Landing Your First PR Job: No-Fail Tips

The PR industry continues to boom, and so, landing that first media job out of school may seem like a daunting task. How can you stand out and land a PR job that actually matters?

For those looking into entering the competitive and fast-paced world of public relations, being savvy and resourceful from the get-go in your job search is key. As always when working in the media industry, writing is vital so start improving those writing skills, as well as staying on top of new trends too. 

Geoff Livingston, marketing guru and author, states, “One thing they must know how to do is write. I can’t believe how many communicators I meet that don’t know how to write, it’s astounding really. How can you communicate if you can’t orchestrate your thoughts coherently? Even photographers and videographers need words to communicate their ideas via captions and scripts.”

Livingston adds, “The second thing is more of a soft skill: They must be able to adapt and change. Evolution is critical in this business. The media forms adapt so quickly that you need to morph your skills accordingly. Facebook is becoming passé, Twitter already is. Snapchat is where it’s at this year, but what’s next?”

Graduating in your chosen field builds the foundation of your skills, but the true test is being able to sell yourself to get into a PR job. Here are some smart tips that will aid in helping you land your first PR job and put you on the fast track to a fulfilling career in the media:

Make good use of your PR networkBefore starting your job search, take an afternoon to make a detailed list of key contacts in your network who may be able to assist you in your hunt for your first PR job. These can include former bosses in the industry, helpful professors, friends currently working in PR, and connections you’ve made at previous networking events and conferences. Next, reach out to a few of your contacts and honestly explain your situation and what kind of position you are seeking. You never know what one email could lead to!

Set up agency shadow days – One proactive way to become acquainted with PR agencies that you would like to work with is by setting up a morning to “shadow” in the office. This typically entails sitting alongside a publicist and observing his or her day-to-day work, sitting in on a few client meetings and asking as many educated questions as you can to soak in some insight on the PR industry. Come armed with a pen and notepad to jot down notes, and get ready to learn. After completing your shadow day, don’t forget to follow-up with the agency with a sincere thank you note. The next time they’re seeking an ambitious, new PR pro for their team, having prior face time with the agency will set you a step above the rest of the competition.  

Learn that the worst thing that can happen is hearing “no” – Sure, job application rejection can be difficult, but when you get into the mindset that the absolute worst thing that can happen while job searching is hearing “no,” you’ll make bolder decisions and fully take the reins of your career. Consistently follow-up on job applications with a friendly email, ask questions, ask those that you admire in your local PR industry out to lunch. You could hear “no,” but you may also hear a resounding yes that could lead to an amazing opportunity.

Interact – During the hiring process, interact with the company brand on social media. Shockingly, very few candidates take advantage of this direct route to the heart of the brand.

Do you understand in what ways PR is different than what you were taught in school? – Be prepared with copies of your work, such as your last five blog posts, bylines or other digital content in your portfolio. What traction have these pieces received?

Don’t be discouraged if your degree doesn’t match the position – You can be a computer programmer, an artist, a doctor or even a lawyer. It doesn’t matter. Many agencies out there are not hiring your “profession”, they are hiring the “brain”.

Lindsay Shoemake

Lindsay Shoemake currently works in the media industry in Atlanta, where she manages a robust client roster on a daily basis. When she's not working, Lindsay is the founder of career-lifestyle site That Working Girl, along with her personal blog, Lindsay, Lively. She enjoys a great cup of coffee, traveling and helping other women attain their greatest career goals.