As your undergraduate studies come to an end it’s time to enter the real world. It can be daunting to think of post-graduate life, so keep these four steps in mind during your job search.
1. Personal Brand 101
“Personal branding is critical in this day and age,” said Donna Wertalik, Virginia Tech director of marketing. “The digital footprint you create can be developed into an area of expertise. Build your network with quality connections, follow influential members on LinkedIn that you aspire to be like and above all, stay true to your USP (unique selling proposition) and the value you bring.”
Wertalik also teaches a marketing class at Virginia Tech. I remember when Wertalik told the class she had a student who loved Nike and how he interacted with the brand through Twitter. He created a personal brand, which eventually landed him a position at Nike. They saw he was genuinely invested and dedicated to the brand. If you aren’t passionate about something, why should someone hire you to represent their company?
2. Free Advice
Take advantage of career services at your college or university. Career services provide essential resources for the “real world” by helping you improve your communication, writing and interview skills. Don’t wait until the month before graduation. Go early and you’ll feel more prepared and comfortable during interviews.
3. Finding a Job is a Job
The internet is a great resource for job searching, but don’t let it be the only way. I had a college classmate who found an internship by going to several businesses asking if they’d consider someone to help with their public relations efforts. They ended up hiring her, which goes to show creative thinking pays off.
There’s more to finding a job than filling out applications. Going on job shadows is an opportunity to explore various work environments. Find companies nearby and schedule a time to visit in order to get a feel for their culture. Talk with the public relations team and learn about their job responsibilities and clients. Attend agency tours with your PRSSA Chapter. It’s a great way to explore how different public relations teams operate.
4. Experience is Key
Internships are important to help jump-start your career. If you haven’t had an internship before graduation, apply for post-graduate internship programs.
“In our industry, internships are often the best way to get your foot in the door,” said Melanie Ford, assistant account executive, consumer marketing, MSLGROUP. “I was open to taking a paid internship even after graduation if it increased my chances of getting my dream job and the experience would prepare me in my future career path.”
Don’t let job qualifications keep you from applying. There’s a difference between efficiency in Adobe software versus 3+ years of experience (which you will see a lot). If you’ve held internships or worked on extensive class projects, all the effort and time you put in counts for something. If you can explain to a potential employer why you think you have the experience it shows them you’re capable and confident.
It’s competitive out there, but if you’re persistent and willing you will achieve your goals. You’ve worked hard for this during your college years and nobody deserves it more than you. All those late nights and early mornings will pay off, literally.
Erica Hammett earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Virginia Tech. Currently, she is a public relations account executive at a digital and advertising agency in Virginia, providing public relations support to Caribbean boutique hotels and resorts. Erica is a PRSA and Travel and Tourism Section member.