Breaking into the public relations industry and getting your first job can be daunting. This time last year I was preparing to graduate college and begin the search for my first industry job, so I know this firsthand.
I attended the University of Mississippi where I studied Integrated Marketing Communications. I knew I wanted to work in PR because I admired how PR pros used strategic communications to help individuals and brands reach their goals. I moved to Nashville after graduation and I began reaching out to PR firms. I was instantly drawn to Pierce Public Relations after reading the founder’s inspirational story about how she moved to Nashville and started her own business.
Here are the lessons and advice from my experience that you can apply to your public relations job search to land a great position.
1.Proactively Find Companies You’d Like to Work For
When I moved to Nashville I had no professional connections and had to start building relationships from scratch. I did a lot of research on different companies and their leadership. I also subscribed to local business journals and read tons of articles written by public relations professionals on websites like The Muse and Ragan.
One day, I came across an article written by Julia Bonner, the president of Pierce Public Relations, about how she had launched and grown her firm. I was inspired by her hard work and emailed her directly to share how her story resonated with me. I also explained how my experience as a marketing intern and writer would be a good fit for her firm. We met a few weeks later and she told me how she was impressed by the way I had written her and the research I had done on her company. I was hired as an account coordinator shortly thereafter. Taking the time to read up on potential companies and reach out to those that could be a fit is definitely worth your time.
Taking the time to read up on potential companies and reach out to those that could be a fit is definitely worth your time.
2. Stay up-to-date on industry news
Even if you don’t have direct job experience in the PR industry you can still know a ton. In order to stay up-to-date with the latest happenings in the PR world, I subscribed to industry newsletters, followed PR professionals on social media, listened to podcasts like Inside PR and read PR blogs like Spin Sucks. It’s important to be on top of emerging trends; stay hungry to learn more about the industry beyond your degree.
However, it’s not enough to simply read information, you must apply what you’ve learned, or at least have an opinion. Post and share your thoughts on industry news via social media. You never know how this might grab the attention of a potential employer. Plus, with social results showing in search, this ongoing professional focus could be exactly what helps you stand apart during the requisite potential employer google search of your name.
3. Prepare a digital portfolio
Most PR agencies and departments will ask for work samples. Instead of scrambling through old hard drives and email account, save the work you’ve done for internships, volunteer and campus leadership positions or classes as you go. There are also plenty of ways to build work or writing samples, even without official experience. Letters of recommendation from professors or other industry professionals are good to have as well. I submitted articles I had written for a student publication and collateral I had created for the universities American Marketing Association chapter to demonstrate my writing and design abilities. and have it ready to send their way. You may include news releases, media pitches, or other examples of creative work that sets you apart such as video editing or website design.
4. Don’t Settle if the job doesn’t feel right
Don’t jump at the first job you’re offered just because it’s an offer. Committing to your first ‘real’ job is a big deal.
When deciding on whether to accept a job offer, consider more than just money and benefits. Could you see yourself working alongside the other employees? Does their work inspire you? Will you thrive in this position? During one interview, I had a hard time connecting with the panel of interviewers. I wanted to work for a firm that was open, friendly and made me feel energized and motivated about the work I’d be doing. Based on the interview, I knew the firm’s conventional culture would not have been the best fit.
I chose to accept the position I’m currently in because the company’s work excited me and the company values matched mine. If you’re offered a position but have reservations about the company or role, don’t pressure yourself to take it. You can always keep looking.
The journey to your first PR job after graduation may be discouraging at times. I encourage you to stay positive and focused. Be prepared, patient and don’t give up. Your dream job is out there.