Confidence, Courage and Enthusiasm. That was my dad’s advice before my first speech in 5th grade. Last fall, I walked into my internship with the same excitement as I had during my speech, ready to blow everyone out of the water and get hired in a week.
Well, I did have my confidence, courage and enthusiasm…but the economy tanked a few weeks later putting a damper on my plans. The four-month internship turned into eight and the hopes of being hired became unclear. However, I loved the accounts and people I worked with so I decided to stick with a good thing. Still, I covered my bases and continued to network and job search. I learned a lot during those eight months, especially to stay positive and you will eventually land on your feet. Here are few more pieces of advice from my eight month adventure below.
Continue learning.Personally, I think this tip is the most important. As an intern or job seeker, find ways to keep learning. Read about current and successful PR campaigns (I prefer PRWeek.com.) Go above and beyond to learn about your clients and their competitors. Find areas you are interested in and immerse yourself. For example, I enjoy communications for law firms and read the National Law Journal weekly to stay up on current cases and trends. Lastly, read the news! Pick a newspaper and read it religiously. When you land a job, keep reading!
Understand Social Media. Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay. It is becoming an integral part of public relations and our jobs. You don’t have to tweet or blog but know the importance of social importance with clients. It doesn’t hurt to be active in those spaces either. I eventually added my twitter name to my resume, a suggestion that stemmed from an information interview. At work, don’t be afraid to be proactive and introduce social media ideas to account teams. The worse thing that can happen is your team says no but it will demonstrate you are a social media maven.
Find your alumni network. Many universities and colleges have alumni networks across the United States. Attend any networking events or career seminars. If there is not a group in your area, check for online networks. There are online networks similar to Linked In specifically for alumni. Both alumni events and online networks are great resources to find new companies and contacts. Alumni are usually very eager to help and speak with fellow alum.
Volunteer. It is a great way to network, make new contacts and it makes you feel great! Since I graduated, I’ve been actively volunteering with W.I.T.S. in Chicago. I received many leads for potential job opportunities from volunteers and their friends. Volunteering also helps to fill a resume gap if you are unemployed. Another idea is to help with communications at a non-profit. With the economy, many charities are understaffed and would appreciated the extra hand. Ask to help promote an event or start a twitter page. This looks great on a resume and helps you gain more experience as well.
Informational Interviews. Meet with as many people as possible. Before my internship, I met with two to three people a week. I started with contacts provided by family and friends and then made connections from there. Also, alumni networks and volunteering are great places to find people to speak with. Not only do you learn from each interview but you expand your network. You never know when someone you casually met with will circle back with an opportunity. That being said, take each informational interview as seriously as a job interview. Prepare, research the person you are meeting with and dress in business attire.
Find a mentor. Through work, networking, an informational interview or another way, find someone who is knowledgeable and easy to talk to. Some companies offer mentorship programs and I suggest taking full advantage of those. First, talking with a mentor helps to ease the pain of not having a full time position. You can talk and they listen. A lot of times, they’ve been in your shoes and can give you advice. Second, a mentor is another great way to continue learning. Ask them questions, about accounts they have worked on or problems they have run into.
Utilize your internship to make new contacts. Many of your colleagues have worked at other agencies and might still have contacts there. Ask colleagues to email your resume or put out some feelers for job opportunities. A good reference is sometimes all you need to land an interview.
Things did work out in the end. Recently, I was hired on as an assistant account supervisor in the corporate practice at Weber Shandwick in Chicago. It did not come over night but hard work pays off. So stay positive, keep searching and remember to have confidence, courage and enthusiasm in all aspects of your career. Good Luck!
Elise Spadavecchio graduated from the University of Michigan in 2007 with a BA in psychology. Elise is an assistant account executive in Weber Shandwick’s corporate affairs group.