Spring is a time when college students are looking for summer internships or new college graduates are looking for jobs. I am continually amazed at the number of inquiries and unsolicited resumes our company receives, especially from those who blast their resume and don’t take the time to do their homework on the front end. After recently conducting an informational interview with an eager, young professional who is working in education and wants to transition in PR/marketing, I thought back to all the advice that has been shared with me. In addition, having been one of those job seekers at one time and having conducted dozens of informational interviews over the years, following are some tips I have learned a long the way.
Get Experience: If you’re still in school, look for every opportunity to get experience in your desired field. Write for your school paper or volunteer to do publicity for an event on campus. If you’ve already graduated and are looking to get hired but don’t have a lot of experience (or are switching careers like the person I met), the same recommendations apply. Look for internships; volunteer for public relations or marketing committees with nonprofit organizations. Until you have some experience under your belt, be prepared to work for free or for very little and to volunteer a lot. You need to build a portfolio of your body of work.
Research: In today’s day and age, there’s no excuse for not doing your homework before going into an interview (even if it’s just an informational one). Conduct background on the person you’re meeting with via LinkedIn, Google and the company’s website. Is there a company or organization you’re interested in working at? Do your research to see who in your LinkedIn network may be connected to that organization.
Network: Request informational interviews, and during every meeting, ask the person you are with if they would share additional names of people they know who you should meet with. Ask if they’d be willing to make a virtual introduction for you. While this may seem trivial, bring a notepad and pen to take notes (or take notes on your phone), especially if the person you are meeting with is providing you with contact information. Last, take advantage of networking events sponsored by organizations like PRSA Colorado, Colorado Healthcare Communicators, AMA, etc. These events provide a great opportunity to meet people who work in your desired field and to make connections.
Stay in Touch: After you’ve met with someone, always send a thank-you note (and yes, a handwritten note is still much appreciated). In addition, stay in touch with the person you’ve met; don’t be a pest, but it’s important to maintain contact. Send an email and attach an article that you read that the person may find of interest. Let the person know what you’re up to, and if you’ve found a job. Invite them to be part of your LinkedIn network.
Pay it Forward: When you do land that first job, and you will, use it as an opportunity to pay it forward throughout your career. I am always willing to meet with people for informational interviews, as people were kind and helpful to me when I was just starting out. When the time comes, share your wisdom and experience with others.