Your first job out of college can set the tone for the rest of your career. Here are a few of my tips to help you set off on the right track.
I can’t believe it’s already April (where did Q1 go?), and that in the next month, a new graduating class will be joining the workforce. I was in that boat 11 years ago (gulp), and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when applying for jobs.
I had the typical “career placement” resources in college (mock career fairs and outdated brochures), but none that were straight-forward or concrete enough to actually help me find my path.
I’ve learned a thing or two over the years and thought it would be helpful to put together some tips to help land that important first job, because it sets the tone for the rest of your career.
Network. No, seriously, network.
The competition in the PR world is fierce. Simply clicking on the “apply” button on a LinkedIn job posting isn’t likely to result in an interview. To stand out, you need to put yourself out there. Talk to your friends. Talk to your family. Start the conversation about what you’re looking to do career-wise—most people would be happy to help. I’ve had five jobs since I graduated from college. See below.
JOB 1: A college classmate who graduated the year before me referred me to her agency.
JOB 2: My roommate referred me to her company’s PR agency.
JOB 3: I took a job working for one of my clients at JOB 2.
JOB 4: A friend I met through said roommate referred me to a company he knew was looking for a PR person.
JOB 5: A friend from JOB 1 started his own PR firm and hired me. (Hi, Nick.)
See how this works? I don’t know where I would be now if I didn’t reach out to that first friend to see if she liked her job.
Learn how to write.
Of course, anyone looking to work in PR needs to be able to write. We’re storytellers. But writing is not a skill that’s exclusive to PR. Let’s say you’re applying for a finance job. How can you get your cover letter or resume taken seriously if it’s riddled with typos or bad grammar? Pay attention in those writing classes and practice.
In PR, if you can’t write, you are doomed to fail. Take an extra class. Then take another one. Get an internship. Or four. Sign up for an online class. Buy an AP Style guide and consider it your bible.
Show that you put in the effort.
A few months ago, we received a box from a job applicant that included a No Limit Agency branded ping pong paddle and the applicant’s bio and headshot, photoshopped to look like our website, along with a thoughtful cover letter and his resume. We reached out to him that day and brought him in for an interview and now you’ll see Andy Sroka’s profile on our website.
Of course, this example was way beyond what I could ever expect from a job applicant—it was so thoughtful and uncommon—but even sending a handwritten note in the mail goes a long way.
Stick with it.
If you’re looking for a job in marketing, apply for jobs in that field and don’t give up until you find one. Keep waiting tables until you find the right job to start your career. Often, folks take any job just to get into the workforce, but before you know it, five years have gone by and you’re still stuck in the wrong industry—and cracking into the industry you want becomes even harder.
Of course, I’m only one person and what’s important to me isn’t important to everyone who is in charge of hiring. Do your research and find out what makes people tick. Good luck out there. I hope to read your (perfectly written, typo-free) resume and cover letter someday.