Anyone who follows me on Facebook will find my timeline sprinkled with random ramblings about #InternMistakes.  These posts are usually filled with teachable moments inspired by emails I receive from potential interns, entry-level employees, and even some seasoned pros.  Here are some quick tips for those looking to be hired.  While they’ve all been said before it is my hope that maybe hearing it one more time will be the charm!

PR is more than press releases, parties, and talking to media.  Public relations is…as much about listening as it is talking, communicating to the client’s audience and not just the media (not everyone pays attention to the news), more than an update or post as social media is a tool not the only solution, and often blurred with marketing so you will need to educate others on where the line is drawn.  Learn what SEO is, how to write a strategic plan, what community engagement really means, undertand internal communications, and the list can go on for days.

If you want an entry-level job make the hiring manager interested in you!  I believe that if you truly want a career in public relations (or any other industry) and you have limited experience you still have a shot.  But how?! Let’s start with your resume.  Do you only have retail and customer service experience? Be sure to highlight client/customer engagement, risk management, customer service skills, management or supervisory skills where you were the primary communication, etc.  You get the point, right?  Next let’s talk abut your cover letter.  A lot of what we do is communicate with others; media, community leaders, clients, and so forth.  So why in the world are you sending the same letter to 15 people with the stock ‘I went here, previous jobs, would love to work for you’ script.  Individualize the pitch for the company, highlight what you like about them, and even add why you think you would be a great addition to the team.  Lastly, where is your portfolio or at least writing samples?  I always send emails with the idea that it is the only email I might send and capture someone’s attention.  Send examples of your work. PERIOD!

Plan ahead.  You want someone to make an investment by hiring you but you wait until the last minute to build a relationship? Instead begin planning your sophomore or junior year by attending local PRSA events, joining your PRSSA or PR club/group, and networking with other university clubs.  I also strongly encourage informational interviews with those in the PR industry.  I was able to jump into PR by listening to seasoned professionals who candidly shared their experience with me.  You will find that people are very compassionate and helpful before graduation but not so much after.

Become a sponge and learn as much as you can. The hardest part of hiring someone with limited experience is finding that they know absolutely nothing about the industry.  If you really want this to be your career and not just a job then you will need to invest in reading, listening, and becoming a part of the culture of PR.  Sites like PR DailyPR Breakfast ClubSarah Evans, and Mashable, among many others, will help you put PR, social media, marketing, and almost everything in between, into perspective.  How cool would it be if a potential employer asked you a question about something PR related and you said “while I have never done XYZ I have been following this trend closely via XYZ site and in my opinion…”. I would be impressed, at least a little, that you were following the trend, have an opinion, and could articulate it.  Another quick note: you will need to spend a lot of off the job time reading these sites but just consider it an investment in your career.

With the above being said you must do more than just read.  There is absolutely nothing more helpful in your career than putting theory into practice.  Do you belong to a local organization?  Be a part or the chair of the PR committee, volunteer with a local small non-profit, or consider working with an emerging business to get their brand off the ground.  My suggestion would be to know everything about your dream PR company, know what they specialize in, and then provide services in your volunteer position that will make you a more attractive hiring candidate.

Last but not least.  Find a mentor. Refer to #3 and then cultivate a relationship with someone who you know will assist you in your career.

Kia Jarmon is a brand strategist and PR coach with boutique public relations firm, The MEPR Agency.  She speaksblogsmentors, and is soon to be author.  You can find more information at her personal brand site,www.KiaJarmon.com.

Kia Jarmon