So You've Graduated from College, Now What?
I’ve been fortunate to have participated in two PR Q&A sessions with two universities: Roger Williams University and Bentley University. I was pleasantly surprised with the insightful questions that the students were asking and could see how eager they were to learn more about this fast-paced and ever-changing industry.
Though conversations started off with general questions such as, “How do I build relationships with reporters?” or “How much of a role does PR have in corporate social media campaigns?” in the end, the discussion would always shift to the ultimate question, “How can I break into the industry?”
This question always brings me back to when I graduated from Bentley University (@BentleyU) in May 2010 because I asked myself the same question. I took all of the right classes, graduated from a great business school and had multiple PR internships; but for some reason, I was still having a difficult time landing an entry-level PR position. I eventually realized that it’s because the competition is fierce and the candidates whom I was up against were just as prepared as I was.
After listening to my peers during the Q&A sessions and thinking back to my own interview experience, I compiled a quick list of what hiring managers are looking for in an entry-level PR candidate.
First impressions are everything:
You only have a limited amount of time to make a lasting impression and it needs to be a positive one if you want to get the position. This means making sure your resume and cover letterare in perfect condition with zero grammatical errors. This also holds true if you are exchanging emails with the hiring company. Finally, dress to impress and come to the interview prepared. Bring extra resumes, writing samples, a reference list, a notebook and writing utensil. Looking and acting professional from the start will show the company that you are serious and prepared for the job at hand.
Do your homework:
During the Q&A with Roger William University (@myrwu), LPP’s CEO, Lois Paul made a comment regarding how she’s shocked by how many times interviewees don’t know the name of the company and think it’s “Lois and Paul and Partners.” This example sparked a good discussion around the importance of doing your homework. It’s impressive when a candidate comes into an interview with knowledge of the company’s background, messaging and social media channels. Doing your homework is the backbone of a majority of PR responsibilities, which is why researching the company before the interview is essential.
Come to the interview prepared to share your prior PR experience:
PR is a fast-paced environment so highlighting your knowledge of the typical PR responsibilities will show the interviewer that you can hit the ground running. Discuss specific projects or campaigns and your own personal strengths you may have discovered. Since PR is a collaborative effort, give examples of your teamwork and how you played a role in overcoming difficult challenges that your team faced.
Show off your social media skills:
Though “traditional” PR is still very much alive, social media is becoming more important every day. One advantage that soon to be graduates have is the fact that they grew up in the social media age. You want to highlight that aspect in your interview. Be sure to list the different social media channels you’ve leveraged both professionally and personally, and share ideas for how it can complement a business communications strategy.
You have the job/internship, now make the most of it:
Whether your job is an internship in-house or at an agency, make sure you make the most of it from the start. Learn from your peers and soak in the knowledge they share since this is the best way to stay ahead in this constantly evolving industry. Being proactive and challenging yourself with new projects will not only show your company that they made the right decision, but it will help your career growth and make you a better PR pro in the end.
Job hunting can be difficult but staying positive, learning from each interview and following the steps above will bring you that much closer to securing a PR position. Good luck and if you have any other suggestions, feel free to post a comment below!