Whenever I think back to this time two years ago, my pulse quickens and my heart rate increases. I was a senior at Hofstra University preparing to graduate college and worried about my future. I had taken every required PR class, I had a resume bursting with internship experience, and I had used every second of my free time to participate in clubs and organizations – but I was still terrified. To appease my fears, I attended multiple networking events and was fortunate to meet three account executives at CooperKatz, which led to an informational interview.
Fast-forward to early February, when I received an email from the office manager at CooperKatz & Company asking if I was interested in interviewing for an open account coordinator position at the agency. Was I interested? Of course I was! Six meetings, one timed writing test and a few thank-you notes later, I was offered the position three months before I walked across the stage and accepted my diploma.
However, I was an enigma in my graduating class. According to this Slate article, when I was getting ready to graduate from college in May 2014, “8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 were unemployed” and “44 percent of recent graduates – meaning those ages 22 to 27 with a B.A. or higher – were in a job that did not technically demand a bachelor’s degree.” So how did I manage to land a job in my industry before I graduated college? Read on to find out my top six tips for landing a job in PR before you graduate.
- Be clear about what you want. – You are not expected to know exactly what type of PR you want to go into as soon as you graduate college, but you should know what interests you. When networking and speaking with your resources, clearly state exactly what you are looking for in a job. For example, saying “I am looking for a PR job or fulltime internship at a mid-sized agency in New York City that focuses in financial services, B2B and higher education clients” is a lot more helpful than, “I want a PR job.” Your career resources will be able to connect you with relevant people in the industry when they have a clear vision of what you want.
- Arrange informational interviews. – Most PR agencies don’t normally start hiring college grads until March. This means that if you’re a college senior right now, you’re in a panic-inducing limbo stage where you can’t begin interviewing for immediate openings because you’re in school, but you still want to network and prepare for life after graduation. The solution is to find companies that you are interested in and reach out to them to schedule an informational interview. Send them your resume and come prepared with tons of questions. There is nothing more valuable then showing a company that you’re enthusiastic and want to learn more about what makes their company special. Putting a face to a name on a resume will put you ahead when March rolls around and agencies begin to look for candidates.
- Do your homework. – Just like you would never show up to a class presentation unprepared, don’t ever show up to an interview (informational or not) without doing your research! Most good companies keep their websites updated, making it easy for you to learn what types of clients they have, what services they offer, what PR campaigns they have worked on and what their company culture is like. Also, check out their blog or social channels to find out what the company has been up to lately. When I interviewed at CooperKatz, I wished Ralph Katz a belated happy birthday because I had noticed that the company had posted about his birthday on Instagram a week earlier. (Hint: CooperKatz even makes it easy for you to study the specific person who is interviewing you with the team page on our website!)
- Prepare your resume and portfolio. – Start updating your resume and getting together your portfolio now so you are ready to start networking and going on interviews. Your resume should be easy to read and one page – don’t forget to put your public relations experience towards the beginning. While a portfolio is not necessary, it is an added bonus during an interview. Include relevant PR writing you’ve done for school or internships as well as any press clips you’ve secured.
- Network with everyone. – Does your uncle’s best friend’s daughter work in PR? Reach out and ask about her experience in the industry and whether she has any job leads. Make as many connections as you can because you never know where you could find a job opportunity. One of my first introductions to the world of PR was a meeting my dad set up for me my freshmen year of college with one of his friend’s sons who started a public relations and marketing firm in Boston. If you’re not sure where to start, check out your university’s alumni base and speak with your professors.
- Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. – Landing a job before you graduate does not come easy – you need to put in the work. You have to promote yourself to your prospective employers because if you can’t do PR for yourself, why would they hire you to do PR for their clients? Never be afraid to reach out to a connection, send your resume to an alum or attend a networking event.
Now take a deep breath and start thinking about what you want to do after you graduate. You will definitely thank yourself later if you prepare for the job market now by researching where you want to work, putting together your resume and portfolio and networking with everyone …and start to schedule those informational interviews!
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