Barb and I were recently guest speakers at a Regis University communications class where we shared insights on what we do at GroundFloor Media and how we got into the business. Most of the students were sophomores and juniors and really wanted advice on how to get into the communications field after college.
Barb shared a few tips in her recent blog post, but here are some other pieces of advice we shared:
- Get Experience. Don’t underestimate the importance of internships while in school or directly after school. I held two internships in college – one at NBC Olympics and one in the marketing department at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Though neither of them were directly in communications, both were helpful experiences that I could translate into PR.
- Be Aware of Your Personal Brand. FACT: An HR professional is going to Google you (not just HR – I know my mom has Googled every boyfriend my sister and I have ever had… and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I did the same). Be conscious of how you are portraying yourself on social media, and make sure that you are proud of whatever you post – that it is a true reflection of who you are.
- Do Your Research and Network When You Can. Research the PR firms/opportunities in your area and find a way to meet with people at those organizations to have an “informational” conversation. There may not be an opportunity when you meet with the person but at least you are top of mind for when a position does open up.
- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Whether it’s an informational or a formal interview, prepare for it like you would prepare for an exam. Research the company, research the latest PR-campaigns to make news, research the person you are meeting (LinkedIn is a good place to start). Take it a step further and refine your personal messages. Meaning: Have well-thought-out, concise answers for the questions you think the person might ask (i.e., What interests you about this company? Why do you want to go into this field? What are some PR campaigns you admire? What do you like to do in your free time? What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?)
- If You’re On Time, You’re Late. This was the rule playing sports – if you’re technically on-time, you’re late. If you’re 15-minutes early, you’re on-time and there when you should be. For an interview, I always recommend arriving to the area 15-minutes early and entering the building five to seven minutes early.
- The Handwritten Thank-You Note is Not Dead. In today’s world, e-mail thank yous are absolutely expected as a follow-up after an informational or an interview (send them within 24hrs of meeting). BUT, handwritten thank-you notes are still very important after an interview. I’m personally a fan of sending both after an interview (not after an informational). I send a quick email thank you note, and then I write a thank-you card that I put in the mail the same day so that it arrives a few days later.
The last tip – and probably the most important tip – is to be yourself! Be true to yourself throughout the interview process and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine. It will help you land at a place that is the right fit for you.