PR & Journalism Education

I Wish I Were Graduating This Year

If you’re graduating from J-school or a great PR program this year, fear not. While it may not be easy to find that entry-level position you’re searching for, it’s never been easy. There are more tools and resources at your disposal now than ever. In many ways, there’s never been a better time to work in journalism or PR (provided you like the salaries offered to entry-level pros). Change breeds opportunity, and there’s no shortage of change in these industries today.

Here are some brief thoughts for you to consider as you pack up your portfolio and hit the interview trail:

  • You Probably Get Social Media More Than They Do – you’ve grown up with email, chat rooms, and Facebook. It’s not a new medium for you. Provided you’ve made sure to remove those pictures of you doing a keg stand, an active Facebook profile is an asset for you (bonus points for Twitter and LinkedIn). Many organizations I’ve talked with recently admit to having entry-level employees (or interns) work on their social media efforts. This is a huge opportunity for you just entering the workforce.
  • Writing for The Web and Blogs is Normal – it’s not a new channel for you. Chances are good your writing samples include links to blog posts or online articles you’ve written. There are some journalists who are just starting to blog because they have to. You probably want to write online content. This is a strength you have in your favor.
  • You’ll Be a Social Media Expert Soon – after a year or so in your first job, partially because of the two points above, you’ll most likely have more social media experience than your boss and co-workers. You’ll be the one they turn to manage social media campaigns and lead social media pitches.
  • The Times, They Are a Changing – there is some major disruption out there in the market right now. Newspapers are going under, journalists are out of work, PR firms are transforming into social media agencies, and few have everything figured out yet. While you don’t have all the answers, there are more opportunities for you in PR and journalism than ever. Create your own opportunities by capitalizing on this change.

If you’re just starting to develop your plan of attack for finding that first job, dedicate some time and effort to the following activities:

  • Twitter – this is the hottest area in communications right now. If you don’t have a Twitter account yet, get one now. Start tweeting about your efforts to find that first job, your ideas around PR or journalism, and your comments on others’ ideas. Follow prospective employers – individuals and organizations – in the city you want to work. You’ll be surprised how easy it will be to get interviews if you do this.
  • LinkedIn – complete your LinkedIn profile 100%. Include a photo of yourself. Describe your internships, extracurricular activities, professional affiliations (i.e. PRSSA), and your area of interest for your first job. Update your status regularly, join relevant LinkedIn groups, link to stories on your blog (if you have one), and start to build your network now. Seek out people you would like to work for and start a dialogue.
  • Go Offline – use a service like MeetUp to find networking events in your local area. Groups that cater to young professionals are ideal. Most PRSA chapters have Young Professional SIGs. Go to these events and meet people. When you meet them, be sure to follow up with a personal note. Even in the age of social media, a handwritten note can go a long way in positioning you ahead of the competition.
  • Donate Your Time – whether you have five internships under your belt or none, you can never have too much experience heading into your first interview. While you’re waiting for that first job offer, volunteer your skills to a local non-profit or small business. Help them develop and implement a public relations or social media campaign. This “real world” experience will pay handsome dividends for you in your search for a job.
  • Your Website – if you don’t have a website or blog, I’d be surprised. Provided you don’t, you should create one. Include an HTML and PDF version of your resume, an online profile, links to articles you have written or placed, etc. If you have a blog, be sure to post on a regular basis. Write about relevant topics in public relations or journalism. This not only shows you know how to write, but also that you’re in tune with what’s going on in your industry. You’ll be an attractive prospect for any employer this summer.

To all of you entering the workforce this year, best of luck to you. If you’re getting ready to graduate or are a recent grad, please share your ideas and experiences.

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