New York: From First Impressions to the First Day

New York City

By Jacquie McMahon

It’s no secret that New York City is one of the main hubs of public relations in the country and the world. The part that can be as elusive as a secret is establishing a career in New York.

The buildings and the companies are larger, the competition seems greater and the public transportation is impossible to understand. I don’t remember my exact impression of what life in New York would look like, but it strongly resembled an episode of Shark Tank.

I won’t insist that New York is the place you have to start your career. But when you walk into the New York Stock Exchange for a work event or attend a press conference with top journalists and a member of one of America’s legendary families, the benefits far outweigh the obstacles.

The job search and interview process can be daunting. This post contains suggestions for the intimidating search, applicable to most locations with a few elements of New York-specific advice, from a Southern transplant adapting to life in the city and a job with a global firm – who still avoids the subway at all costs.

The Path to New York

1. ‘Network’ to find opportunities.
On the surface, this suggestion is common. Approach networking with a twist: The true key to networking is not wanting a job. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s actually your secret to landing the job.

We all know those classmates who fight to the front of every line to meet each PRSSA speaker, vigorously shaking his hand as if the strength of the handshake increased the chances of securing a job. That type of networking can be off-putting.

Instead, networking should be a simple conversation or a casual coffee. If you truly build a relationship in this way, the other party will walk away with a much better impression than if you met for five seconds in a long line of students asking comparable questions. Use those opportunities to continue the conversation elsewhere or over email, and make a genuine connection then.

2. Your first impression with a company should be long before the official interview.
One of the most important tricks to the job search is informational interviews.

The advantages of informational interviews are endless. First of all, practice makes perfect. If the first informational interview doesn’t go well, you’ll learn to improve for the next one. Secondly, you save yourself time by developing a better idea of what companies you’re interested in working for – and narrow down the ones you’re not. Another advantage of conducting an informational interview with a company you may end up working for is that you’ll already know a few colleagues by the first day.

The key to informational interviews is timing. Recruiters for New York’s public relations agencies tend to start thinking about recruiting summer graduates around January or February. Once the résumés start pouring in around March and April, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between candidates. Face-to-face interactions in the early recruiting season are one of the best ways to stand out.

In fact, I found September an excellent time for informational interviews. Although it’s extremely early, it allows the opportunity for your résumé to be at the top of the pile for summer recruiting and allows plenty of time to prepare for the spring job search. Start reaching out to HR and recruiters now to schedule informational interviews or phone calls.

3. Show commitment.
No company wants to take a risk by hiring someone who appears unsure or may prove to be unreliable, but this seems especially true in New York. It’s difficult to secure a New York apartment and make the move, so candidates must prove a willingness to do whatever it takes.

Display commitment through a dedication to moving to the city and/or an overall passion for that company. It’s beneficial for the interviewer to see this commitment as genuine and not feel like one interview in a long list of companies you’re considering. Want the company; don’t just want a job.

4. Once you’ve found the right company and the right city, find the right position.
I’ve found that a large number of college students are unfamiliar with agency’s practices, which range from corporate to consumer, healthcare, digital, and more. The practice has a strong influence on the type of work you’ll be doing, so it’s important to have an understanding of the roles involved in each group. It’s easy to get a basic grasp of each practice on the website, but you can also ask employees why they chose corporate or consumer, etc. Have an idea of what practices you may be interested in, but also remain flexible to where the openings are.

The second part of finding the right position: Be open to the available opportunities. A post-grad internship may be your best friend. Several applicants try to avoid post-grad internships, but these positions can be areas for learning and development that will lead to a full-time position with the company. Especially in New York, a steep learning curve exists for full-time employees, and internships allow this learning in a more training-oriented position. Though most applicants seem to dread internships, they’re worth consideration for even experienced immediate graduates.

Genuine networking, proactive informational interviews and commitment will lead you to the right company and the right position.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a challenge, interested in a fast-paced environment and passionate about working in an energetic city with a variety of opportunities, New York may be the perfect place for you.

Jacquie McMahon Jacquie McMahon, a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama, is an assistant account executive at Ogilvy Public Relations in New York City. Feel free to reach out to her via Twitter @JacqMcMahon or LinkedIn.

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