MAKE ME WANT TO HIRE YOU: Seven things to do during college to jump-start your PR career
We are hiring. Perpetually. Always looking for the next great fit. Sometimes, it's a formal process; sometimes just a casual conversation, but we're always engaged in the "who's next" consideration.
I'm fortunate to meet lots of PR and journalism students in my career, and sometimes I'm asked, "How can I make myself more marketable to an agency like yours?" These seven are just a few of the hundreds of tips that could be shared, but I'd say this will be a good jump-start to preparing for the PR agency life and to standing out in a crowd of prospective job candidates.
- Take writing – and practice writing. Then write some more. We can teach people about clients, industries or products, but you need to come to our world ready to write – succinctly, effectively, persuasively, creatively, or even in 140 characters or less.
- Find opportunities to lead. A wise former boss of mine once said, "Leadership is assumed, not granted." Truer words were never spoken. And you're not too young to lead. Whether it is a sorority or fraternity, a service organization, a church group or a community project – don't be afraid to take the reins – and the risk of leadership. Hold an office. Chair a committee. Lead.
- Do internships. I can draw a simple line chart and trace my entire career back to my first internship nearly 30 years ago. Do not underestimate the experience an internship will provide – but place particular value on the relationships you make along the way. Those folks will be moving up in the world – and over time, you may face them across a job interview table, or they may be the key to getting in the door at the dream job you've always wanted. Plus, it's an essential resume builder. Classes and a GPA matter, but the power of real-life experience is unmatched.
- Volunteer. Speaking of resume builders…get involved. Volunteer at your school, your church, your sorority or in the community. (See #2.) The networking and leadership opportunities are valuable, and paying your "civic rent" shows a potential employer that you are both well-rounded and have a heart for service. That still matters.
- Get comfortable being on the phone. It's been said that younger generations should not call their phones "phones" anymore, because they never actually speak into them. We've grown to be a world that is centered on texting and emailing, but in the world of client or media relationships – the phone still matters. Email and texting are tone deaf – and we get so much electronic correspondence these days that much gets overlooked. Pick up the phone and call someone – the voice-to-voice conversation is still alive and well in a successful agency.
- Speak publicly. (See #2, #3 and #4.) Get comfortable in front of an audience. Find reasons to lead a meeting, give a presentation or make a speech. Whether you're presenting a proposal to clients, conducting a media training or giving remarks at a student meeting, public speaking and the ability to speak with confidence to audiences remains a core part of what we do.
- Start networking – early and often. While what you know and what you've done are still highly relevant, the question of "who you know" still matters. Find reasons to put yourself in front of a wide range of people who aren't your peers. Get their business cards, and stay in touch with them. Update your resume as new things are added, and share it through your network. People contact me a lot to see if I have any potential employee referrals for a position they're trying to fill. Build your network, and then leverage the heck out of it when you're looking for that first job.
Above all, step outside of your comfort zone. There are many interrelationships between these tips – and each ties back to establishing a level of confidence and experience that makes you stand out from other applicants.