When you go to school and earn a degree in public relations, communications, or English, landing a job can prove to be a bit more difficult than in a more specific field like pharmacy technician schools. You can improve your changes by focusing on some of your extra-curricular work, volunteer opportunities, and internships.
Four years of hard work and the investment in a college education makes many students feel entitled to immediate job offers right out of school. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and it’s even harder these days. With senior level employees losing their positions and taking lower paid jobs just to stay in the industry, there is more competition than ever for work.
Whether you attend a traditional college or a college like South University, you’ll have to do a certain amount of practical work – activities you’ll do daily in a full-time job like writing press releases, creating marketing collateral, and shooting video news releases, etc. Make sure to save all of these clips to build out your portfolio. Better yet, make sure you have them digitally to post to your own blog/website/online portfolio. Go the extra mile and reserve your own domain name with your work samples which you can add to your resume when applying for jobs.
If you major in a non-specific area such as communications or English, you are going to have to get crafty when applying for jobs. Taking a minor in something more specific could give you the extra edge you need. After finishing your school assignments, start learning how to write proper press releases, how to design promotional materials, and follow how companies are communicating online through social media. Employers are looking for candidates who take initiative and learn skills that might be outside their curriculum.
When you look at job descriptions for entry-level jobs at companies, it usually says that they are looking for people with 1-2 years worth of experience. It obviously a catch-22 because you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. Many PR and advertising agencies offer unpaid internships for students for college credit. If you’re lucky, you might even find a paid internship. You are going to have to take a couple of internships in order to build up your experience level.
While it may be your dream to work at a cutting edge PR firm or ad agency, there is very little chance of landing a position with little experience. In order to break into an entry-level field, it is important to perform research on the companies who are looking for fresh talent.
A Huffington Post article demonstrates the highest growing fields: gamification and social gaming are generating major marketing dollars, online publishing and e-commerce will continue to grow, and biotechnology and environmental services are gaining more government grants. Applying to these organizations or agencies who have clients like this on their roster can be an excellent way to launch your career.
Landing a job at a major corporation or Fortune 500 company looks good on any resume. Whether you find an entry-level role in the marketing department or work as an administrative assistant, these positions can enhance your business knowledge and give your a great network of colleagues and references. It could be a great place to start and move into the PR department as your next step.
Possible Scams for Entry-Level Workers
When searching for jobs online, be aware of possible scam artists and sales cults. If you see a job posting that wants you to create elaborate sample work or write relevant press releases, be very skeptical because they may just be looking for free work. If a job posting promises entry-level management opportunities, or the job description sounds vague, you might be headed into a sales cult. Horror stories of these organizations can be found on The Consumerist website.
Starting your journey into the the PR field may seem overwhelming at first. Look daily as entry-level positions get filled as quickly as they come. Make sure you communicate and network with as many people as possible – you want to stay top of mind – and potentially be contacted before the company posts the position. If you find yourself in a rut or dead end job to make ends meet before you land the perfect entry-level PR opportunity, make sure to keep educating yourself in order to remain a relevant job candidate.
It can be daunting to apply for public relations jobs that want more experience than you’ve got. If you are just entering the workforce, it seems like every company wants you to have experience. But just because you’re new to the PR world doesn’t mean you can’t be a qualified candidate. Take the initiative to learn the skills you’ll need at your next job, and beef up your resume…even if it’s on your own dime.
Sure, you know PRWeb as a resource for publishing press releases, but did you know it’s also got a great resource center? There you can find great articles and white papers on writing press releases, using social media and SEO for PR. You can watch videos and attend webinars led by industry experts like John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing. They even offer free e-classes on all topics relating to PR.
2. Publicity Hound
Led by publicity expert Joan Stewart, Publicity Hound has some amazing resources. While some of her webinars, ebooks, reports and whitepapers have a fee, there’s still a slew of freebies on her site. Check out Joan’s blog to stay on top of industry news. If you want a PR mentor, Joan also offers mentoring services.
3. Press Releases
If you don’t have a ton of press releases under your belt, it can help you to read them online. Just check Google’s News feed or sites like PRWeb to get a sense for formatting, as well as headlines and content that appeal to readers.
Maybe you haven’t broken into the PR field just yet, but are ready to go. Consider volunteering for a charity or nonprofit to provide public relations services pro bono. It’s a great resume booster, and will give you a chance to get some real practice, get to know media contacts and try on the nonprofit industry for size. It might just lead to your first PR job!
We all start at the bottom and work our way up. Taking an internship, either through your college or on your own, gives you the chance to learn the ropes and build your portfolio. Let your employer know the skills you are interested in building, like writing or media relations. He’ll more than likely be willing to let you tag along while he works so you can learn from him if you have a clear focus to what you want to learn.
6. Hang with PR Pros on Twitter
On Twitter, there’s a ton of groups for public relations enthusiasts, like:
Participating in these scheduled group chats can give you valuable advice and provide you the chance to ask questions.
7. Network on LinkedIn Groups
There are many groups on LinkedIn catering to public relations experts, such as Public Relations and Communications Job Community (created by my search firm, Paradigm Staffing). Here, you’ll find links to quality PR content as well as discussions among people working in PR. It’s a great place to learn and network.
There’s so many ways you can teach yourself more about public relations and gear up for that next job interview!
If you’re looking for your next role in public relations, look beyond traditional PR/Media Relations roles. You may not have considered some of the specialty areas of PR open to you and those could be right up your alley. Here are a few areas to consider:
Public companies have investor relations departments. Usually, these departments are a subset of corporate communications or report into the CFO. Earnings releases, earnings forecasts, annual and quarterly reports and press announcements all fall under the IR department. You will likely be involved in setting up roadshows, where company executives talk to analysts about the health of their company and its stock, conference calls, where executives discuss quarterly earnings, and press announcements.
While you may not need an MBA to work in investor relations, a solid understanding of stocks and finance will help you tremendously. Communication skills and the ability to work hard under pressure, in a regulated environment and with tight deadlines are a must.
Look for jobs in this field if…you enjoy talking finances, mergers and acquisitions, and options.
Every company needs someone to write both internal and external communications, including letters, emails, memos, newsletters and promotional material. These days, a Communications Specialist may even handle social media communications. The goal in this niche is to keep all company communications consistent and professional.
You tend to see most openings with larger organizations and companies that need more centralized communications and messaging. In this role, you may be responsible for not only drafting the messaging mentioned above, but also writing press releases and arranging speaking engagements and press conferences.
Most hiring managers look for candidates with 4-year degrees in a communications field, like PR, communications, marketing, or journalism, as well as heavy writing experience. Being creative, fast on your feet and a good decision maker will help you score the job as well.
Look for jobs in this field if…you love writing and working for a large organization.
Creating community awareness of your employer would be your role in the Community Relations niche of PR. Corporations, non-profits, and governmental agencies employ Community Relations Specialists. Building strong relationships with individuals, other business and organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, local media, and government officials is key for this role to generate community awareness.
You may be required to organize community events and develop community outreach programs, in addition to creating buzz about them. You may organize volunteer programs and other community activities that increase employee involvement in the local community and assist with the planning and decision-making for the organization’s charitable contributions in the community.
A degree in PR or Communications is helpful when applying for jobs in Community Relations, public speaking and a solid grasp of social media.
Look for jobs in this field if…you love interacting with people and planning events.
I am seeking my first full time job. I'm new to the whole headhunter/recruiter thing. Do you have any tips for how to go about this? I'm in Dallas, but I'm up for new places and adventures. Should I look for a national or regional recruiter?
My degree is in communications and I have two internships worth of PR experience at boutique and corporate agencies. Some of my work is on my blog.
Since you are seeking employment in a specific industry sector, you should consider working with a recruiter who specializes in the communications industry. While there are several online directories, I find the best referrals come through experienced colleagues or professors who have some industry contacts.
It is important to understand though how a recruiter works. Search firms are contracted by the employer to find candidates who best fit an open requisition. This means a recruiter is not focusing solely on a candidate's job search. It's the other way around - the recruiter selects you as a candidate for the search. Contingency recruiters are only paid for their efforts when they successfully fill a position, so the first priority is their current work load and finding the best candidates for the job.
Keep your expectations reasonable when working with a recruiter. Recruiters will have positions you would never hear about through other channels and will be an extremely valuable resource and relationship for you to have throughout your career. But realistically, the most your can expect is to get into their database and be considered for a matching position. You can secure your relationships more by taking their calls promptly, sharing information to help them recognize your talents, being cooperative, and representing their decision to put you forward well in an interview process.
You will find a mix of regional and national recruiters. Again, I think the most important criteria in selecting a firm to work with is its specialty area. I would look at both local and national firms.
By no means, especially this early in your career, should you base your entire job search strategy on one or two recruiter's leads. Unless the recruiter asks to represent you solely and that recruiter has taken quite a bit of time to understand you and your needs should you even consider it.
Companies and agencies usually come to my firm to introduce candidates with at least a year or two of relevant work experience (not including internships) and they invest in the relationship with a search firm to find candidates who have the exact experience they are looking for (from a competitor). At this point, you are looking for an entry-level job so a recruiter relationship should only be a small portion of your strategy.
Other relevant posts:
Recruiter relations: Help us help you
- Lindsay Olson
Seven things you need to know about recruiters - Collegerecruiter.com