Beating the Odds: Advice on How to Edge Out the Competition for an Entry-Level Position

Matthew Soriano
It’s that time of year again; the summer internships are winding down and those select few who demonstrated a level of determination and quality work superior to their peers will be rewarded with the opportunity to join their firm as full-time employees. 

 Every summer the Council of Public Relations Firms hosts Internfest, an event that invites 150+ interns from our member firms in the New York City metro region to hear from industry veterans and new-hires alike on how to break into public relations, and about career paths available at PR firms. 

 We also use this program as an opportunity to survey the interns and benchmark various trends from year to year. 

One thing that jumped out in the 2012 survey: This year’s crop of interns are the most optimistic we’ve seen in a while.  Nearly three quarters say they are optimistic about their job prospects upon graduation. That’s up from 58% in 2010 and 49% in 2009.  While a rebounding economy can be attributed to the increased optimism, one can also say this is a more driven group.  54% of those surveyed “strongly agree” that their internship has influenced their decision to pursue a career in public relations; in 2010, only 35% responded with the same enthusiasm. That tells me that there will likely be a higher concentration of not only highly-skilled, but also highly focused, men and women vying for entry-level positions. 

Furthermore, our survey results also showed that there has been a noticeable shift in the seniority of summer interns that is adding to the competition for entry level jobs.  This year, nearly half of those in attendance had already graduated college; in 2010, only 28% had received their degrees.  The result: More interns will likely be going directly into full-time jobs than in years past. 

Regardless of the stats noted above, it is not impossible to earn that entry-level offer. To help you in your quest I would like to share some of the insights from the 2012 Internfest that can help you stand out from the ever-competitive field of interns this year: 

  • Be curious – ask questions and show interest in not only the work that your team is doing for the client, but also the work that the client does in its field. Also: Read. A lot.
  •  Take on the tasks that may seem “boring” or “menial” with enthusiasm – we all know there will be parts of an assignment that can be tedious but they have to get done. If you show an interest in doing anything to help it will demonstrate your value to the team. 
  • Take the extra effort to get to know those on your team – a large part of deciding whether or not to hire someone comes down to overall chemistry.  If you come in to the office and knock-off your “to-do” list without interacting much with the team, it becomes very easy to forget you.  Also, make an effort to get to know as many people at the firm as possible, from the office manager to the CEO.  Be remembered by as many people as possible. 
  • Go the extra mile – scour the news for any information on your clients and their competitors.  If you are the first one to alert your team to information that will help the account it shows a great deal of initiative and increases your value to the team. 
  •  Find your passion – It’s been said that if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.  There are so industries and service areas available within PR that the opportunities are endless for you to find an area that fulfills your professional passion. 

Despite the increased competition for seemingly fewer entry-level positions there is still plenty of opportunity to join the ranks as an entry-level professional.  The tips above coupled with hard work and determination will certainly help you out.  Is there anything you have done during an internship that you think helped you secure your first job?  Share in the comments and help those currently pursuing their first full-time job.

Matt Soriano is manager of online and member services at the Council of Public Relations.  Matt’s previous guest posts discuss the transition from intern to full-time employee and how to market yourself


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