Graduation is just around for the corner for many public relations students and while it will be cause for celebration, many will be walking across the stage wondering “what do I do now?” Few will have landed a coveted PR position prior to graduating and let’s face it — the job market is tough, especially in sunny San Diego. In such a competitive environment, what can recent graduates do to land their dream job?
1. Get internships that matter — Not every internship is created equally. Some have you make coffee or only allow you to do research or develop media lists. While research and media lists are important tasks, the right internship should also give you the opportunity to write press releases, make media calls or sit in on planning meetings. Internships can also help one decide a career path. Are you a fit for in-house PR, agency life or the nonprofit industry? The right internship should help you build a portfolio that will also help you land your first job.
2. Build a portfolio — While an account coordinator position is an entry level position, many employers are still looking for someone who has a bit of PR experience. You will need to show them samples of work so it’s important to get an internship that matters. A hard-copy portfolio is still the way to go when you come in for an interview but make sure you have created an online portfolio that you can easily link into any cover letters you send out.
3. Create a strong cover letter — If you majored in public relations, writing should be your passion so writing a cover letter should be a breeze. Pitch your potential employer on why you are the ideal candidate for the position and show them your excellent writing skills. A strong cover letter and resume is vital to getting your foot in the door.
4. Review your online presence — If you are expected to brand and promote clients then its natural your potential employer would expect that you know how to brand and promote yourself. It is important that you view all online outlets as extensions of your resume. Most employers will immediately do a Google search after receiving your resume. That means you need to clean up your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts if you have anything posted that you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. You should also optimize your LinkedIn profile — please don’t send your potential employer a LinkedIn request until after you have landed the job.
5. Make a wish list of companies you would like to work for — You may have your sights set on working for a company that currently doesn’t have an opening. Reach out to them anyway and ask for an informational interview. This will allow you to impress them them with your knowledge of the industry, and learn more about the company and what it takes to succeed there. If a position opens up later, and you made an impact with them, they may be more likely to bring you in for an interview.
6. Make an impact when interviewing — Be confident, but not cocky, in your interview. Show your passion and show the interviewee that you are a strategic thinker who can contribute to the organization. Do your research on the company and person with whom you are interviewing, then impress them with your industry knowledge.
7. Keep on writing — You have heard it a million times but strong writing skills are critical for a job in PR. If you don’t like to write, you may be in the wrong field. Keep your writing skills fresh and utilize one of the thousands of online resources available on this topic. Practice — there is no such thing as perfection and there is always room for improvement.
Public relations is a fascinating industry that is always evolving and is full of challenges and opportunities. Congratulations on your graduation and good luck with your job search.