Monday, June 21, 2010

The Hunt: Back to Basics

Today's job market is a scary place. Entry level positions for graduates are scarce and tough to fight for. For me, I have been through three phone interviews, three face-to-face interviews, and countless job post emails and application forms. When facing so much, one has to wonder, "What can I do to give me an edge?" So here are the first in a series of creative tips that have helped me in breaking barriers to get my first big PR job!

Back to Basics...

Is your resume the right resume?

So you are on your way, diploma in hand and your resume is ready to print, email, fax, etc. As a public relations student; the business, communications or journalism school may have told you that one specific resume type is the preferred format. In reality, every firm or corporation is different. In public relations, the two formats that will best serve you are the objective and summary style resumes. Both will serve very different purposes in presenting your job qualifications.

This was a lesson I learned while doing a critique interview with Ellen Hartman, president of the Atlanta office of Weber Shandwick. Having more than one style of resume ready will show that you think ahead and are prepared for any situation.

The 21st Century Portfolio

Now let's take a look at your portfolio. That hard, leather binder with all of your written materials is great insurance during your face-to-face interview, but to really show off your up-to-date creative skills, you are going to need a digital portfolio website.

"Don't Panic!" -the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

This may seem a daunting idea at first but believe me, the key to creating a great online portfolio is time, patience and the use of what resources are comfortable for you. My online portfolio took an average of three very intensive months to create. I also used creative thinking to rearrange the elements of the Blogspot blog system to design it into an appropriate format.

And don't be afraid to look to other online portfolios for inspiration in creating your own design. Auburn University professor Robert French regularly posts recent online portfolios from his upper class public relations program at PR Prospects. In the early stages of designing my portfolio, I used a lot of concepts from his site.

NEVER hire someone else to "create" your portfolio for you (or any of your other written material for that matter) much less try to pass it off as your own. It is laziness on the part of the individual and when in comes time for you to replicate something similar, this lack of skill will come back to haunt you.

As an up and coming public relations professional, these online design skills are assets you need to acquire for yourself. In doing so, you're sure to stand out above the competition.

Internships, Internships, Internships!... Did I mention Internships

One of the most important aspects to your education, before hitting the road professional, doesn't come in the class room. Internships are a key element in what firms look for. Start finding internships early. Almost every employer will ask if your job was a PAID internship. This fact alone is critical in employer's decision making.

Those other basics you forgot about

I would bet you've never considered creating your own business cards! Business cards are not part of the basic curriculum in school and most entry level job seekers I've talked with don't think about them. A business card is another great tool you can use to show employers that you are ready for the big leagues.

Not only can you use the card to provide your basic contact information (cell, email), but it also serves as one more opportunity to mention that online portfolio of yours. Additionally, networking is an important part of finding a job. You are not always going to have your stack of resumes and cover letters with you. Business cards can be kept in your wallet or purse, ready to pull out when needed.

Thank ya very much!

Just because today's business atmosphere is "Go, Go, Go!" does not mean you should skip out on the Thank You note. Considering we live in both a personal and digital world (PR), you should take the time to write both a physical thank you letter as well as a shorter email version. The thank you note helps to send a stronger message that you cared about the interview and how you position your personal qualities as a professional. Considering most candidates today do not take the time to utilize this opportunity, treat it as a golden moment.

And as with any basic "how to," remember to make a personal connection with the employer in your letter, citing something you may have discussed or learned during the interview that you valued.

We've taken care of the basic elements you'll need to survive the hunt for your great PR job. In my next blog entry, it's time to take on "Concurring the Digital Realm."

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