Here you are at the finish line of your academic PR journey. You put in the blood, sweat and tears into earning your degree. Fresh out of college and ready to immerse yourself in the working world, you may ask yourself: Well, what now?
By the time I graduated from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, I had submitted more than 25 job applications and was hopeful for what would come of them. I was sure that I would soon receive at least 10 replies and requests for interviews. Life had other plans. Though none of these potential positions worked out, I gained experience in applying and was able to tailor my application materials based on what I’d learned.
To keep myself busy, I waited tables for about six months, all the while filling out and submitting more applications. None of these applications led to getting a job either. I remember feeling discouraged but hopeful that my hard work and dedication to the process would lead to success at some point.
Looking back on this time, I realize that it wasn’t a traditional method of applying for jobs that opened the door to my current position at all. In fact, there was nothing traditional about it. All the time I’d spent filling out applications and following up with these companies in person, via email and handwritten letters wasn’t what landed me my current job. Instead, modeling for a magazine spread did.
Upon completing a photo shoot I volunteered for, I connected with the owner of the graphic design agency. After discussing my passions for writing, research and customer relations, I was offered the opportunity to submit an application. Thereafter, I was granted the position.
Preparing for life in the real world is a stressful ordeal and may seem overwhelming at times. There are so many questions to answer and options to consider, such as:
Do you want to work in a PR agency or for a company that has PR in-house?
Does your first job have to be in the field of public relations or are you open to other niches and disciplines in communications?
In asking myself questions like these, I found that the answers did not arrive when I expected them to but they arrived eventually, as they will for you, too. Keep your chin up, continue fighting for what you want and remain invested in yourself. After all, if you don’t, nobody else will.
Life works in strange and unusual ways and you just have to trust that if you are doing everything in your power to make something happen, life will be on your side. You just have to be patient and express gratitude for all of the lessons along the way.
Keep these points in mind while embarking on your journey to your first job:
Absorb information like a sponge.
Your peers, professors and advisors; everyone around you has a story to tell. Listen to them, absorb what you hear and go forth with a richer world view.
Get out of your comfort zone.
If your job search strategy isn’t getting you anywhere, consider an alternative approach. Reaching for the fruit on the highest branch requires more effort but the juice is typically worth the squeeze.
Don’t look to discouragement as failure.
Rejection is a part of life. Some college graduates are accepted into the first positions they apply for but many are not. Focus on persevering through the adversity, no matter how discouraging it may feel at the time. If you are deliberate in your efforts to view these experiences as learning-opportunities, you will be more likely to succeed in the next round of hiring-opportunities.
Know that your first job is just that – your first job.
At the end of the day, the position you’re hired for may not be your dream job but it will equip you with the connections and experiences you’ll need to get to where you want to be.
Lana Nasser is a graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications and a member of the Community Service and Advocacy Committee at the UF PRSSA Chapter. She currently works in a boutique graphic design agency in Gainesville, Florida. She spends her free time adding to her record collection, collecting vintage finds, and learning about the world of public interest communications. See her portfolio for more of her published works, find her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter@NasserLana.