When I was an undergraduate student nearing graduation, I felt frantic about finding my first “career” job. My time at a private university had helped me earned my degree and a ton of student loan debt. I had a broad degree (communication) and broad interests. Picking a dream job (advertising copywriter, poet, photographer) was easy. Finding those titles in job postings was not.
Finding Public Relations
My job search started early on my senior year. I couldn't find an advertising copywriter job anywhere in town and began to realize that role was a prize to be fought over. I had already been a photographer at SeaWorld (too hot) and portrait studios (too limiting) and knew poetry wouldn't pay the bills. Luckily, a classmate presented on her dream field of public relations during one of my final classes. It sounded like the ideal fit for me. I researched the job market and learned that PR was also a competitive field. What was a fresh-faced, loan-heavy grad to do?
Apparently this degree wasn't going to grant me three wishes. That's a bitter pill to swallow being the first in my family to earn one. And the first to owe so much to the government for that opportunity. I'd have to be my own genie, make my own magic and earn my place like everyone else before me. I resolved to cut my teeth wherever I could and applied for any relevant communications job. A lot of hustle, a little luck and a friendly referral helped me find my shot at a full-time PR position.
The Cold Shower of Competition
You get the degree; you get the dream job…right? Any practitioner can tell you it doesn’t work that way. Employers believe that degrees carry weight -- but that's just part of the equation. Learning the theory of public relations and the practice of it can reveal wide gaps. Experience counts for a lot. Additionally, shrinking newsrooms ( so sorry my friends) and a shaky economy has left more competition than ever for full-time PR employment. A new graduate with a chip on their shoulder could remain jobless for a long time.
Set Up for Success
You've studied hard and are ready for real world experience. So how can a new grad prepare to earn (and keep) a place in the PR world? Below are eight essential tips that can help you succeed during your first years on the job.
1. Be Flexible to Move Forward
Everyone has to start somewhere. Sometimes new grads have to take a job - any job - so they can move closer to what they want to be doing. My first job after college was at a now defunct museum. It helped me keep from panicking about my loans while I kept my eyes open for a shot at a PR opening. Consider the skills that you could learn, experience that could transfer and connections you could make.
2. Manage Your Personal Brand
What you post online, how you dress, how you speak, how you write, how you manage your nonverbals and even how you eat matter. These are some key parts of how others experience you as a professional. Curate that image carefully.
3. Hone your Writing Skills
If you don’t know AP style, take a class right away. Don't know what "AP" stands for? That's a bad sign! Writing and editing in Associated Press style makes journalists' lives easier which is the key to good media relations. So nail that. Get an AP Stylebook online membership and use it. Also, continue to take writing classes and test those skills throughout your career. Nothing kills credibility quite like bad grammar or spelling.
4. Develop Two-Way Relationships
Network with the purpose of building a relationship. You’ll reap endless rewards by being simply being helpful. Be a team player at work, a resource for industry colleagues and a source for journalists. They'll remember you…in a good way!
5. Keep Up with Technology and Trends
If you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind. School will never be out in this field. Look for mentors, share your knowledge and be grateful for any chance to learn more.
6. Do More than is Required
Problem solve, over-deliver and always do your best. And make sure your best is actually good by asking for feedback. If you're interning, get out of your cube and ask how you can help. Millennials are getting an unfair rep for lacking soft skills. Stand out to get a reference or a shot at the next job up for grabs.
7. Stay Creative
New ways to approach old projects will keep work evolving. They'll make you sound innovative, too. Offering novel ways to improve events, find story angles and enhance initiatives will make your boss happy and keep your responsibilities fresh year after year.
8. Make the Most of Every Opportunity
When you have the shot, take it! Put all of your energy in learning everything and impressing anyone you can. Show appreciation for others’ knowledge, time and contacts. People will want to help you if they know you take advantage of their assistance.
What was your entry like into PR? Please share any tips or comments below to help our new pros get started!