I am one of the lucky ones.
I graduated a quarter early (in March) from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism with a degree in public relations and a job lined up to begin directly afterward. I signed on the dotted line for my first full-time position this past January with
a company whose mission and views on the industry I have loved since I was first introduced to them at the end of my freshman year of college.
While I am grateful for the education I received at Ohio University, I know that a lot more than classroom knowledge played into preparing me to take on this next chapter of my life as an associate consultant here at PR 20/20.
Based on my experiences, here are what I consider to be the top three factors that led to landing my first job:
It’s a tale as old as time—and we’re not talking about Beauty and the Beast—you need to network, network, network.
During my first summer internship, I set up informational interviews over lunch with local marketing and PR professionals when I could, and asked for advice on how to position myself throughout my college years. In addition to the great advice I received, one of these new connections helped me land another internship a few months later.
Once you meet and begin forming connections with professionals, it’s important to maintain those relationships. A suggestion I heard from multiple people, which I now utilize, is to create a networking Excel spreadsheet that lists:
- Contact name
- Contact’s current title
- Company where he or she works
- Date I last contacted them
- When I should contact them again
- Relevant notes (such as what we last talked about)
- Email address
- Twitter handle
- LinkedIn page
This can help keep contacts straight, and help ensure that you stay in touch on a regular basis, without contacting them too often. Professionals I’ve spoken to suggested that contacting each person every few months is probably a good general rule of thumb, unless you know him or her better.
2. A Constant Thirst to Learn
One of my favorite quotes comes from Aaron Brown (@abrownFMPR), a professional I met at an Ohio University Public Relations Student Society of America meeting, and vice president and managing director of the Cleveland Fahlgren Mortine office: “[Remember] you don’t know everything; rather, you have everything to learn.”
It’s an exciting time for marketing and public relations. As the industry grows into the era of social business, new agencies are emerging and disrupting traditional firms, and there are many new areas to explore and topics to think about. Learn as much as you can to prepare yourself for not only what’s ahead, but also for what could potentially be up next and needed in your future job.
I wanted to learn as much as I could about my profession throughout college, and did so through gaining experience in companies that ranged in size, industry and the type of work I was tasked to complete. This included:
- Monitoring social media all day, every day for two months
- Writing a feature story on a restaurant in Alaska
- Assisting on the set of a music video
By exposing myself to many different potential career paths, I was able to compare and contrast fits, and see how individual skills could be applied across the board, which works well now that I’m in an agency setting. It helps to be open to as many experiences as you can secure so you can truly decide what works best for you and the career you want to build for yourself.
Reading business books has also been a great way to learn more for me. Two of my favorites:
- The Back of the Napkin Drawing by Dan Roam (@dan_roam)
- Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead by David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) and Brian Halligan (@bhalligan)
3. Stay Focused on Your Track, Not Those of Others
In the marketing and PR industry, we can find ourselves surrounded at times by extreme achievers.
You may want to compare yourself to others and model what you’re doing based on what they’re doing. Avoid this temptation.
Yes, people are out there doing amazing things. Rather than letting it discourage you, use their stories to find inspiration to do amazing things yourself—but make sure they’re your things, not theirs. Be different. Disrupt. There is no set path and no right or wrong way to develop a career. As Fleetwood Mac once said, you need to “go your own way.”
At the end of the day, the important thing is to gain the network, knowledge and focus to secure a great entry-level job that will set you up for a successful career.
What is your dream job? How are you preparing for the next chapter in your life? What has helped you connect with industry professionals throughout your journey? Share your own insights and experiences in the comments section below.
Rachel Miller is associate consultant at PR 20/20. Follow Rachel: @RachelAMiller.