Have you just graduated and are looking for a career in PR? How important is it to have experience in the industry already, or can you get a job without it? If your dream job is in PR, but you have not yet got your first piece of experience, here are my top tips:
1 Get experience
Whether it is in volunteering for a local festival in the press office at the weekend or just asking to shadow someone in the industry, nothing beats hands-on experience to give you an understanding of the job. Even one day’s experience will give you something and as with many things, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
If you attend events organised by people like the CIPR or PRCA you will meet others who work in the industry. This will not only get you some contacts, but might also introduce you to someone who has a vacancy or would be happy for you to shadow them. It is scary walking into a room where you don’t know anyone, but if you can get over that hurdle and start talking to people, it could pay off.
3 Take time to understand the industry
I still wonder sometimes how we ever managed anything before Google came along! It may not always be accurate, but the internet is a wonderful resource to learn more about the industry. Read press releases, look at websites, read biographies, use sites like PRMoment.com or PRweek.com to see what people are saying.
4 Have opinions
When you get your interview because of 1-3 above, you will need to demonstrate not just an understanding of the industry, but what you actually think about it. So use opinions and blogs to help you understand what you think about the future of PR, how it has changed in recent years and which bits of it you want to work in. Again, the internet is brilliant for this, as are the people you will meet at no 2 above.
5 Make your experience relevant
Whatever your current job or the degree you have just secured, there will be something about your time at university that connects you to the PR industry. Whether you’ve managed a sports team’s social media, spent time communicating with other students, or worked in your holidays in a customer facing role, there is always something that touches the PR world. And if you can find that strand, it will show how you understand that PR reaches widely across the world of work.
6 Be proactive
Many organisations will consider interns or speculative applications. Some of the best people I have employed have been the ones who identified that they wanted to work for us and wrote in speculatively. Everyone wants to be loved – even a business! So take the time to find out where that dream job is and then just ask. You will most likely be turned down, but once you have that contact just keep in touch.
7 Persistence Pays
No organisation, other than the ‘one man band,’ never has any vacancies and few people stay in their job forever. If you have made contact with your targets, then keep in touch – without becoming a stalker, obviously! A regular email or tweet will remind them you are there and that you are still interested when the vacancy finally comes up.
8 Practice Makes Perfect
Look for your dream jobs and apply for them. Even if you think they are not ideal, the interview practice is good and sometimes you might get to the interview and find that actually the organisation is where you want to be. I am where I am today because I took a punt on a job advert once, a long time ago.
9 Demonstrate your skills
I have talked before about the importance of being active on social media when looking for jobs. This is even more important if you do not have any PR experience. It will show that you understand social media, plus it will show you can write. You should create a blog and start writing about things, just to show that you know how to work with words and to demonstrate your commitment to communication.
10 Create Allies
You should build a network of supporters and friends within the PR industry. When you go to networking events, find people who work in your target organisations and talk to them – that way you will be clued up in interviews as well as having a potential supporter from within the team. Similarly, use sites like Linkedin and Twitter to connect and engage with likeminded PR people and potential allies. PR people like to talk!