5 Tips for New Grads Who Want to Work in PR (Besides Getting Experience)
Jul 01, 2015 Darah Patton
If you’re anything like I was as a college senior, you feel like you’ve checked all the boxes in the “how to be successful” to-do list. You were over-involved in extra-curricular activities. You stayed up late to finish group projects by yourself. You completed multiple internships. You even protected your social media profiles from questionable photos. Yet, you are reading this as an unemployed new grad, while your accounting major friends accepted their job offers last fall.
This might seem unfair – I certainly thought so at the time – but when you want to work in an industry obsessed with work experience, past internships aren’t enough to make your application stand out. So once you’ve checked the experience box, here’s what you can do to close the deal.
1. Don’t Tell Me, Show Me
We love hearing about all of the projects you’ve worked on in the past, but seeing your best work first-hand will validate all of the experience you’ve gained throughout college. Take the time to put together a professional portfolio, both an online version that you can link to on your resume and social channels as well as a print version that you can thumb through during interviews. While writing samples are important to include, you can also package up key outputs from your more abstract experiences. For example, if you planned a fundraising event during your internship at a nonprofit, use your portfolio to showcase event photos and key metrics, such as event attendance, the amount of money raised and social engagement levels.
2. Be a Media Junkie
Media relations is a key part of most PR programs, but it’s also one of the hardest areas to gain experience in before your first full-time job. While you likely put together media lists and briefing books during your internship last summer, truly understanding the media is only possible through fervent news consumption. Read the news every day, follow reporters on Twitter, learn how the newsroom works, and understand how the media is changing. Being able to discuss specific reporters’ coverage during an interview will not go unnoticed.
3. Do Your Research
Doing your homework on the company and the person you’re interviewing with is a critical part of interview prep, as we discussed in a post last year. But I’m going to take that one step further and urge you to do your research on the PR/communications industry at large. How is technology changing the communications world? What’s an example of high-profile PR crisis from the past year? What’s the difference between PR and marketing? If you can’t answer these questions, peruse through the InkHouse blog and check out resources like PR News and PR Week to learn the latest.
4. Ask Smart Questions
Curiosity is an important trait in PR, so don’t wait until the end of an interview to ask questions. While I highly recommend preparing a lengthy list of smart and thoughtful questions in advance, skip the awkward question-answer format of most interviews and insert your own questions throughout. This will make it feel more like a natural conversation, which the interviewer will appreciate. Plus, it shows that you can think on your feet and are comfortable sharing your ideas, which is important when interacting with clients and the media.
Networking can be awkward, especially at first. But just like anything else, the more you do it the easier it becomes. Leverage your university’s alumni database, attend PR networking events through your local PRSA chapter and reach out to PR pros on LinkedIn to start a conversation. No matter the mode, the key to successful networking is to not always be looking for favors. Strike up a conversation by asking about their experience in PR, not by inquiring about open positions.
Landing your first PR job is an uphill battle, even for you college over-achievers. While internships are still as important as ever, the most successful applicants will demonstrate their value-add by explaining how their unique experiences and genuine interest in the industry will make them the perfect person for the job.