So you want a job in public relations.
It may not be the easiest industry to break into, but it’s certainly not impossible. Here are a few tips to help you on your way into the world of PR.
You emailed 30 applications and heard nothing in return. It probably feels like those resumes and cover letters ended up in Neverland (read: the trash)?
Well, believe or not, employers don’t want to can all of the emails they receive from potential job candidates. Here are just a few reasons why they might immediately click “delete” upon receiving your application:
• You didn’t include a cover letter;
• You boast about your writing skills, yet have obvious spelling or grammar errors;
• Your cover letter is, quite obviously, a “mass pitch” filled with generic industry jargon.
A few simple tips can help you land an interview:
• Send an updated resume, tailored to the job at hand;
• Send a cover letter, preferably in the body of your email—attachments might send your email to the spam box—specifically tailored to the job for which you are applying. Employers know when they’re getting a generic cover letter;
• Do your homework. Research the company to which you’ve applied as well as its clients. Be sure to incorporate your knowledge in the cover letter, letting your potential employer know how interested you are in this position.
• Tell your story. Include a paragraph about yourself and tell us why you stand out among other candidates and why we need to hire you.
• Proofread it! If you’re applying for a position in PR, communicating properly is a must. Typos and grammar and spelling errors are your worst enemy.
• Be present on social media. When we can’t find job candidates on Facebook, Twitter, and especially LinkedIn, it means they’re either not taking advantage of these platforms or they’re embarrassed about their feed—either way, it’s bad.
Your interview is scheduled, which means you’ve already gotten through half the battle. This is where you reel in your potential employer and show him or her why you’re the right person for the job. A few tips:
• Don’t chew gum. Obvious, right? Apparently not.
The follow up
• Have multiple resumes on hand. Many times you’ll meet with several people. Having resumes for everyone not only shows that you care and want them to know your background, but also that you’ve come prepared—an important in this fast-paced industry.
• Dress nicely, and never act too casual. It’s always better to overdress than underdress. Besides, you’ll have time to get comfortable with coworkers after you’re hired.
• Know why you’re there. We can tell if you’re just applying to every possible opportunity. Tell us why you want to work in PR and you’ve got a real shot.
• Be yourself. Trust us, we want to hear your personal story. Be honest and don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, otherwise you’ll come off as pretentious.
Following up with the people who took time from their busy schedules to meet you can make or break a business deal. It shows that you care about the potential job opportunity and that you will show the same care and enthusiasm as an employee.
• Write a thank you letter. Send one to every person who interviewed you. And by that we mean write a tailored note to each person. You don’t have to write a book, but mentioning one or two things that you picked up from each conversation (since interviews are great learning experiences) makes a big difference.
• Be persistent. Haven’t heard back from anyone? Follow up again to find out if the job is still available. If you really want that job, this is a good way of proving it. Plus, it shows you’re a go-getter, not just someone who’s going to sit around and wait for a job to fall into his or her lap.
• Be proactive. Send your writing samples (even if no one asked for them), your references, your social media links, etc. to show how passionate you are about the job and how engaged you are in the world of PR 2.0.
Any suggestions you’d add? Anything that’s worked well?
Megan and Anya are co-workers at the Boston-based PR firm, Zazil Media Group.