by Melissa Vela-Williamson, PRSA Board Member and a former Horizons Award winner for the San Antonio Chapter.
When I was a student nearing graduation, I had an overwhelming sense of pressure to find my first “career” job. I had learned about public relations from another student’s capstone presentation, and thought it sounded like the ideal fit for me. I read about the market and learned that PR was a competitive area to work. So what did I do? I hustled and began applying for jobs months before graduation. Luckily for me networking helped me find my opportunity to freelance and earn a full-time position at an agency.
That sense of desperation was just what I needed to start my career path. I can’t tell you how often I’ve run into interns or wandering graduates who are struggling to find a PR job. What they seem to all have in common is a sense of degree entitlement. You get the degree; you get the job…right? Any practitioner can tell you it doesn’t work that way. Additionally, today’s shaky economy has left the job ads empty and journalists pushing into our field. Couple with that the loss of some practitioners’ jobs and a new graduate with a chip on their shoulder is likely to remain jobless for a long time.
How can a new graduate prepare to earn (and keep) a place in the PR world? Here are eight essential tips that have helped me succeed through the early years.
1.Hone your writing skills
If you don’t know AP style, take a class right away. Also, continue to take writing classes once in the field. Nothing kills credibility quite like bad grammar.
2.Develop two-way relationships
Network with the purpose of building a relationship. You’ll reap endless rewards for being sincerely helpful. Being a source for journalists, a team player in the department will help others remember you…in a good way!
3. Keep up with technology and trends
If you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind.
4.Do more than is required
Problem solve, over-deliver and always do your best to stand out.
The second you think you know it all, you’ve just made your greatest mistake. Look for mentors, share your knowledge and be grateful for any chance to refine your PR skills.
6.Be straight-forward; not rude
The fast-paced PR world needs straight shooters, but always watch how you craft your own messages.
7.Look for new ways to approach the same thing
New angles to view events, story ideas, and logistics can help you improve your work and keep your responsibilities fresh
8.Make the most of every opportunity
If you are interning, put all of your energy in learning everything and impressing anyone you can. Show appreciation for others’ knowledge, time and contacts. People will want to help you if they know you take advantage of their assistance.