We’ve been fielding more calls than last year from recent grads who are interested in getting a job in PR so we’ve decided to offer some quick thoughts.
- Exhibit enthusiasm and the ability to learn quickly. These two of the most important qualities we look for are, even more than relevant experience from internships during college (though relevant experience is important to the folks reviewing resumes for hiring managers); the ability to grasp new subject matters is especially important if you’re looking to work in an agency. Enthusiasm includes knowing about the organization before you meet with an inside contact, even if it’s an informational interview, and being able to explain why you’re interested in the field. It also means writing a thank you note — and yes, we realize thank you notes may be old fashioned concept so perhaps send them if your contact is above the age of 45.
- Check in with your college’s career guidance people. We spoke to a recent grad who had spent a year working in another sector, and is hoping to make a change to PR but had no relevant experience. She hadn’t spoken to her college’s guidance counselors even though they’re a good source for contacts in the field and especially in the city where she lives. We think it’s worth getting advice from them.
- Understand the difference between working for agencies and working in-house. We saw some recent debate about which is better — the answer really depends on so many different variables. But grads should understand what’s appealing about agency life (broad experience and people who get what PR and marketing is) and what’s appealing about in-house (an ability to focus and dive deeply into an industry) as well as the potential downsides. You may not know which you prefer but it’s important to know what each offers you in terms of career opportunities.
- Understand how the field is changing. It isn’t only traditional media that’s having trouble. Online news organizations and hyperlocal media are facing continued challenges, which means continued changes, more layoffs, etc. And some social media platforms, like X (formerly Twitter) and others are going through changes, too. It’s important to demonstrate a sense of this when interviewing and when you land a job.
- On informational interviews, ask about the skills sets they think you need. Another recent grad we spoke to was concerned because all the entry-level jobs she saw required an understand of data but none of her communication courses in college prepared her for a data focus in marketing. That’s could be because her college professors haven’t necessarily been working full-time in field, and their awareness may be out of date. Asking informational interviewers can help you determine what skills are necessary skills and how to get those skills.
- Writing and the ability to tell compelling stories continues to be important. Even as the field is changing, writing ability remains a constant.
- Be willing to recommend new ways to reach audiences. Many of your bosses may be very experienced but they may not know what you do about technology. They will be looking to you for insights about the next TikTok, for example. Be sure to play that up but make sure to explain why the latest platform is relevant to the organization.
- Review your social media presence and delete anything that’s NSFW. Lots of places do look at what you’ve posted, and even if it’s from high school or college, it could still matter.
- Find mentors. It doesn’t have to be an official mentor-mentee relationship. After an informational interview last year, we offered to look at one person’s update resume, for example, and never heard back. If an informational interviewer offers additional help, you should find a way to take them up on it. And once you land a job, look for people who are willing to answer questions. And be sure to ask questions. It shows enthusiasm and interest and can absolutely help you in your career.