I am an admin for a staffing agency. I support teams who together recruit for a breadth of positions, from the administrative to the executive. Seeing the inner workings of the hiring process compels me to persist in the search for an entry level position in PR.
Even though there is a constant flux of openings, every opening is bounded by a complex of needs for talent, experience, and personality. Throw politics and chance into the mix, and you begin to see the value of vigilance. All things being equal, you’ve just got to play the odds.
Here are five basic practices that increase your odds of producing more value for your efforts, for each message you send, each event you attend:
1. Network exponentially—if you can get two contacts from every one, each contact is exponentially more valuable. You might not get both contacts at once, or even upon the initial meeting. More likely, you’ll have to earn them, since they’ll be putting their reputation on the line. It helps to be specific when asking for contacts. You can ask if they know anyone at an agency you’re interested in, who does PR for a certain industry, or for someone who has the job title you would like to eventually be.
2. Don’t just get contacts. Get introductions. In the old days, you used to need “letters of introduction” to make an acquaintance. This remains true today. A personal introduction jets through the waves of information decision makers daily receive. I mentioned to a friend who works for Deloitte that I would be attending the PRSA Big Apples. Deloitte was a client of an agency running for an award. By email, my friend introduced me to his colleague at Deloitte and to member of Hill and Knowlton, suggesting we meet up at the ceremony. After that introduction, both contacts were more than pleased to meet with me.
3. Make friends. Contacts aren’t just contacts; they’re people, and potential friends. I met a gentleman who, after working for several agencies, started freelancing. In our conversation he shared with me his love for beer. To overlook this passion would have been an error twofold. On the one hand, it would have hindered me professionally, since he later invited me to attend the opening of the bar for which he had been doing PR. But it would have also stunted me as a person. Pursuing one’s own career at the expense of authentic relationships defines the kind of personality that no one wants to be around, whether at the office or at the bar.
4. Follow up. Doing so demonstrates that you see things through until your efforts produce value, (which is what you’ll be doing on the job). It also demonstrates basic professionalism. At the staffing agency, we call candidates who don’t show up for their assignments “beaters.” You’re not a beater. Don’t indicate that you are.
5. Follow the money. Learn to value what generates value for your employer. Your knowledge of their clients’ needs correlates to you’re value to the employer. Also, the two main factors that were cited for almost every successful project at the award ceremony were the quantity of media impressions and increased revenue or stock. So I don’t just research a PR company that I’d like to work for, but I also research their clients and how they are portrayed in the media. This demonstrates that I’m already thinking like an employee of a PR agency.
Be ready. Being ready isn’t an act. It’s a state of being, the result of enduring action. I had a chance encounter with an audio producer who explained it roughly thus, “The offer happened all at once. In hindsight, I see that I had been doing the right things over the span of two years.” The job search is one of the hardest things because you don’t get to see the fruits of your labor immediately, but on the contrary, often see repetitious stalls and setbacks. It less of a test of your talent than it is of your ganas, or desire. Remember, it’s worth it.
Thomas Alberti works and lives in New York. He majored in Philosophy and minored in Communications, graduating from Grove City College in 2010.