Three months before graduation, I think I know it all. Knowledge and experience were gained both inside and outside the classroom through public relations conventions, class lectures, projects, campaigns, internships and part-time jobs. I should be feeling pretty confident in my future. I have gotten all the PR experience I could ask for as an undergraduate, but where do I go from here? Each day closer to graduation becomes one day longer without a secured job. It’s only natural for a student to panic.
Did I choose strong internships? Should I have started my application process earlier? Were my peers secretly making all these job connections under the table? Shouldn’t someone with a major in public relations have successful networking tools? Or am I correct in assuming I’m not as PR savvy as I thought? WRONG.
The challenge seems to stem from the excess amount of pressure to land that perfect job. No matter what area of public relations interests you, there are always those coveted jobs it seems the entire graduating class is competing for (but only the overachievers get). You know the type of jobs I am talking about. We build this “ideal” job in our heads –the one with the fresh stack of personalized business cards and country club memberships. We believe unless we are offered these jobs it’s time to call it quits and say, “Renovate the new storage room back to my bedroom—I’m moving home.”
The field of public relations provides graduating students with more unique opportunities than we think. Exploring these opportunities is vital in securing your PR confidence and job options as public relations students. Our mindsets must transition from finding the perfect job to finding the right job. The key to knowing all about the PR job field is realizing we do not know it all as students (although we like to think we do). It’s our responsibility to learn more about public relations by utilizing techniques such as informational interviews and networking beyond the PR surface.
It may be hard to believe, but these simple 15-minute interviews can consistently provide young PR practitioners a job market advantage. The key to informational interviews begins with understanding the benefits resulting from their implementation. “While one out of every 200 resumes–some studies put the number as high as 1,500 resumes–results in a job offer, one out of every 12 informational interviews results in a job offer,” says Katharine Hansen, author of A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way Into the Hidden Job Market.
Informational interviews can provide job-seeking students with:
- Grapevine information about non-publicized job openings
- Job specifics that go beyond the general job description, including daily demands or challenges
- Ability to ask follow-up questions in a more casual setting
- Confidence in your personal interview skills
PR professionals highlight these interview benefits through social media and other communication tactics. PR Channel Blog’s “Advice for the PR Grad-Networking” references several experts endorsing informational interviews. Media Genesis President Antoine Dubeauclard suggests, “Call people with the objective of learning what they do and what it’s like. It removes all the pressure. You’re not asking them for a job. You’re just trying to understand what their job is like. If you do this well, you’ll get a mentor who may be a good referral source to other opportunities (shhh don’t tell people, but that’s how people REALLY get jobs).” Professionals like Dubeauclard note that informational interviews should be taken advantage of through every communication vehicle possible including personal interviews, phone interviews, lunches and even e-mail. As long as you are networking, you are gaining a competitive advantage.
Some specific informational interview tips
- Complete Your Homework: Prepare ahead of time your elevator pitch and specific career questions
- Active Listener: Minimize your note taking and provide valuable two-way communication
- Just Ask: PR professionals are usually willing to refer some other beneficial contacts
- Think Smarter: Look beyond general PR professionals and meet with effective and successful communicators within any job setting.
- Pick Their Brains: Take advantage of your 15 minutes and ask about any PR related questions you have
The right job for you is out there—surrounding yourself with these advantages will increase your job options. Even if one interviewee recommends attending graduate school and another suggests a nonprofit internship, you are learning more about how to obtain your right job. Remember that each meeting, each phone call, each RSS feed, each conversation will move you one step closer to gaining more than just a job—you will launch the beginning of a successful PR career. Who knows, maybe someday you will have the right job plus the country club membership.