By Judi Henrikson
PRSA Board Member – Treasurer
Community Relations Director, Alchester Group, LLC
Just two years ago I was shaking the president’s hand and receiving my diploma. I went right into a summer post-grad internship and volunteered for a few months after that before finally landing a good job. How’d I do it? Here are some helpful tips:
1) Visit the Career Development Office: You may be an exceptional writer, but it’s still really important to run your resume and cover letters by your career counselors. You will never believe what ingenious tricks they have up their sleeves to help you really stand out from the competition. After you leave from a meeting, hold onto their business card and send them every cover letter or resume addition that you’d like reviewed during your job search. That’s their job and I’ve never come across someone who wasn’t great at it!
2) Don’t be Afraid to Ask for a Recommendation: Ask your communications professors, internship supervisors or academic advisor for a letter of recommendation to send to potential employers. You should have at least three individual letters on hand if it’s requested by an employer. When asking for the letters, you may also want to see if they have any friends or colleagues looking to hire for an entry-level communications position. Landing an interview is pretty easy when you’ve been highly recommended by a friend of the hiring manager. Note: If you have a LinkedIn account, you can request recommendations from your connections. It’s certainly acceptable to ask for this online recommendation in addition to the letter.
3) Intern: Don’t be fooled; interning is not just for undergrads. Many companies look for interns with a college degree under their belt, and often these post-grad internships lead to full-fledged job offers. I earned a summer paid internship with the public affairs department at Chautauqua Institution and although it was only a seasonal position, it looked great on my resume and acted as a wonderful transition into my full-time job.
4) Volunteer: While you’re out networking and searching for a job, it’s always a good idea to volunteer in the communications/marketing office for a nonprofit in the area. During my month of unemployment between my post-grad internship and current full-time position, I was a public affairs team volunteer for the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York. I met a lot of great people and it was a great way to show on my resume that I continued to gain experience even when I was unemployed. So, find something that personally appeals to you and get involved.
5) Consider PRSA Membership: Through an internship supervisor, I was introduced to one of the then-board members of PRSA Capital Region Chapter. She invited me to attend a few events and I was instantly hooked. Without hesitation, I became a PRSA associate member right after graduation and joined the local chapter so I could have access to their resources. When I began applying for full-time positions in the Albany area, my resume was undoubtedly bolstered by presenting my affiliation with the group. Note: If you are currently a Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) member, you should talk to your board of directors to find out how to become an associate member of PRSA.
6) Keep in Touch: Be sure to keep in touch with your professors, internship supervisors, advisors, classmates and anyone you connect with at networking events – If you didn’t learn it in college, you will soon learn it in the real world — networking is one of the most important skills to have. It’s simpler than ever to stay connected now with sites like LinkedIn created exactly for this purpose.
7) Stay Positive: College graduation is an amazing high, and the job search sends you crashing back down to earth. It’s easy to get discouraged when the job of your dreams doesn’t materialize right away. Make it a priority to take one deep breath every day, take good care of yourself and continue to network! Before you know it, you’ll be sitting in your own office writing a blog post just like this for new college grads just like you.