15 Tips to Land That First Job in PR (Reloaded)

By Jeff Wilson, APR (@wilson0507)
About this time of the year, our agency, CRT/tanaka, gets inundated with resumes from eager, young college students inquiring about internship opportunities and entry-level positions. Because of the economic downtown over the past few years, the outlook for new college graduates hasn’t been very good, which certainly includes jobs in public relations.
But signs of change and economic recovery seem to be in the air. I’m noticing more listing for jobs in PR at all levels. And recent research seems to support that assertion. A December 2010 article in U.S. News & World Report listed public relations as one of the top 50 careers for 2011. The article predicts that employment of public relations specialists is expected to increase by more than 66,000 jobs, or 24 percent, between 2008 and 2018, according to the Labor Department.
With that optimistic news in mind, I thought now was a good time to reprieve my 15 tips for college students hoping to land their first job in PR, which I share when I speak at universities, particularly with students involved in PRSSA.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and the things included on the list are not rocket science. Hopefully, they offer a little insight to PR students about how they can stand out in a crowded job market. Here goes:
  1.  Get Internship Experience. Nothing is more impressive on a resume than experience. Get valuable internship experience while you are in college, and be willing to take an internship after graduation. It could lead to a full-time position.
  2.  Volunteer. Along with internships at corporations and PR agencies, consider interning or volunteering for non-profits. These organizations always need help, which offers interns great opportunities to get hands-on experience. While many non-profits may only offer unpaid internships, the experience you gain will pay dividends in your career.
  3. Write, Write and Write Some More. Most employers in PR place a premium on strong writing skills. Find every opportunity to add writing samples to your portfolio. Join the student newspaper. Create a newsletter for a student organization or non-profit. Practice writing emails flawlessly. And get to know the AP Stylebook like the back of your hand.
  4. Proof Your Material. Make sure that your resume, cover letter and supporting material are error free. If you aren’t the best proofer in the world, have someone review your material who is.
  5.  Network. Attend local PRSA, AMA, IABC, Social Media Club and even Advertising Federation meetings. Join your college’s young alumni and/or alumni association, and utilize professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn. You never know when or where a job opportunity might present itself.
  6. Ask for Informational Interviews. Ask for informational interviews at companies where you think you’d like to work or that you want to learn more about. The company might not be hiring now, but could be two weeks from now. If you’ve made a good impression, they’re likely to remember you for the job. Or, they can refer you to others who might have a position that is a good fit for you.
  7. Do Your Homework. Research the PR opportunities in the area where you want to work. Pay close attention to the work environments (agency, corporate, government, non-profit, etc.) and the type of work you will be asked to do as an entry-level employee to make sure your skills and interests match the job requirements. Understand the company’s products, services and breadth of work. Integrate this knowledge into your cover letter and interview whenever possible.
  8.  Customize Your Resume. Present your experience in a way that is tailored to each job opportunity. Demonstrate to prospective employers how you would be an asset to their company and their PR team.

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