Congratulations! You Graduated. Now What?

Jasmine Boaler
It’s bittersweet, graduating college. You’re leaving best friends, good memories and a place you called home for the past four years. You’re leaving the easy life – but the real fun starts now.  Although you may not realize it, you are embarking on an extremely exciting chapter; you have a chance to start over, and you have to get going now.

I was in your shoes a year ago.  I had my diploma, but I was back at home living with Mom and Dad.  I wanted to jump start my career and I knew I wanted to work at a PR agency in a big city, but I didn’t know how to get there.  This industry is extremely competitive.  How was I supposed to make myself stand out from the other 500 people applying to the same internship?

I am by no means an expert or perfect professional model to follow, but here are some tips that helped get me where I am today.

Brand Yourself. 
OK, you want to work in PR. But what kind of PR? And what do you want to specialize in? Do you want to work at a non-profit, boutique firm, small or large agency? What department? Consumer Brand or Food Marketing, Public Affairs, Corporate Social Responsibility, Healthcare, Digital, Social Media? Where do you want to work? And for what type of client?

To find your dream job, you have to do a little PR for yourself by getting that HR manager’s attention. You have to pitch yourself, your personal brand. But you can’t do that until you know who you are.  Make a list of relevant things you’re interested in and things that you’re good at. You’ll start to see a theme and pattern.  Then make a name for yourself. This is a great start when embarking on the job hunt.

Get on the bandwagon.  The social media bandwagon.

SoMe is where it’s at these days. If an agency is choosing between you and another candidate, and your resume doesn’t have anything related to social media, guess who’s getting the nix? PR platforms and media outreach is rapidly changing and evolving. Our generation’s contribution to the industry is in social media and it’s not going away any time soon. Follow interesting blogs, read anything you can get your hands on, blog yourself, tweet, etc. It’s great to utilize social media for personal use, but it is also extremely important to understand how it can and should be employed professionally.

I can’t stress this one enough. NETWORK. Interact with your professors or people you’ve worked with in past internships. Use your resources. If you have the opportunity to meet a professional from the industry, differentiate yourself from the crowd. You are unique (just like everyone else, right?) So show it. Make yourself stand out to those that may be able to help you in the future. Ask thoughtful and smart questions.
So, when you email Ron Culp at Ketchum asking about internship opportunities, he’ll say “Oh right, that was that girl from that class at XX University who asked that really interesting question! I think I’ll email her back with some suggestions,” instead of chucking that email in the trash bin.

The first step is getting some sort of response from HR, right? Now you have to sell yourself. Wear a suit. I don’t care if everyone at the agency is wearing jeans. It shows respect for the job and for the people interviewing you. Take leave-behinds with you. I recommend compiling materials that showcase your personal brand.  I included my resume, 2 writing samples, 1 design sample, 2 notable media placements, 1 recommendation letter and a list of references. This will help get you ahead of the game and is a tangible reminder to employers of what you can bring to the team. Ask for business cards. Send ‘Thank You’ emails that same day.

Follow up.
Don’t be scared to pick up the phone and call after applying and/or interviewing for a job. Do you know how many emails HR gets daily? Again, stand out. Calling not only reminds HR that you still exist, but also shows that you are still interested in the position and that you are being proactive.

Don’t give up.
Everyone knows we’re in the middle of an economic recession. I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse to just give up. Finding an internship or entry-level job that you will enjoy takes time. Job hunting is a job in itself and you’re not going to get anywhere by taking a vacation from “the real world.” Keep at it. Everyone gets let down and you will probably get turned down at some point. It’s okay. Move forward. You have to work at it, but one regular, boring Tuesday, you’ll get that phone call and your life will change.

At least, that’s what happened to me.

Jasmine Boaler works in the Brand & Food Marketing department at Ketchum.  She is a 2010 graduate of Ohio University where she majored in Journalism in the Public Relations sequence and minored in Spanish.

2 thoughts on “Congratulations! You Graduated. Now What?

  1. Great post, Jas! You definitely summed up everything that’s important for first-time jobseekers.

    I would add one thing…expressing gratitude and giving credit where credit is due. It’s a big world and there is plenty of knowledge to share.

    I’ve had students learn important things from me, or from PRSSA speakers, and blog about them without attribution–if you learn something from someone, credit them, it’s a great form of networking!

    If someone provides contacts to you, or advice, or a job lead, write a thank-you note (a handwritten one!).

    I’ve had students who’ve done these things, and students who haven’t and guess which ones I’m happy to help and recommend?

    You were always good at this, but so many entry-level people aren’t that savvy yet, and it’s very important in terms of relationship-building.

  2. One thing I would add is making a personal business card. I always suggest to students to make a personal business card and include the link to their digital portfolio. It’s a great reminder for people when you are networking.

    Thanks for the post. I look forward to sharing it with my students.

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