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The Undergraduate’s Guide to Landing a Job in PR

In today’s economy, your odds of landing a job could be comparable to winning the lottery. Five years ago, landing a decent job after college was not that hard, as long as you had a degree. At least that’s what a lot of us think. Today, recent graduates are struggling to land not only a decent job, but any job at all.

In discussions with other graduates who have successfully landed a job after college, here is a guide to some ‘hidden secrets’ you may find useful when you begin searching for your dream job:

•    Be persistent. Stay positive. You have to realize you are going to apply to far more positions than you’ll get interviews. It’s more likely you’ll receive an email from Human Resources with a response like: “Sorry we have reviewed your application materials and although you have a number of great qualifications for the position, we have chosen other applicants who are a better fit at this time.  We will keep your information on file. ” Don’t get discouraged. If you get discouraged by all the ‘no’ answers you hear in your life, you’ll get no-where.

•    Build Your Network. I just graduated from school and prior to graduation I decided to visit my school’s career and corporate services office. It was here that met a very helpful, insightful woman named Margaret. Margaret became a mentor in my job search process, and one of the most honest pieces of advice she gave me was: networking and knowing the right people and can be more helpful in landing a job in today’s economy. Networking today is both offline and online – be sure to leverage social networking tools to build your network throughout your college years and beyond.  “The statistic is 80% of people get jobs through someone they know.  This is very, very important.  Things I would consider doing would be to join an alumni chapter and even email the president of the chapter before you move and ask if someone within the chapter works in the field you are interested in, and if this person would be willing to speak with you and give you some advice.” Another thing to consider is acquiring an online Associate Business Degree to connect with other business students and learn the basics of entrepreneurship.

•    In-Person, ‘Surprise’ Visit. Why not show up at a company corporate office, with confidence and big smile on your face? You may think companies would just push you out the door for interrupting their busy day. Many are shocked you had the go-getter ambition to research the company and physically find them to deliver your resume in person.  In a super-competitive job market, this could be the best approach to separate you from the pack of other candidates.

•    Follow Up. No matter if you applied through the website, via email or through a paper application, follow up is essential to get an interview. Call your prospective employer about a week after you apply and ask to speak to the human resources manager. If nobody answers, leave a message. The more information you leave the better – it shows your interest in the company.

•    Be Professional and Classy. Carry yourself with a sense of class and professionalism all the time, not just in an interview. You never know who you’re going to meet waiting in line for the bathroom at your favorite local café.

•   Keep an Open Mind. Your main goal in life may be to work in the music industry as a publicist. This is very competitive and specific. You might need more real-world experience before you can get a job in the music industry – or you might need to work for less pay as you’re starting out. Just realize that it’s one step further in your career.  Keep an open mind and with the ambition and passion you will land your dream job.

Even in the worst economy we’ve seen in decades, hundreds of recent graduates start new jobs in PR each week. If you follow some of the suggestions outlined in this post, you could gain a competitive advantage. Good luck in your search.

Did you get a job right out of college? What advice would you share with readers?

Editor’s Note: Jaqueline Akbarian is a participant in Journalistics’ first guest blogging summer internship program. She was one of several students to capitalize on the opportunity first announced in “Do You Need an Internship to Get a Job.” This is the first of several posts Jacqueline has written for Journalistics this summer.

About Jacqueline Akbarian

Jacqueline is a recent graduate of Penn State. She aspires to work in the public relations field in either the music or fashion industries. She originally hails from Gaithersburg, Maryland.  Her music taste ranges anywhere from pop, to indie to rap, however her favorite band is The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

  • Taylor Morken

    This is great information Jacqueline! Most students I know get too easily discouraged when they hit that inevitable employment hunt wall. It takes persistence, a positive attitude, and professionalism all day everyday to not only stand out amongst your peers, but also to let your potential employer know that you are going to tackle the job with voracity and ambition. One piece I would add is this: Good communication skills are the catalyst which drives all of the above recommendations that you laid out. It is important to nurture and develop useful tactics when talking to a employer, admissions office, or more generally any and all persons involved in your professional life. Great post and look forward to reading more!

    Taylor Morken
    Social Media Marketing Assistant
    Persona Affairs

  • http://phillyseaport.org Hope Corse

    I had a similar situation when I started my career, and watched many of my bright, young friends take any job that would pay for rent while looking for a “real ” job. I can relate to the challenges of getting your foot in the door when companies seem to be not only in a hiring freeze but cutting back on staff. It was like that then and it’s like that now, and it is good advice to look beyond the submit a resume, wait, follow up routine. I must point out that I would argue against doing the surprise visit though. Not only would I not meet with someone who showed up unannounced and unknown at my door, I would perceive this person as being inconsiderate of my time and ignorant of the business world. That’s not the impression that a job seeker would want to make. So by all means make yourself stand out from the pack- just make sure it’s for the right reasons.

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  • http://florinabaciu.posterous.com/ Florina Baciu

    Some really good points here that I’ve already applied or trying to enforce them. I recently graduated in communication and public relations and I’m facing some really big walls so landing a job in this tough times is really like winning the lottery.

    What I would add at those great round of advices is patience. We, young graduates, tend to be very eager to get on board of a new job, and of course if it’s possible to get on top from the first steps and skip the some important stages in our professional development. But, with great power, comes great responsibility. Patience and a positive attitude is the key to landing a great job.

    Thank you,
    Florina Baciu

  • http://www.pr2020.com Dia

    Great advice Jacqueline!

    All are valuable points, but I especially agree with the tip on following up with a company. That’s great advice for anyone going through a job search. Many people assume that it’s the responsibility of HR or the company’s hiring manager. If you really want the job, then you’ll make it a priority to keep top of mind with that contact. A simple follow up can be the difference between being forgotten on the bottom of a pile or being placed on the top.

    Keeping an open mind is also great advice. You might think you know what your dream job is, but unless you are open to new ideas and opportunities, you might miss out on what your ACTUAL dream job is.

    I wrote a post on this topic a few months ago that you might find interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts/feedback on the tips I offered. Graduate’s Guide to Preparing for a PR Career: http://www.pr2020.com/page/graduate-guide-to-preparing-for-a-pr-career

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  • http://www/linkedin.com/in/brandineloms @BrandiNeloms

    Hi Jacqueline -

    You make great points in your post. I would add a point to jump at the opportunity to meet for informational interviews. Sometimes a company may not be hiring, but if they’re willing to meet with you to discuss their work and culture, the industry and your work – jump at the chance.

    Informational interviews help expand your network and knowledge. Most importantly, they put you in front of a recruiter who may call on you later when the company is hiring. In fact, my first post-grad position was the direct result of an informational interview.

    Good luck in your job search, Jacqueline. I suspect that if you follow the tips you’ve listed in this post, you’ll be rockin’ the PR world in no time.

    Best,
    Brandi Neloms
    @BrandiNeloms

  • http://www.millerlittlejohnmedia.com Amanda Miller Littlejohn

    I agree on all points, especially the stay positive and persistent. I keep seeing job seekers (young and old) getting discouraged due to the economy and competitive job market. People are taking it personally that they can’t find a job “just like that”. We’re in the worst economic climate this country has seen in many of our lifetimes. So let’s keep that in perspective and not beat ourselves up.

    If you’re looking for jobs in PR, I post them every Monday over on Mopwater PR + Media Notes. Please stay positive and encourage each other. Share the encouraging success stories, too.

    Amanda Miller Littlejohn
    Mopwater PR

    @amandamogul
    @mopwaterpr

  • Jennifer

    I think you bring up a lot of good points here, Jacqueline and as a fairly recent graduate (I graduated in 2008), I think I’d say that you’ve hit the nail on the head. The one thing I would disagree with is the ‘surprise’ visit. At my previous agency, this was one of our biggest annoyances – people showing up in the middle of the day (usually in the middle of a meeting or some other important client communication) and no one would have the time to meet with him/her. Although I respect the enthusiasm behind this, I just don’t think that it’s very effective.

    Also, one more thing I would add to this list is not to be too specific about the type of PR you want to be in (at least, not yet). I knew a lot of friends that wanted to be in sports marketing/PR and were constatnly defeated. The problem was that they passed up a lot of other great opportunities that could have provided them with valuable experience in the meatime, before they were able to land their dream PR job.

  • Amy

    All good, except for the surprise visits! I would never see someone who just showed up, it indicates a lack of respect for my time. And I probably wouldn’t look at the resume they dropped off either.

  • Randy Buckwalter

    Another action step I’d recommend is an offshoot to the informational interviews Brandi suggested. In addition to that, I’d also seek out current PR pros and meet with them–not to ask for a job, but to seek advice. What person doesn’t want to be thought of as that wise counselor? Ask them about their job history and the actions that reaped the most positive results. Ask them what they’d suggest you do in terms of additional education, training, networking, etc. Ask them who else they’d recommend you meet with. But, don’t ask them for a job. And make sure you position it that way when you set up the meeting. Again, focus on the fact that you are seeking counsel and would welcome the opportunity to obtain some advice another more experienced PR pro.

  • http://prgirlonamission.wordpress.com Ashley Parker

    I agree with many of the above commenters- this is a great post, Jacqueline! I wanted to highlight two things: first, I highly discourage “surprise” visits. Like the others above me have said, this is not indicative of a “go-getter” personality, but rather an individual who is inconsiderate at worst, or at best, not in touch with the realities of an agency/office/org…I will not take drop-ins nor will I speak to an individual when they first come in to drop an application/resume (in most cases…if I’m standing by the front desk when you come, well, I may chat a bit, but I usually reserve any substantial conversation until after I’ve reviewed their resume). Secondly, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for new grads to keep an open mind and really manage their expectations. As a somewhat recent grad (2008), I remember it was incredibly hard to cope with the “let down” of realizing I was not getting calls for the PR jobs I thought (note, the keyword there is “thought”) I wanted at the time. I ended up taking a temp job, and kept looking for a PR position during that time, which I think helped me immensely because it took the pressure off from absolutely NEEDING a job to pay bills, which in turn, I believe, made me more confident when I did land job interviews…and I did, because in just a month, I had scored my current job and was leaving that temp position! Don’t be discouraged if you end up taking something that’s not your “ideal”, because you never know if that job might open the doors for you into the place you want to be!
    @fleuredeflorida

  • http://www.InvisionYourImage.com Waddell Sheppard

    A Career Coach can help you create your best image. Presenting your BEST image is the key. Have you ever heard that the first impression is a lasting impression? Well, how does a hiring manager make a decision to hire you, or not to hire you, based on your resume and a 90 minute interview? Your first impression, your IMAGE and how you brand yourself makes all the difference in the world! Image is everything, perception is paramount, and perspective is foundational. Take the time to get the resources you need to succeed in ways that go beyond today’s standards and obtain the best in-class tools that create a dynamic atmosphere that enable you to design your life’s work on your terms. The RIGHT Career Coach can help you take success into your own hands to reinvent yourself and create your best Image.
    Waddell Sheppard, Executive Director: Invision Image Consultants

  • http://www.touchptcom.com Grace LeSueur

    I would also HIGHLY discourage anyone from making surprise visits. This does not make you seem ambitious, this makes you seem inconsiderate and unprofessional. I think its acceptable under certain circumstances, like when you’ve already sent a resume and there has been some back and forth communication.

    The best advice I can offer someone–internships, internships, internships. Don’t just look for internships posted on a schools database. Find a company that you really want to work for and seek THEM out!

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