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I’ve had a number of messages on LinkedIn and emails over the past few months as graduates started to look for first jobs and start with ‘I want to work in PR’. So I figured it might be useful sharing the advice here. There are lots of obvious things you can do to make you more employable in terms of highlighting potential useful skills and getting the basics right – spelling and grammar being a major bugbear.
But beyond all that generic advice here are some things to think about that are PR-specific:
Don’t lose heart. I want to work in PR means commitment to beat out thousands of other talented smart graduates.
Let’s start off with the maths, the job market is basically a numbers game, I got my first agency role after sending out over 200 CVs/ job application forms. It is just a matter of being at the right place at the right time
When I started off, being a mature graduate, coming from an Irish working class household in the North West of England put me at a disadvantage. The clients and colleagues were all bothered about mojitos, wine and six nations rugby. The industry is still as white, middle class and English as it ever was. You have to be the change and that is really lonely. You’ll be on your own. Mentors can help, but you’ll be relying on your own resilience whether you’re:
- From another country
- Working class
- From an ethnic minority
- Being older than the ‘norm’
Classism and age are the last acceptable prejudices, but the others will be signalled through micro-aggressions, gaslighting and omission. Your allies won’t always be allies, dragging you down will help them get a leg up.
So how can you tilt the odds in your favour?
- You can increase your odds by becoming more visible through social media, just in the same way that you probably wouldn’t buy a brand that you couldn’t find on Google, having your own personal brand that is visible in a positive way online can only be a good thing. I realise that this isn’t necessarily easy however if your name is John Smith
- Many of applicants have read all the pieces about innovative ways of applying for jobs and every second CV seems to have a QRcode on it. Innovation is great; my former colleague and friend Doug Winfield got himself noticed using Facebook advertising a year or two ago and is now holding down a senior role with with MS&L in New York. All I am going to say about innovation is that whilst it might get you on to the initial pile of CVs to read; you also need to think about your CV also in terms of usability. When interviewing people you want to get the salient points of the CV prior to meeting them as easily as possible mainly because your working life will be time poor. Many larger HR departments will look to save your data on a database that they can interrogate, that means your information needs to be easy to put in. So there is a balance in your decision: getting noticed versus getting a job in competitive environments
- Go where there will be less competition. How about applying to agencies working in less popular sectors and by looking to do PR at small-to-medium sized firms or even junior roles in-house. Whilst people want to work with brands that their friends will know, third sector PR where they can feel good about themselves, or do celebrity PR – that is only a small part of the industry. I focused on the technology sector when I started off mainly because it was (and still is if we’re honest about it) deeply unsexy. The vast majority of the population don’t care about ERP, SCM, BPM and BPO; nor should they
- Take advantage of disruption in the PR industry. Digital has started progressive change in the PR industry. The media industry is being disrupted; there are less gainfully-employed journalists writing more coverage, and publications are earning less money from product and recruitment ads. This means that there less opportunities for traditional media relations. So PR has had to look to new influencers like bloggers and having direct dialogue with perspective product / service purchasers. This overlaps with business functions such as sales and customer services and other marketing disciplines. At the moment media buying, search and advertising agencies are staffing up with digital PR expertise and are killing PR agencies in new business pitch situations. Consequently it is worthwhile looking beyond the PR sector for PR roles