For an industry rife with incompetence that has built itself a reputation for poor standards and fluff, it’s surprisingly difficult to land your first job in PR. Every year we are approached by hundreds of graduates looking to get their foot in the door, and, if you’re one of them, I have to say, I don’t envy you. It’s tough out there – competition is high, and jobs are few and far between.
The good news is that as a reader of the B2B PR Blog, you already have the edge (most people who apply don’t bother to learn anything about the industry at all). And to offer a further boost, I’ve provided below my guide to starting your PR career:
Choose whatever degree subject interests you: Yes, English Lit and Marcomms grads are over-represented in the profession, but that doesn’t mean that these degrees produce the best PR people. Most of the skills required to succeed in PR are learned on the job and I would rather recommend that you study something that interests you and get yourself a good grade, as that counts for much more.
Get a job and stick with it: PR, like any industry, can be tough at times, and you need to be able to demonstrate to a potential employer that when your job becomes challenging you have what it takes to man up and stick it out. I would be more impressed by a candidate who has worked at Tesco throughout their university career than one with a patchwork CV.
Learn to write: writing is at the core of any PR role, so any writing practice you can get at uni will really stand out on your CV. And I don’t mean ‘I had to write loads of essays for my degree’ (a common interview blunder), I mean published writing. Get involved in your campus newspaper or get published by contributing guest posts to your favourite blog.
Don’t bother too much with work experience: unless you can get regular work at a PR agency, short bursts of a few weeks at a time in your holidays are simply not that valuable. You won’t be given anything meaningful to do, and you won’t learn much.
Spend some time on your CV: your CV should be brilliantly formatted, clear, concise and chronological. Keep it under two pages, be specific about dates (i.e. include the month and the year when you started and left each job), highlight school achievements and start with a paragraph that outlines your key skills and why you want to be in PR. Get as many friends and connections as you can to proof your CV so that you can be sure it is absolutely spot on.
Draft a compelling covering letter: this should be no more than a couple of paragraphs highlighting your achievements and telling us why you want to work for us. It should be grammatically immaculate.
Create a long list of potential employers: Don’t just look for agencies that are advertising vacancies. Approach all agencies you can find. Yes, we get loads of speculative applications, but we almost never get good ones so if yours stands out, then you will be snapped up quickly.
Send your CV and covering letter to employers: Tailor your application to each one. This should take a while, as it involves studying their website, their social media presence and telling them exactly why you want them and why they want you. When I was looking for my first job, I sent my CV to over 100 PR companies, got one interview and one job. It was disheartening and it was painful, but it was worth it in the end.
Send your CV to recruiters: there are some great graduate PR recruiters (I like GaGaGo) who will be able to put you forward for jobs, but don’t rely entirely on recruiters – many agencies prefer to recruit direct, so you’ll be missing out on loads of opportunities.
At the interview:
If your application strategy is systematic and professional, you will be invited for an interview. To leave a lasting impression:
Be professional: Arrive on time (not early). Ask for water (don’t make your interviewer make you coffee). Don’t chew gum. Take an umbrella so you don’t arrive looking like a drowned rat.
Know the company: Spend hours Googling them, researching the team, and learning about their clients. Then drop your newfound knowledge into conversation casually.
Be positive: No one likes a moaner.
Take examples of your work: Have print-outs of anything you’ve written before
After the interview:
Follow up: Send an email thanking the interviewer for their time and letting them know that you enjoyed meeting them and are keen to get the job.
It’s a PR jungle out there – good luck finding your inner tiger.
The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by b2b pr specialist Heather Baker, founder TopLine Comms, an inbound marketing, B2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say. Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact her via email on [email protected].
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