Start your career BEFORE you graduate (Part 2 of 2)
Build Your Brand for a Career in PR
We covered the first two years yesterday.
Now that halftime is over, it’s time for the final two quarters: Junior and Senior year.
These two years are all about one thing: Networking.
In this final part of the plan you’ll be setting yourself up to become a professional brand with a demonstrated skill set and a polished presentation.
Junior Year: Get Social
Your Junior year should be all about using the experience you’ve gained over the last two years to begin polishing up your brand with a professional portfolio. By the end of this third year, you should have some writing samples, some class projects, and some professional experience to add.
As a PR professional today, you should have at least a Twitter account where you actively engage in conversations centered on your field, a blog, a LinkedIn account, and a Facebook page.
All of these should fall in line with what you want to portray to potential employers. Ask yourself who am I? When people are asked to describe me what do I want them to say? Keep that in mind while you’re analyzing or establishing your social media profiles.
1. Show your work
You should begin building an online portfolio of the work you’ve done in class, through your internships, and any other relevant work you’ve done.
Get feedback from the professors, mentors, or the people in Career Services who you’ve been in touch with over the past two years on what you should include.
Unless you’ve built a website before, I would stick to using WordPress.com. It’s free and they offer professional looking themes. You can purchase your own domain when you go to set up your site, I think it’s around $20. Otherwise, your domain will be sitename.wordpress.com.
Make sure to include links to all of your social media profiles as well.
Here is an example from one of my former classmates, Shannon R. Little, who is using WordPress.com for her portfolio site:
2. Get linked
Join LinkedIn, if you haven’t all ready. Don’t know how to use it? Here is an article on smart ways to use LinkedIn for branding.
3. Get chatty
Twitter is one of the best networking tools out there.
Twitter chats are especially useful in building relationships with professionals and other students. Here is a list of chats I think you should check out.
4. Get a professional signature
Make sure to add a professional signature to your e-mails. Add your social media profiles to your email signature using a tool like WiseStamp.
Major, Name of School
WiseStamp Social Media Links
5. Attend a conference
You should really consider attending a PRSSA conference.
It is a great networking opportunity and departments have designated funding to cover most of the cost.
Collect as many business cards as possible and use the interview tips outlined in the first part of this plan when interacting with professionals and other students.
Use a tool like Card Munch to turn the cards you collect into contacts for your phone.
Before you go to the conference, visit the website and find out who will be there. Google them.
Know their face so that when you see them, you will feel comfortable approaching them. Know which companies you are interested in so that if you run into someone from that company, you’ll be able to express your interest.
NOTE: You should also be shooting for another internship.
Senior Year: The Search is On
Now the clock is running down. We’re in the fourth quarter.
It’s time to bring together all of the tools you’ve gained throughout the past three years and go out there and sell yourself.
Here are some tips to help you in your job search.
1. Plan ahead
Try out these tips from quintcareers.com:
- Decide where you want to live after graduation.
- If necessary, narrow your list of dream employers based on geography, and strategize ways to contact key people in your dream companies.
- Join professional organizations in your targeted geographic area. If it’s not practical for you to attend meetings, ask the membership chair for a membership list so you can contact members.
- Meet with your adviser early in your senior year for an in-depth discussion of your career goals, and ask for his or her suggestions for people to contact.
- Continue to maintain contact with professors, students, employers, guest speakers, and folks you’ve “met” through online networking efforts.
- Fine-tune your list of potential network contacts and set a goal to contact a certain number each week or month. Arrange to meet with as many contacts as possible, and always ask each one for more referrals. Send thank-you notes, and update your contacts regularly on your progress.
- Begin to contact people with whom you conducted informational interviews earlier in your college career to tell them you are getting close to graduation and remain very interested in their organizations.
- Be sure to write one more note to all your contacts telling them about your new job. And don’t throw away any of your networking information; sometimes that first job doesn’t work out, and you just might need to call upon your network again.
2. Get back to Twitter
You can use Twitter to network with professionals, stay updated on current news, trends and ideas in the PR industry, connect with businesses on a “human” level, engage in conversation, and share content.
As a recent grad looking for a job in the industry, Twitter has been my #1 resource to network and learn about job opportunities.
Here are some recommendations from Mashable on people to follow while seeking out internships and entry level jobs:
@heatherhuhman – Tweets helpful information to those seeking internships and entry level jobs.
@collegebloggers – Connects college students, faculty, and alumni bloggers, sharing relevant content.
@careerealism – Career experts tweet career advice in response to questions sent in by readers.
@sweetcareers – Great tips for college students and job seekers.
@findinternships – Informative resource for those looking for internships.
They also recommend using these “hashtags” during your job search:
#college : The College Blog Network
#jobadvice : General job search advice
#printern : PR internship openings
#entryPR : Tips for PR grads
3. Try out Zumeo
From Mashable: “Fill out a survey to determine your strengths and interests, which will help find jobs that suit your personality.
The job listing feature is very easy to use and has a number of filters allowing you to search for jobs based on location, your personality type, your education and more.
Once you click on a job posting, more info is provided and you can click to view the company’s profile, view it on a map, or go to the actual job posting where you can apply for the job. Users can also browse by company.
Zumeo automatically creates an online resume with a brief description, your objective, experience, skills and education. Users can also upload files to develop a portfolio, showcasing your past projects. If you’re looking to network, Zumeo allows you to connect with other users, join company communities and submit endorsements of other users.”
All of this work is completely pointless if you don’t actually finish school. So stay focused on your grades and meet with your adviser regularly to make sure you are on track for graduation.
If you follow these steps, I am confident you will find the career you’ve hoped for.