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Advice for University Students Seeking Employment in the Real World

December 5th, 2014

Today I was invited to Monmouth University to speak with students about public relations, communications and journalism. It was nice being on campus and experiencing the energy, new construction and expansion plan.

Below are my responses to a few questions that touch on internships, organizing a job search, resumes, interview tips and leveraging social media. Please pass this on to anyone currently in school or transitioning to the workforce.

What are the best and most effective ways to find employment in the PR industry today?

First, identify an industry or area that interests you. This could be technology, sports, fashion, politics, finance, etc. From this, identify agencies and influencers to follow via social media. Learn and engage with them. Doing so will not only expand your intellectual curiosity but also help make connections.

  • Tip: Use meetup.com to find relevant professional groups within a geographic area to network with.

How should students organize their job search?

After identifying the industry, determine if geography is important. NYC offers a ton of opportunity for fashion and finance, NJ for pharmaceuticals, Silicon Valley for tech, etc. Find agencies that serve this market, alternatively find a company or publishing group; envelope yourself in the industry and garner experience.

  • Tip: Target your job search in an area where there is a vibrant community; this will increase the number of opportunities and expand the sphere of connections.

What do you look for in a resume of a potential hire?

The intro email or cover letter needs to be brief, personalized and targeted. If you have a body of work, link to it. What does not get me excited is a “one size fits all, find and replace company name, plain vanilla” cover letters devoid of thought.

The most important criteria (before an interview) is the quality of experience. I understand the need to work and make money during school (bartending, retail clerk, waitress, etc.), but I want to see how interested you are in PR through your body of work – via internships, work experience and personality through a website or blog.

  • Tip: Resumes are dead. We live in a digital world. Use tools to give the reader an interactive perspective of your work. To do this you need to blog, seek out relevant internships and write about your experiences, showcase work, etc.

What advice can you share regarding interview preparation for a job in PR?

Research, research, research. Do your homework. Study the company’s website, what they do, the markets they serve, the projects they are proud of. This shows interest and will separate you from the other candidates that just show up.

Attire – dress accordingly. You have one opportunity to make a first impression. If seated in a room or waiting area, stand and greet the person conducting the interview (make eye contact, firm handshake, etc).

  • Tip: Ask questions – interviews should be a conversation. Ask what a typical day is, what is the company’s biggest challenge to grow, etc.

Does social media play a role in a student’s job search in the PR industry?

Absolutely. The first thing I do after scanning the work experience of a candidate is see if and how they are active on social networks. LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  Your digital persona proceeds you so be sure to leverage social media creatively; you can mix personal interests, but leave the keg stands out, unless you are looking to work for a beer company.

Summary

  • Experience – get some, even if you have to work for free
  • Hustle – always work hard, show initiative and focus on delivering results
  • Body of work – create a portfolio and deliver it via a personal website or blog (showcase your trophies)
  • Follow-up – show initiative by following up via email and phone

Domenick Cilea

Domenick founded Springboard in 1995. When he is not working on marketing, PR, branding or content strategy, Domenick can be found in a gym, on the road or pool training to survive his next triathlon.

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