Dear College Seniors: My Advice to the Class of 2021
My start as a P.R. professional has been a bit non-traditional. I am a full-time senior in college and a full-time public relations associate – who also started her career in the middle of a global pandemic. My days are filled with client calls and media outreach, while my nights are spent reading textbooks and taking quizzes. Though it has its challenges, working with our amazing clients reassures me that public relations is the field I want to work in.
As an associate, I am surrounded by industry professionals who are always looking for new talent. As a student, I am surrounded by talented college seniors looking to get their start. Getting a taste of both worlds allows me the unique opportunity to pick up insights that will help young professionals, college and beyond, jumpstart their careers. Here are my top three tips to help land your first job:
1. Use LinkedIn Like You Would Any Other Social Media
LinkedIn is a useful platform that I do not see enough young professionals. To make valuable, long-term connections with people in the industry, you should be checking your LinkedIn several times a week. Connect with as many people as you can and, in particular, connect with professionals in cities that you see yourself working in. Sending personal notes and a connection request will help you stand out – especially if you connect with someone from an organization where you want to work. It shows that you took the time to look at someone else’s profile and that they are more than a connection request. LinkedIn is how I first connected with Ann. I reached out to introduce myself and congratulated her on a recent award the firm had received. We had casual conversations for months before I ever applied to be a coordinator.
2. Conduct Thorough Research on an Organization Before you Apply
One of the first red flags to a hiring manager is when a candidate cannot thoroughly answer the question, “why do you want to work here?” When you are asked an interview question along those lines, hiring managers want you to answer that question with specifics about their organization. Never make the question about you and never list self-serving reasons. For example, in my first interview at A.wordsmith, I mentioned that I liked the wide range of industries they worked with and I named specific clients that I found on the website. I also said that I sought out A.wordsmith specifically because they focus heavily on media relations and thought-leadership – again, all information I found through the website. Showing that you are an expert on a specific organization will help elevate you in the interview process.
3. Be Proactive
Being a senior in college or a recent graduate is equally exciting and terrifying. The pressure to find a job and, in most cases, move to a new city is overwhelming. If you know that you want to be in the PR industry, start researching organizations and making connections sooner rather than later. Browse different organization’s websites, look at the materials required on the application and find employees on LinkedIn. Additionally, have an updated resume and cover letter ready to go. You never know when a LinkedIn connection is going to let you know they have an opening. The faster you can submit all of the necessary material, the faster you can throw your name in the candidate pool. If you aim to get a job right after graduation, you should give yourself a month to submit applications and interview with different organizations.
The job-hunting process is never linear. Sometimes it takes a year to land your first job and other times you land it while you are still in college. Everyone is on their own journey and it is important to be kind to yourself. The industry is growing, evolving and always looking for new talent. Lean into this season of life and soak up all the advice you can.