I was honored and privileged to serve on a panel of fellow PR pros last night at my alma mater, Rutgers University. Rutgers’ PRSSA chapter convened a panel of working PR folks to share their experience and wisdom regarding the best methods to chart a successful PR career (A surreal opportunity for me – since I was sitting in the audience just one short year ago).
Considering the tight hiring market, I was very fortunate to land a full-time position in a local boutique PR firm only a few short months after receiving my degree. Landing that first job after college was not easy, it took a great deal of planning and understanding of what I wanted for myself as an individual and a professional. Following is my 6-Step plan of what all young PR Pros should follow if they want to position themselves favorably to land that coveted first job.
Step 1: Join a Professional Organization
This is imperative! Before you do anything else, you must join a professional student organization at your school. The most well known and prestigious of these groups is the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). I joined the Rutgers University PRSSA chapter my sophomore year in college, this one decision is what catapulted me on to the path of PR success.
Step 2: Seek Out a Leadership Role
Leadership roles can be found in many on-campus organizations. Academic, social, volunteer, sports, Greek, media (school newspaper, radio, websites, etc.) can all use leaders. I chose to seek a leadership role in my Rutgers PRSSA chapter. I volunteered on committees, then competed for an executive board position and achieved it – which simply meant, you guessed it, more work! My PRSSA executive board service and my passion and curiosity to learn more about public relations directly resulted in helping land my first job.
Step 3: NETWORK!
Have you ever heard of the saying, “its all about who you know.” This could not be more true in the professional world -- you must network! Lucky for you, if you already completed steps 1 and 2, then you are already building a network of peers and professionals. The best way to network is to ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask someone for their contact information or even just ask questions about their experiences. This is the best way to land internships; almost all of my internships came through my network.
Step 4: Diversify Your Experiences
Try to engage in a diverse array of communications activities and disciplines. You do not want your resume to be filled with internships and experience that are exactly the same. Diversifying your experiences is a great way to explore the field of public relations and understand where your true passions lie. Seeking out internships that take on different roles also helps build your skill set. An internship at a large agency will teach you different skills than interning at a boutique agency. The same goes for interning for a company versus a non-profit.
Step 5: Persistence
When seeking your first job, you cannot just send your resume out there and wait. For those positions you desire most, follow-up phone calls reveal confidence, passion and desire. That said, there is a balance between persistence and stalking. Calling your prospective employers puts you higher on their radar. Texting and emailing doesn’t do the trick here. You must use the phone.
Step 6: Make Yourself Indispensible
This is the final step to landing a job right after college. Wherever you are interning, you have to find ways to show your value. In the most professional manner possible, stick your nose into everything! Offer to help on client projects more than the responsibilities they have already given you, offer to take a shot at writing the first draft of the press release or even offer to proof an existing one. Getting involved in account management work will put you in a position of filling a need in the organization. If you can find a way to fill a company’s needs, then you are there to stay!