How Graduates Can Prepare Themselves for the PR Industry

Getting that first step into a career can be a dizzy maze of uncertainty. Where do you start looking for vacancies? What are the hiring managers looking for in their candidates and how do you approach the interviews? These are all good questions to ask. You could probably learn some of the answers with some insider knowledge – especially if you’ve kept in touch with contacts from work experience. However that might not always be the case.

To ensure success in a PR career there are several ways to help you to be as prepared as possible.

Ensure You Are a Good Fit for the Industry

A career in Public Relations can be difficult to get into and there is often intense competition for positions.

Typically, you will be nearing the end of your university studies in a related degree such as Public Relations, Marketing, English, etc and will have a love of writing, communicating with individuals and organizing. Without these skills it may be tough securing your first job, not to mention surviving in the role.

Even if you do possess these skills, you need to be proactive to get ahead of your fellow applicants to be sure to get your foot in the door.

Regularly Keep Up with Industry News

The latest trend is often the question that throws people off in interviews. Therefore this is an essential piece of knowledge. Interviewers are adept at spotting when someone doesn’t know what they are talking about and admitting you haven’t heard might cost you the job too. So ensure that you are apprised of all the latest industry news.

Sign up and use sites like Google Reader, Google Alerts and Netvibes which can help you quickly search, organize and identify topics of interest.

Another method would be to attend local PR events held by the industry bodies. This will also support you in your networking activities. If you are able to conduct yourself professionally at these functions, you could land yourself an internship or work experience – which will greatly enhance your CV in future job applications.

Research the Employers

Before you start applying for positions, you need to look at who the employers in your area are. PR jobs can vary from large, specialist firms that handle external clients’ PR needs to in-house PR teams. By identifying the companies and hiring managers who will be looking for new employees; you can discover what they are looking for in potential employees. Then you can tailor your application and provide the portfolio that will best meet their requirements and interests.

Also, it might be worth noting that not all job openings are advertised as some organizations don’t need to advertise their vacancies. Realizing what companies are only taking on speculative applications stops you waiting for them to announce a vacancy.

“The PR industry is one of the most competitive job markets for graduates to crack. Therefore, I always advise graduates to do their best to stand out from the crowd, foremost on that list is researching potential agencies – how they work, what they’re working on and what they – the candidate – could bring to the table. I’m always amazed at how much of a surprise this simple technique is to applicants.” Jenny Pape, Director at Workfish Recruitment

Pick Your Favorites

In a similar vein to the previous section, I want to focus on how important it is for PR hopefuls to identify a handful of agencies whose work they like – or who they’d like to work for. This won’t just help you to really focus your applications but it allows you to keep track of what they’re doing.

Once you have picked a few potential agencies, keep an eye out for their campaigns that they’re currently running. Then, with your application, try suggesting how you would approach that client differently. Putting forward creative ideas proves to the agency that your actively thinking about their work and not only know what they’re doing, but can also put forward creative thoughts of your own.

Use Social Media Wisely

Many employees now look at social media profiles when considering applicants for positions. If you are looking for a career in Public Relations, your social media profiles are probably more relevant than you realise. Therefore having a spotless social media profile is essential.

You should consider connecting with blogs that you read regularly, companies and people who work within the PR industry. On Twitter, a good method of networking is to join in #prstudchat – this can identify key individuals, making it easier to follow the right people. It will also allow your voice to be heard within the industry – make a good point in a debate and you could end up being contacted by a hiring manager.

Your social media accounts are potentially your applications’ strongest aspect. By shaping your social media output into a captivating and highly sharable community hotspot, you can demonstrate your skills. A good way of collecting material for your social media activity is to create a blog of interest and promote it.

Publish Content

Nothing will demonstrate your writing skills more, than creating content and publishing it. Having a portfolio of work ready that covers a variety of styles, topics and target audiences is a great asset in any future interview. There are several outlets that you can utilize to get your work seen and create an excellent portfolio:

  • Writing a blog of interest
  • Working for a student newspaper, magazine or radio station
  • Writing announcements for a student organization
  • Secure a student job in an office that promotes events

Keep examples of your work in a special file on your computer, and backed up, as well as printed off in a smart hardback file. This way, whenever someone would like to see previous examples, you don’t have to spend a long time searching for them.

Be Resilient

Securing your first role can be a difficult. However, by following the advice above – keeping apprised of the latest industry news; demonstrating your skills and networking with various people who work within PR – you can greatly increase your chances of securing your dream job.

Contributed by Josh Hansen, who has previously written for the Huffington Post UK, BrazenCareerist and Career Enlightenment as well as being a monthly contributor to Career Attraction and LifeHack

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