Even though the PR industry currently has a reputation for poor standards, it is far from easy to get your first PR job. With each year that goes by hundreds more recent graduates come to us looking to get their start in the industry. I wouldn’t relish the thought of doing it myself; it’s no easy task right now with competition tougher than ever to get the few jobs that do exist.
Take a look at this guide if you’re on the brink of starting a career in PR.
- Select a degree that you like: While it is true that there are a large number of English and Marketing Communications graduates in this field, it does not necessarily mean that the best PR people have these degrees. I find that many of the skills you need to do well in PR are things you learn while doing the job. You are much better off focusing your studies on an area that you are interested in. This will make it more likely that you will get good grades, which carries much more weight than they type of degree you get.
- Stay with one job: Like any other profession, PR work can be difficult. You need to be able to show that you can face challenges and ride them out and stay with your job. I find it much more impressive to see that a person has worked all through school at a shopping market than someone who jumped around from job to job for years.
- 3. Three words – writing, writing, writing: At the centre of any PR job today is writing. Take advantage of your time in school and get all the practice writing that you can. I’m not talking about the essays you have to write for classes but writing that is published. Take the time to get involved in the school newspaper, write a blog or guest write on someone else’s blog.
- 4. Don’t worry about work experience in PR: Working at a PR firm when you are on break for a few weeks really adds nothing to your experience. Odds are the tasks you get assigned are not very meaningful and you won’t learn much about the industry in short time spans like that.
- Work on creating a quality CV: Having a CV that is well organised, clear and formatted properly makes a big difference. Try to keep it under two pages. Highlight any meaningful achievements you had during school. You should also be precise about all the dates included, specifically the month and year when you started and left each job you have had. Begin your CV with a brief introduction outlining your abilities and what has drawn you to PR work..
- Your cover letter is important: Just write a brief letter of two paragraphs stating why you are a good fit for the job and some highlights of what you have achieved. Make sure your letter has perfect spelling and grammar.
- Target every possible employer you can: Limiting yourself just to places where you have seen advertisements is not the way to go. Go after every agency out there. Sure, we get a lot of applicants just looking for an opening, but they usually are not very good. If you have a standout letter and CV, you will get noticed.
- Tailor your CV and cover letter to the potential employer: Compile a list of potential employers and change your application so it suits each one. Check out their website, any social media they may use and you can target them specifically by telling them how much you want to work there and how much they need you there. I sent out over 100 CVs when I tried to find my first job in the industry. It can be arduous and discouraging, but it is worth all the time and effort.
- Use recruiters to help you: Look around and find some of the great PR recruiters who will help place you in potential jobs. Some agencies only like to hire directly, so don’t use recruiters exclusively or you may miss out on potential job leads.
At the interview:
If you followed this strategy and have an excellent application, you are likely to get an interview. You want to leave them with a good impression:
- Be smart and attentive: Get to the interview right on time (you don’t even want to be early). Forget gum, mints or anything else in your mouth. If the weather looks iffy, be prepared with an umbrella. Don’t show up looking like you fell off a boat.
- Do your homework: Research the company thoroughly. You can use what you know casually as it comes up in conversation.
- Be optimistic. No one wants to hear a complainer.
- Have samples of what you have done: Bring hard copies of anything you have written or published.
When the interview is done:
- Make sure you follow up: Always be sure you send a note via e-mail to the interviewer, thanking them for the time they spent with you. Tell them you were happy to meet them and look forward to hearing from them about the job.
It’s a tough road to that PR job you desire – stay the course, persevere and good luck.
Heather Baker is Founder and CEO of TopLine Communications, a B2B PR, social media, video and SEO consultancy, based in London.