April 1, 2014
You aren’t the only person who’s ever asked this question. In fact, the graduate who isn’t wondering the same thing is a rare species.
It might make you feel better to know that there isn’t one secret or trick that gets you there.
There are certain principles that apply here. It’s never too soon to start networking, and you can never make too many connections.
“My strongest advice would be to network, network, network,” said Anna Brodetsky, who graduated from college 10 years ago and now serves as PR manager with 5W Public Relations in the New York area. “In addition to the experience you get from internships, it is all about who you know, as the industry is a small one. Join a local PRSA Chapter and get involved in the community. Go on informational interviews and meet with alumni in the field. The more people you meet, the easier it is to land a job.”
This is especially important when you think about positioning yourself for internships. Candidates generally pursue full-time jobs through a more formal process, but a lot of times, you can snag an internship just by having the temerity to ask the right person. The value of networking is knowing that you’re in a position to recognize and approach the right person.
You can’t overstate the value of internships in positioning young people for their first jobs, especially if you recognize the wisdom of taking one that’s unpaid if necessary. Why? Because it solves this seeming conundrum: “No one will give me a job without experience, but I can’t get experience until I get a job.”
An internship gets you in the door with little risk to the employer. Then, it’s up to you to show the initiative that will net you opportunities to demonstrate what you’re made of. I’ve seen interns position themselves to play key roles on accounts, and do well because they asserted themselves (politely and professionally).
Rachel Roland, senior corporate communications specialist with Allentown, Pa.-based Air Products, is also an advocate of internships.
“Even if your degree does not require it, do as many internships as you can during your undergraduate years — and give them all you’ve got,” Roland said. “Make a great impression. It gives you a better idea of what real life in public relations is like and the kind of job for which you are best suited, and it gives you writing clips or video reels to use to get a full-time job.”
And while you’re interning, you’re networking in a powerful way with professionals who are now your colleagues. Don’t hold out for a meager intern paycheck and miss out on the greater value that the experience could bring.
However, Roland says that it’s wise not to intern for free once you graduate or people will think that you’re willing to “give it away.”
My question for graduates is: Why are you waiting to graduate before starting to network?
Those who have a better shot have attended PRSA meetings, gotten involved in PRSSA and held internships.
When interning, try to meet as many people as you can and keep in touch with them.
In the social media space, LinkedIn is the place to make an impression that can help you advance your career. You can start to establish your identity as a professional here.
But posting inappropriate photos on Facebook can kill your career before it starts. Your friends may find them entertaining, but prospective employers will likely check out your profile, too. As a PR student, you should understand the power of the image that you are projecting to the world.
Today, there is more competition for fewer jobs, and you need every advantage that you can get. I’m not saying this to discourage you but to encourage you to do what you can to avoid these mistakes — that’s how you stand apart from the crowd and get that first job.
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