Landing a job in a top Public Relations firm is a dream more and more young people are trying to turn into reality. In Norway, the PR industry has grown at an almost astronomical rate in the last few years. So has the number of people looking to get a foot inside the industry door.
Unfortunately, the industry seems to recruit most of its people either from within the industry, or from corporate businesses or media outlets. Numbers published by the organization for Norwegian Communication Consultants, NIR, in 2002, show that of the people that were recruited by Norwegian PR consultancies, only 11 percent came directly from the universities. If we are to believe that NIR's numbers are still relevant, the PR consultancies only hire 10 new graduates every year. For new communications student graduates, the dream of landing a job within the Public Relations industry can therefore feel years or decades away.
I know how it feels, standing on bare ground with nothing but a university degree and a burning desire to get my first job. Five months ago I finished my degree at Griffith University in Australia and moved back to Norway to get a job in Public Relations. I had no clue about how to do it or where to begin.
As a blogger, I therefore did what felt most natural to me – I started searching for articles and blog posts that could help me get an idea of what to expect.
I scrolled through dozens of blog posts on the topic and found that most of them were very helpful. Some explained what I could expect when looking for a job within the PR industry. Others taught me something about how I could attack the situation, what I should focus on when writing a resume or application letter or how I should address the consultancies when applying for non-advertised positions.
Based on what I had read on blogs and what I learned from talking to other people, I put together a strategy on how to achieve my goal.
A couple of weeks ago I finally got a job (editors note: emphasis on FINALLY). After two rounds of intense interviews and a debate with the other applicants in the interview process I took part in, I received a phone form the consultancy, a respected Norwegian PR-consultancy, and was offered a job as a junior consultant.
To pay back what I feel I owe the other bloggers that helped me in the chase for my first job, I therefore wish to continue helping newly graduated students land their first communication job by offering my best tips on how to land your first Public Relations job.
Summarized in a few steps, based on my personal experiences during my job search, is some advice on how to land your first Public Relations job:
1: Choose your ground
Establish an overview of the Public Relations industry in the region where you are applying for work. Put together a list of the firms that you most would like to work for and see who advertises jobs. Personally, I based my list on firms that could help me develop my Public Relations practitioner skills and that valued ethical standards that I could relate to.
2: Talk to people
Ask people within the industry what you can aspect to achieve with the academic background that you possess. Ask them what they look for in their employees and see how you fit their criteria. Talk also to people about how to write an application letter and what to expect during the interview process. Try locating someone that is used to recruiting people, and ask them for good advice.
3: Understand your own capabilities
This is probably the most important advice I can give you. It is really important that you take some time to reflect upon your own personality and your own capabilities before you start applying for jobs. There are some questions you'll just have to know the answer to if you want to land any kind of job. These are questions like:
-What are your goals in life?
-What do you want to achieve with the work you do?
-Where do you see yourself within three years, five years, or ten years?
-What kind of a person are you - Do you like to be in charge, are you a good listener?
-How's your social intelligence, your work ethic, your social life, your learning abilities, your cooperation skills?
-What motivates you?
-Why are you applying for a job in PR?
-What are you good at, where can you improve? How do other people see you?
-What do you see in a good leader?
-What can you offer your future employer? - What can you offer that no one else can?
If you can't answer these questions before you go into an interview, you can be sure you will never be able to credibly answer them during the interview.
4: Writing the resume
Use the answers you came up with in section 3 when writing your resume. Sell yourself – but keep it short. Look at the resume as a bullet-point media release.
A good way to structure the resume is to divide it into the following sub-headers:
-Personal Information (name, address, phone, e-mail and date of birth)
-Education (list your university degree and GPA – if it is worth mentioning, if not, leave it out)
-Achievements (at your university or in sports etc)
-Work Experience (in reverse chronological order, with your most resent listed first)
-Positions of Trust (held within relevant organizations etc)
-Other Skills (spoken and written languages, computer skills etc)
-Interests (blogging, reading books, surfing etc)
-References (contact your references before listing them)
5: Applying for the job
You can either write an open application letter to a company you find attractive, or you can apply for an advertised position.
No matter what you do, there are certain simple rules you need to follow. In your application letter you need to answer three simple questions:
1. Who are you?
2. Why are you applying for a job at this company?
3. What unique (but relevant) skills or experience can you bring to this company?
Write in a simple, formal style and keep the letter short. Show the receiving person that you are able to express yourself clearly and concisely (Editors note: something we sometimes have a problem with here at BlogCampaigning). One standard A4 page should be enough to answer all the questions above. Remember, you do not want to bore your reader.
6: The interview-process
When going to an interview, BE PREPARED:
-Read about the company and the people that are interviewing you.
-Prepare some intelligent questions that you want to ask the company about – three or four should do it.
-Be an active listener: Relate a question or an argument to a topic the interviewees have referred to earlier in the interview – Take notes if necessary.
-Show them that you can engage in a conversation, not just answer questions!
More and more interviews are case based. It is therefore a good idea to think of relevant topics or scenarios that you might be asked to analyze or reflect on during the interview. Remember, most questions that are case based do not have a set answer. The interviewer is interested in analyzing how you react to a question - How you resonate, how you handle pressure, and how you approach the question.
To sum up my post: The best advice I can give you is to smile and be yourself. Try to engage in a conversation instead of only answering questions. If you're a blogger, that should not be a problem.
Here are some other blog posts along similar lines that might help you out:
If you’re looking for a job don’t blow it with your application letter
List of social media interview questions
So you want to work in PR
How to get a job
Steve Cody also has some good tips; however, I’d take some of them with a pinch of salt. I’d definitely leave these ones out:
- send a hand-written thank you note.
- write a press release about the firm having already hired you and send it along with the thank you note.