2010 has brought a new sense of optimism in the business and public relations worlds. Companies are hiring more aggressively, albeit with increased “skill set” selectivity. According to a Q4 Quick Survey, half of the Council of Public Relations Firms’ members anticipate and increase of hiring activity in 2010.
The LAGRANT Foundation and the Council of Public Relations Firms recently sponsored a career workshop at New York University to help soon-to-be candidates get a leg up on the competition. While the attendees ranged in age and experience, they all had the same thought in mind: how do I start my career in public relations? Nearly a dozen public relations professionals provided tips on how to get the job hunt started on the right foot.
Torod Neptune, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Waggener Edstrom advised that, although you may be inclined to begin by searching where jobs are available, it’s more important to focus on your passion. Pursue companies that practice in the areas that interest you the most, because after all, the best place to start a career is in an industry or field in which you have a genuine interest.
Mai-Lise Nguyen, Account Supervisor at Weber Shandwick and a past LAGRANT Scholarship recipient echoed Torod’s sentiments and noted how she originally studied biology but was later drawn to PR. “I love science but I knew I didn’t have the desire to be a doctor or a nurse. Public Relations allowed me to pair my business acumen with my inner science nerd.”
The rise of digital communications and developing a “personal brand” were also hot topics. While tips were provided on how to safeguard online profiles (remember those privacy settings) Kai MacMahon, Vice President of Digital Strategy at Ogvily PR gave insight on how to be proactive in building your online brand, including:
- Be Strategic – Learn how to manage your twitter feed, blog, and other online profiles to cultivate effective search engine optimization;
- Focus on Your Passions – Continually creating and sharing content can be cumbersome, but if you focus on an area of interest you’re not only more likely to enjoy yourself, but potential employers have a chance to see your eagerness and passion;
- Participate – Get involved in discussions on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other online forums; you never know when an online connection will foster into a professional relationship;
- Be Patient – It takes some time to create a presence and brand, don’t expect your profile to reach the first page of Google overnight (unless you have a unique name);
- Use the Mom/Boss Filter – Simply put, if you wouldn’t want your mom or boss to see it, think twice before clicking the post button.
Although an individual’s digital footprint has had an increased influence in hiring decisions, traditional job hunting skills are still necessary to get noticed by an employer. A panel of HR professionals shared common practices that candidates can use to gain their interest when applying for an open position.
- Experience counts – One panelist noted that their firm will divide resumes into two piles: one with candidates who have internship experience, and one without.
- Cater to the Firm – There are no “one size fits all” resume and cover letters; be specific when citing how your contributions will help the organization.
- You can’t over prepare – When you do land that first interview, don’t just research the company but also read up on the current events and trends that are happening in their practice areas.
- Network, network, network – Join a professional association, attend networking events, utilize your college alumni network, and be proactive in creating new connections; you never know when a connection will lead to a recommendation.
Be sure to check out these career building resources as well: PR Quick Start Career Center. Other speakers atthe program were: Alyson Campbell (Porter Novelli), Caitlin James (Cohn & Wolfe), Meghan Lantier (BlissPR), Rob Longert (Peppercom), Kai MacMahon (Ogilvy Public Relations), David Miller (Hill & Knowlton), Torod Neptune (Waggener Edstrom Worldwide), Mai-Lise Nguyen (Weber Shandwick), Steve Seeman (Makovsky + Company), and Patricia Taylor (The Jeffrey Group).
Matt Soriano is Member Services Coordinator at the Council of Public Relations Firms.