Landing a job right after college can be a daunting thought. There are so many options to consider. Do you want to work in-house at a company? Do you prefer the fast-paced energy and environment that comes with working at a public relations agency? Consider the size of the company – do you want to work at a large, midsize or small agency? Perhaps a startup, even. And then you have to consider what type of public relations you want to do and what you want your focus area to be. Is your focus beauty PR? Healthcare PR? Technology PR? Corporate PR? With so many options at every turn, even applying to your first public relations firm can seem overwhelming.
Here are a few tips to navigate the world of public relations and secure your first job in the field.
I don’t mean that you should pull an Elle Woods from Legally Blonde and spray your resume with perfume. Ultimately though, anyone who interns in PR is likely going to have similar bullet points on their resume – that they built media lists using a database such as Cision or Muck Rack or that they clipped placements for clients, or even sent out samples to reporters.
While those points are necessary, it’s also important to step away from the obvious and highlight personal successes that stemmed from your work. Did you write a pitch that an employee sent out and it was picked up by a news outlet? Did that media list you built help yield opportunities for a client?
Be proud of what you accomplish at your internships. They could very well be the points that get you through the door for your first job.
When first applying to PR jobs it’s easy to assume quantity overall quality and apply for everything. While this tactic may help to land interviews at quite a few different agencies, it may not actually bring the opportunity you would like. By doing this, you’re not only wasting the interviewers time, but yours as well – and each is valuable.
Before applying, really understand where your interests lie and even more importantly, know where you want to work. If you’re looking to move to New York, and work at a New York-based public relations firm, then apply. Even if you don’t live there. If you’re looking for an opportunity to work for a top entertainment PR firm, you might have better luck looking in Los Angeles. Remember, though, that many of the big agencies also have offices in multiple cities around the country, so just because you’re working in one city today doesn’t mean you can’t transfer to another city within the company next year.
Your network is one of the most important tools in your chest. The saying, “it’s not about what you know, but who you know” could not be more true. It can never hurt to call in a favor and ask someone you know to send your resume to someone they know. Don’t have a network you can call on for a favor? Look for events in and around your neighborhood to attend. If you’re willing to mingle (and this is PR, so you really do need to be a people-person) then there’s no reason you can’t meet someone who could help advance your career.
So you’ve done your homework, you’ve applied to a company that meets your criteria and you’ve landed an interview. How do you ace the interview and increase your chances of landing the job?
Bring samples. Were you on the school newspaper in college? Bring in some of the articles you’ve written. After all, public relations requires a lot of writing. If you had any successes at past internships, be sure to bring those in to show us, whether you wrote pitches there or helped secure a story utilize samples to showcase your work.
Aside from samples, communication is key. Public relations is all about communication and if you can’t communicate well in an interview, you may struggle in the actual job. But it’s not anything to panic about. In the days leading up to your interview, make sure you do plenty of research on the company, read up on common interview questions you may hear and then ask your parents or friends to conduct a mock interview. Practice in front of a mirror and get the kinks out, especially to some of the more awkward questions, like ‘tell me about yourself.’
Finally, send a thank you note. It seems outdated, but it still has an impact on those who took the time to interview you. It doesn’t have to be long, but you should send something.
The process of looking for and landing a job can seem incredibly overwhelming and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. If you know what you want and you do your research, the whole process can be much easier.
If you are considering a job at a fast-paced, rapidly growing New York City-based PR firm, check out our openings.