7 tactics for new grads seeking to break into PR

Your typical guidance counselor might not be aware of these techniques for networking and for sprucing up your online presence.

I recently spoke to a slew of PR classes and the PRSSA chapter at my alma mater. The school had asked me to talk about job search strategies for senior and juniors.

I spent weeks thinking about creative and effective job searching tips for today’s college senior. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Don’t just look for a job—look for the job.

One huge mistake I made coming out of school was that I just looked for “a job.” I just wanted to break in and didn’t care how I did it.

At the time, jobs were tough to come by, so I really just wanted to get that first job in communications. I wish instead that I had identified and pursued the job I really wanted.

2. Polish the areas of your LinkedIn profile that your friends are neglecting.

Most students will be polishing up—or just creating—a LinkedIn profile by their junior or senior year. That’s mere table stakes in today’s social media and job-searching environment. Why not focus on polishing those areas of your LinkedIn profile that your competitors might not be addressing, such as:

  • Recommendations. Folks to ask include professors, fellow students you’ve worked with on projects, and intern supervisors.
  • Personal info/interests. This might seem irrelevant, but it might be a conversation starter for that first interaction with a recruiter.
  • Experience. If you have relevant experience through internships and student work, consider ditching your part-time jobs (waiting tables, etc.). Focus on work you’ve done that is relevant to your chosen career.

3. Use the “new grad” label to your networking advantage.

Here’s the thing about being a new grad—everyone wants to help you. We were all in your shoes once.

Being a new grad wears off quickly, though, so take advantage while you can. As a new grad, you’ll find very few people will turn you down for coffee. It’s a little bit of guilt, and a little bit of, “We’ve all been there, so I should help this person out.” Invite people to coffee you probably wouldn’t think of asking. You might be surprised who says “yes.”

4. Identify 10 people you want to meet—and use social media to achieve that.

The big secret most guidance counselors don’t tell you about that first job: You’re most likely to find it through your network—not on a job board—so you’d better start building that network.

Begin by identifying 10 people in your desired industry or who have jobs you might want. Find those people, and figure out how to connect with them via social networks. Do they have Twitter accounts? If yes, look for ways to engage them there; common interests are a good start. Look them up on LinkedIn, and think about asking for a meaningful connection; again, target connection points.

Do they have a blog? Comment on it, but look to add value. Are they involved with PRSA? Go to a PRSA event, stick out your hand, and introduce yourself. With so many ways to meet people through social media, you have no excuses not to do so.

5. Strive for at least two in-person coffees or meet-ups per week.

Continue to build that network by scheduling two coffee meet-ups per week. Get that momentum going by leaning on other young alumni—they’re most likely to say “yes” to a random coffee invitation.

Once you start meeting with these alumni, ask each of them for a few people they can introduce you to. Voila! You have a quick list of eight to 10 people you can meet for coffee. Keep asking for those two or three introductions, and you’ll be surprised how many people you can meet in a summer.

6. Identify at least one volunteer opportunity where you can meet people in PR.

Find your local PRSA chapter upon graduating, join (it’s cheaper as a recent grad), and volunteer. Good committees to join are programming (to meet a ton of people), student relations (to coordinate student events) or membership (to meet PRSA members).

You might also look at: IABC, AMA, social media breakfast or, in Minneapolis, MIMA. They key is not just to join one of these organizations—it’s to volunteer. It might be uncomfortable at first, as you won’t know a single person, but it’ll get a lot easier as you go. Trust me—I’ve done this on more than one occasion, and it’s paid off every time.

7. To stand out from the crowd, market yourself creatively.

Finding that first job in PR is an all-out battle—against your friends, your fellow grads and everyone else who is applying for PR jobs nationwide. How many résumés do you think agencies in Minneapolis receive from new grads each year? Hundreds, for sure. So, creativity is at a premium. How is yours going to stand out among 250 résumés?

Start by doing something no one else is doing. Consider the ingenuity of Dawn Siff, who allegedly created the first-ever six-second résumé on Vine:

What about Katie Briggs, who used an infographic as her résumé to land a job in advertising:

Now, do all these creative approaches lead to dream jobs right out of school? Of course not, but they definitely get noticed, and they undoubtedly lead to some kind of job, as well as a steppingstone to bigger things down the road.

A version of this article originally appeared on Communications Conversations.

Topics: PR

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