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So you got your degree—What's next?

By: Alison (Spiegel) Vicent

First and foremost, if you are a recent college graduate, congratulations on a tremendous accomplishment. Whether you know it or not, you are a member of a rather elite club – in fact, less than 7 percent of the world’s population has a college degree!

Now that you’ve walked that stage and have your diploma in hand, you might be taking a backpacking trip through Europe, moving out of your old apartment and/or plotting your foray into “the real world.” When it comes to a career in public relations, there are so many paths one can potentially take, and even more lessons to be learned along the way. With that in mind, it is often helpful to identify the resources you have at your disposal, and build and work your network to start your journey on the right foot.

In addition to joining your local PRSA chapter and taking full advantage of our chapter’s job board and other resources, we invite you to enjoy the benefits of our members’ collective hindsight as you take these next exciting steps into jumpstarting your career in PR:

Elizabeth Watts, Director of Media & Community Relations, Bloomin’ Brands, Inc.

It is essential that you demonstrate the relevance of your skill set, especially when they may not be immediately apparent to a potential employer.  What can you highlight from the experience you have (whether it’s a summer job, internship or even a class) that will apply to the specific job for which you are applying?  For example, if you worked in customer service be sure to point out how certain skills you’ve acquired such as verbal communication, deescalating situations and problem-solving make you a qualified candidate.  Give specific examples when possible.

John Dunn, APR, Director of Public Relations, Tampa General Hospital

Every PR job I’m aware of includes a writing test. There’s no point looking for one if you can’t write. So, my 3 tips as you search for a job: Practice writing… practice writing… practice writing – doesn’t matter what you write as long as you use complete sentences.

Wendy Bourland, Content Manager & Marketing Strategist, AmeriLife Group, LLC.

Set up a page in WordPress or other online platform to introduce yourself as a PR professional and display examples of your work. It's a lot easier to send a link to a contact or prospective hiring manager than weighing down an email with photos, PDFs and Word docs.

Andrea Sauvageot, Communications & Research Coordinator, Tindale Oliver

Spend the time to be sure your resume is free of errors, formatting issues, and typos. While you may have an excellent resume with the experience, education, and skills needed for the job, if you have not paid attention to detail, it can show in your resume. Besides a solid cover letter, your resume is your potential employer’s first glance at you. Be sure to have a second set of eyes review your resume too!

Davina Y. Gould, APR, Director of Development Communications, USF Health

Always send a well-edited cover letter tailored for each position you pursue. A good cover letter should relate your professional experience to the role and provide context for why you’re interested in this particular job and company. Do your best to address the letter to a specific person. Think of your cover letter as your first writing sample in the screening process, so give it the attention it deserves.

Crystal L. Lauderdale, Director of Content Strategy, Alvarez & Marsal

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date with a headline that describes your skill sets, a professional-looking head shot, a comprehensive summary and detailed experience entries that highlight your accomplishments. Consider investing in a Premium account that will allow you to indicate your job interests to recruiters and message hiring managers directly through InMail.

Alison Spiegel, Associate, Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Don’t balk at the internship. Sometimes, after college and after possibly having completed more than one internship, we feel entitled to a paid position in our field once the diploma is in our hands. Even if it isn’t paid, there is no reason not to do another internship post-grad – while skills are transferrable, each agency or organization is different, uses different tools, strategies and/or tactics. Also, that internship is often a pathway to a full-time gig at that organization.

Bart Graham Sr., Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Take advantage of any opportunity to network, such as PRSA mixers/programs, volunteering and making new connections on LinkedIn. In these cases, so-called “small talk” can be your best friend! Whatever you do, do it well and in doing so, be sure you are selling yourself to those who might consider you for new opportunities.

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