It seems like every week I field a call from a desperate college student seeking my advice about how to break into public relations. I’ve answered their questions so often that I thought I would jot down a few tips that I’ve learned over my more than 20-year career in public relations.
- Think strategically: What is your end goal? How can you get there? Have a plan. Write it down just as you would a business plan and then work it.
- Seek internships: Be sure to have one; they often lead to jobs. Furthermore, they’ll help you to understand if this business is really for you. (It can be very stressful at times!) Treat an internship as if it’s a job. Be ready with a professional resume and photo. Be prepared with questions and skill sets you to have offer.
- Set yourself up for success: Have an outlet after your internship. Look for opportunities. Volunteer. Play up your accomplishments. Example: MarketingMel’s intern Sarah Williams was the top PR student at her community college. That impressed me.
- Communicate with communicators: Communicate on their terms through their channels (and be sure to identify yourself.) Since founding MarketingMel there was only one time that a college student reached out to me in such an engaging way that I asked for a meeting with him. Yet that was how impressed I was with the abilities of David Ford. (Remember that name. I think he will go far in the advertising business!) If you want to see what the pro’s are doing listen to tweetchats like # soloPR and #journchat and say “Hello.”
- Study the thought leaders: Look who’s leading the way in your chosen field, in your community, and in the world. (I treasure my virtual friendships with my international friends. Judy Gombita in Toronto with PR Conversations is a great example.)
- Innovate: Use the latest tools and learn about new ones. The field of communications changes daily. Be sure you are running at all times to keep up with it. Is your Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn up to date? (Yes, I said LinkedIn. More than 80 percent of all headhunters are there so you need to be there as well.) Use YouTube to present yourself on video to a future employer. Skype is a another handy tool.
- Learn something new: Do you know a foreign language? Spend time abroad. Be open to opportunities elsewhere. There will never be a better time in your life to pick up and move somewhere and do something different. It will expose you to a new way of thinking.
- Show kindness: Put the phone away in class and share some real (not virtual) Facetime with your teachers and friends. This goes for our online behavior as well. Others can tell when you genuinely care about them.
- Follow journalists: Media relations is part of public relations. Follow your favorite journalists and engage with them. I often chat on twitter with our local morning news anchor, Josh Smith via twitter. He and I are both early risers and our friendship has deepened with our regular tweet banter.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses and focus on your strengths: (Now Discover Your Strengths by Buckingham and Clifton is a book well worth reading with an easy-to-take online quiz that will help you determine your top strengths.)
- Create your Personal Brand: Put some thought into this one and again there are some great books available (see Tom Peters and Brand You.) Remember your personal brand will follow you from job to job throughout the rest of your life.
What suggestions do you have to add to this list? Please post your comments here. I’d love to hear from you!
Great list, Mel, and thanks so much for the kind words.
I would add my recommendation that students ensure that they have a LinkedIn profile and start building their (international) network on it.
Great point Judy. When I guest taught a PR class at Milligan College last week the fewest number of hands went up when I asked about LinkedIn (as opposed to Facebook and twitter.) I assured them that they need to be there because the headhunters are!
Great tips, and not only for PR folks. Thanks, Mel. I Tweeted it for you, too!
Thanks so much Sue!
Thank you very much for this tips! Here in Argentina it´s very hard to find a PR job, I think that it because the profession is not well develop and recognized.
Anyway, this points help us a lot as students.
These are great tips, and I agree with Sue, they are not just for PR. I would add not only to study to thought leaders but model them! Find people who are doing what you want to be doing and find out how they did it–what strategies, attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, behaviors–verbal and non verbal–have they used.
Some really good points Linda. It’s always good to watch as well as listen to our thought leaders.
Wonderful post. And I will add another to your list – develop a smile like Marketing Mel !! It is just a supportive skill for most of your eleven … and it works well.
Aww…gee, Jeff I’m blushing. Thanks so much for your kind words!
AWESOME tips Mel! Real practical steps one can implement today. Thanks for sharing
Fantastic tips Mel,
You truly over delivered, each step could take someone a long way towards their goals. Thanks for the helpful tips!
So glad this was of use to you Randell! I really appreciate your kind words!
Getting and internship is the primary key, as suggested by Mel, is my experience. It’s a foot in the door and once that foot is in the gap, that gap just gets bigger. It’s experience, runs on the board, so will help you get a FT role.
The LinkedIn profile, as Judy suggests, is also spot on. It would be a no brainer you would think but, once again based on experience with a big alas, not so. These days people will check up on you. They’ll compare. This is, hello, a competition. A shopping expedition. What have you got to offer and how are you displaying your wares?
Which leads to my only point possibly not articulated here: what have you got to get you the internship? What has always impressed me is the extra-curricular activities you have done at uni. Volunteering to help in a comms, preferably but not necessarily, manner with the uni or other organisations/NFPs. Acting in a way which helps the broader community says a lot about a person. I want to work with people that work hard to get better and that want to help society. Selflessness, did you know. can actually pay off?
Apologies for the dump, but hope it helps.
Love it Craig! You’ve raised some great points here. One of the things that had impressed me about my intern Sarah was that she was the top ranked PR student at her prior community college. Furthermore she is the lead server at the restaurant where she’s waited tables for several years. Another sign of leadership. Also, she was prepared when I needed her with updated resume and photo. All of these add up to employers! Thanks again Craig.
I have graduated from college about 2 years ago. I have been working at a die end job until I found my career in PR. Do you think that I should still look into getting an internship? I need some advice on this matter.
Jessica, there is no point working in a “dead end job.” You say your career is PR. Then follow your heart and yes, look for a mentorship or internship opportunity. Thank you for writing and please let me know how you do.
Great article and feedback! I’m already volunteering my time and will be sure to look up PR internships.
Glad you found the P.R. article helpful Esfir!
I feel that this is a useful post for people looking for work, I didn’t feel it really specific for public relations. I’ve heard the same thing about getting jobs in any industry which is fine, but the guy who wrote this should just rethink about specifically making it public relations. It was useful though
Chris it’s great to hear from you and thank you fr writing. I am that “guy” who wrote this and you are right that the tips are applicable to a variety of industries. I simply wrote about the career I have spent my life pursuing. Good luck to you!
It is pointless to respond to hundreds of job ads.
Pick the companies and industries you want to work in and start contacting people there. Services like jobunlocker.com or data.com can help you find the right people to get in contact with. Then send your resumes and even go old school and make phone calls and start talking with people at those companies and in your industry. This is how our parents did it before there were job boards on the internet where we could easily respond to ads all day.
(protip: the easier it is for you to apply for a job, the easier it is for everyone to apply for that job)
Thanks for the tips Kevin. I completely agree that there is still one gold standard in finding a job- who you know! You must get out there and circulate!
When I got my job in PR it was not from applying to an online application. Everyone gets a job from who they know not what they know. People need to stop applying to random online jobs bc thats all you are to the company.. A random resume. Some companies like jobunlocker provide contacts and a method to contact these accounting professionals to land a job. Check it out and best of luck.
This is such a great list for graduates (and they should be reading it pre-graduation). It doesn’t only apply to P.R. either, they are great tips for graduates period!
Jessica I am glad you found the article useful for graduates and others.
I believe internships are so valuable whatever the position is. I have learned so much from mentors and value these times immensely
Thanks Trudy. I think both the mentor and the mentee learn a lot!
Yes the mentor relationship is a special one as we move through our lives Trudy. We go from being mentored to being the mentor!
WOW! Isn’t that cool! Your post is already helping people! Kudos! Xo, Katherine.
Thanks Katherine. I am very grateful that post has helped people in their careers.
Thank you Katherine for your support and encouragement.
Thanks for the referral!
Thanks so much for the pingback Megan! I’m actually cutting a video on how to find a job in public relations today because that post was so popular!
Thanks Heather for linking to my “tips” blog post. I also just cut a video to that regard yesterday. I will let you know when we go live with it! Thanks again.
Thanks for the shout out! That is my most popular blog post ever. I have the podcast version in my in the news section as I was just on the radio speaking about this subject.
So glad you found these tips useful for the Weber State PRSSA.
Thanks for the shout out!
Thanks for connecting and glad you enjoyed the article!
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