May marks my one-and-a-half year anniversary with Enterprise Canada; and while it has been a whirlwind learning experience, it seems like just yesterday I was a recent grad with a B.A and Public Relations post-grad certificate who was lost when it came to the job hunting process. I was in a position that so many recent grads find themselves in – the awkward period between graduation and my first “real” job. Having been with this company over a year now, I have been involved with the hiring process of several interns, and being on the other side of the interview has taught me a lot about what recent grads should/shouldn’t do when looking for their first PR job.
One of the problems I found coming out of school, was that most of my teachers hadn’t been working in PR for many years, and it had certainly been several years since any of them were in the ‘recent grad’ position. So, while their information on the industry was educational, things had changed on the hiring front since they were recent grads, and their advice was a little ‘hit or miss’.
After chatting with some other recent grads who were successful in landing PR jobs, I have put together this list of tips that you may find useful when trying to land your first job.
1. Volunteer for a non profit – Volunteering for a non profit is a great way to get work experience, and most non profit organizations are understaffed due to budgetary restraints, so you will get a lot more hands on, in-depth experience, as opposed to volunteering for a major corporation where you will likely be getting coffee and picking up dry cleaning.
2. Keep your portfolio up-to-date – It is important to keep samples of your work and statements from those you have worked with in a portfolio to take into interviews. Be sure to get a letter of reference from any organization you volunteer for, and include any articles of work that you can speak to, in your portfolio. If you don’t have current examples of work, copies of school work, your grades, your class schedule, and your resume are things you can include to get you started.
3. Stay connected – Many employers now use social media sites like LinkedIn to look for potential hires. Be sure to have an updated account and make good use of sites like Twitter and Facebook. It is important to show that you know how to use sites like these effectively. Add local journalists and business owners to your lists, and be sure to follow as many influential people as you can. Re-tweet, like, and comment on relevant posts – the more people see your name connected to local and current issues, the more likely they are to remember you.
4. Network, network, network – Working in Public Relations is all about who you know. As a recent grad, you aren’t likely to have many connections, but even in this position, stay in touch with your teachers and classmates, and go to networking events. Make your face known in your community and let people know what kind of work you are interested in. Your name just might come up when someone is looking to hire. Also, never burn bridges – in this business, you’d be surprised how often you run into people you may have worked with in the past.
5. Find your niche – My biggest piece of advice to recent grads is to remember that there are hundreds of thousands of grads out there just like you. The best thing you can do for yourself is stand out. Find something that makes you different from the masses and a commodity to an employer. This applies to after you’ve found a job, too. Once you become familiar with the company you are working for, look for something they might be lacking, and assert yourself into that position. Even if it means attending seminars or taking a few extra night classes, asserting yourself as a commodity will secure your position at a company and will make for faster promotion.
Stepping into the working world is no doubt intimidating, especially in a competitive field like PR. But by taking the necessary steps, and being persistent, you will eventually land yourself the job you’ve been wanting. Don’t get discouraged! Remember, most successful PR professionals were in the same boat you’re in, at one point or another.
The original version of this article appears on Enterprise Canada
Sadie Chapple, Client Coordinator, Enterprise Canada
A proficient writer and media relations specialist, Sadie Chapple joined Enterprise Canada in the fall of 2011. Sadie’s forte is social media advocacy, although her work experience includes writing various media materials, print copy and research reports.
Sadie graduated from Brock University in 2010 with a BA in English Language and Literature, and is a recent graduate of Niagara College’s Public Relations Program, where she completed an intern placement at the St. Catharines branch of the Canadian Red Cross.