to get into public relations as they see it as a glamorous job.  Invariably they tell me they love people or are good with people and so want to go into the field.  Here’s what I tell them….if you want to go into PR because you love people…it’s the wrong job for you…it’s not about smoozing…it’s about strategic and creative thinking that often has to be out-of-the-box, the ability to conduct effective research and then analyze situations (seeing both sides of an issue), understanding the science of public opinion and psychology, and then effectively advising/convincing senior management on a course of action.  At different times and in different situations, you have to be able to be both a leader and an effective team member, and you always have to be able to write and speak succinctly and convincingly. It’s amazing how many of these young people leave my office realizing it’s not the job for them…they want the glamour of their name in the paper or being on television…and none of the hard, hard work!” ~Lindsay Shearer, Director of Public Relations, CIGNA HealthCare

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