11 Tips to Finding a Job in Public Relations: The Sequel

Some time ago I wrote a blog post on finding a job in public relations that was by far MarketingMel’s most re-tweeted blog post. Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion called “Communications Expectations: Real World Perspectives from Professional Communicators” sponsored by ETSU PRSSA. The students compiled the following list of the questions for self and four other P.R. pro’s (Amanda Allman and Samara Litvack of Eastman, Ginny Crispin from the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Wozniak of Wellmont Health System.) I hope if you are a student interested in the field of public relations that you will find these answers useful. If you’re a practicing PR pro please jump in and add your own experiences!

MarketingMel with other panelists and PRSSA students.

MarketingMel with other panelists and ETSU PRSSA students.


  1.  How did you all get your start in this field? For me it was an internship at a TV news station (WKBW Channel 7) in Buffalo, NY. I highly recommend internships to any college student studying P.R.
  2. With a large pool of talented students to choose from, what makes a student stand out to employers? Showcase your personality and your skill set of writing and communicating. Show them that you have a willingness to learn new things and to adapt. Public Relations is all about adapting and thinking on your feet.
  3. What is the most valuable skill a student can possess? To me it’s a positive attitude. Being both an excellent communicator with both the written word and the spoken word would be a close second. 
  4. What is the best way to get the most out of an internship? A few ideas that I discussed with my young associate Sarah Kinsler are: Get involved, Be willing to learn, Listen and Soak up as much as you can. Showing a willingness to learn foreign languages and visit other countries is important too. It shows you have a spirit of adventure and that goes hand in hand with our profession. 
  5. What information on a resume is most important? One of my co-panelists answered this and mentioned that even experience that you think might not be important like waiting tables really means a lot to a future employer. It shows you know how to deal with the public and widely changing moods. The subject of crisis communications came up here and the fact that waiting tables teaches you to remain cool under pressure.
  6. What is the best advice for branding yourself in this competitive world? Personal branding is imperative because it is all about how others perceive you both online and in the real world. Remember your brand travels with you long after you’ve left a job. For more information watch the free personal branding webinar I created with Maria Peagler at www.personalbrandinghowto.com.
  7. What advice do you have for students who wish to find jobs in communication in larger areas, where they may not have established connections? My co-panelists who’ve lived and worked in larger markets mentioned the importance of networking.
  8. What can you tell us about successfully handling interviews? Be yourself. Be authentic but think about the person interviewing you. Recently I heard of a young man taking his girlfriend along with him to a job interview and allowing her to do all the talking for him. Really? Also, depending on the position you may want to leave out the eyebrow and nose rings and gages and cover the tattoos. I’m still hearing from baby boomer employers who have a hard time seeing past the gadgets and boomers are often the executives/owners. 
  9. When an employer says, ‘tell me about yourself’, what are they looking for? This is your chance to shine. Show self-confidence. Show not only that you know about the company but show how you will bring value to the employer. Remember, ultimately it is always WIIFM (what’s in it for me, the employer in this case.) 
  10. What advice can you offer to students who are anxious about finding jobs after graduation? Stick with it! My first job was a part time position. Even part time experience in your chosen profession is far better than none at all. 
  11. What is the best part about your job? I’ve reached a stage in my career where I can use my skill set to give back to others. Right now I am enjoying spreading the word to help homeless people get socks in our region. I was influenced by Kid President’s YouTube video pronouncing #Socktober as a time for local communities to gather socks and so far we’ve already gathered over 100 pairs of socks (goal of 500 pairs) and our campaign goes until Thanksgiving! 

What experiences do you have to add?


  • Great Tips! With Internships being so popular, they are almost a given. Most graduated students had at least one if not more. (I had three by the time I made it out of school) That being said Internship experience is no longer an “added edge” or advantage to the competition because everyone has had one. What would you suggest to get involved with in addition to internships to stand out from the crowd? Non Profit Volunteering? Entrepreneurship? Mentoring a younger undergrad student?

    • maryellen says:

      Sarah, while I think those are all excellent suggestions, I believe helping with a not for profit it the best idea. Just think of the people you and I have met through our pro bono work with United Way for example. Great people are involved with great organizations and that can lead to future employment. Thanks for your comments.

  • Sue Painter says:

    These are great ‘real world’ tips for those looking to break into PR or those looking for a new gig. Thanks for sharing your experiences in this sequel.

  • Jessica says:

    It’s interesting that what employers are ALWAYS looking for is a positive attitude. It seems people in the workforce really need to work on this because I meet a lot of people who just don’t see that their negativity is sabotaging their success.

  • I like this one “What is the most valuable skill a student can possess? To me it’s a positive attitude. Being both an excellent communicator with both the written word and the spoken word would be a close second”

    I can’t resist adding to the self-confidence piece. Of course, I agree that it’s important BUT it’s often easier said than done for many of my clients who are not confident and have low self-esteem despite their best attempts to change this. If can’t be faked or forced. This is where brain chemical balancing and addressing nutritional deficiencies is so often effective. Here is a blog post I did on this very topic http://www.everywomanover29.com/blog/self-confidence-anxiety-motivation-focus/


  • Great tips, Mary Ellen. I love that you are so dedicated to helping the “next generation” of PR pros succeed. What a great role model you are.

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