The three pronged approach to getting your first – or better – PR job

I recently organised a workshop with some of the promising PR students I work with, with kind inputs from my own recruitment manager at Weber Shandwick and some professional PR recruiters/headhunters from Hanson Search’s PR division. I’ve pulled the gist of a top quality hour into a blog post.

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Here’s a summary of the three pronged approach.

1) CV – No more than two pages. No photo necessary. Start with a short personal statement, then education, then any PR work experience or internships or other work experience, then hobbies and interests, then references. Try and stand out but without being daft. No banana-shaped CVs! Highlight things you did that speak to your character – organising a sports team suggests you are a team player, running the debating society suggests you can string an argument together, writing for the student newspaper suggests you can write etc etc. If you send your CV to a recruitment manager, follow up with a polite call to check they have received it and open a line of dialogue with them. It’s shows you are interested in working for their firm, not just spamming the entire industry. Don’t just say what jobs you have done, say what outcomes you achieved.

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2) Social Media profile – LinkedIn is prime tool. Keep it professional. Make sure potential employers are aware of relevant content you create – blogs etc. If you Instagram about food and it’s your passion, look out PR firms with food and drink clients. Avoid stuff on Facebook etc that makes you look like a nightmare young employee or a dick.

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3) Networking – Go to agency open events. Join the CIPR and PRCA and go to their networking events. Go to talks by top PR bods at college etc and collar them (nicely) afterwards and get their contact details. Follow up but don’t stalk them! Ask a CEO or other PR leader to be your mentor or ask for their advice – intelligent flattery will get you far with old PR hands.

For the past five years I have taken on a recent graduate as my trainee. Here’s how they got their first foot in the door:

- talked to me after a lecture I did at their college and followed up for coffee

- sent me PR blog posts they were proud of and knew from reading mine that I would be interested in

- went the extra mile in terms of creative content they sent me

- sent me their dissertation if on an issue they knew by research I was personally interested in

- met at networking events and followed up.

I got my first PR job by going and knocking on a door. I was temping in the company’s HR department handling job vacancy ads when an ad for a PR Assistant came down from the top floor. Next day I ditched the combat trousers and Doc Martens, put on my only suit and went and introduced myself. I showed him content I had created ( I had edited the student newspaper and ran my own music fanzine featuring an early interview I blagged with a then unknown The Cure) and he gave me my first break.

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These days there is a lot more competition and recruitment is somewhat more formalised (though a wise CEO or MD will keep their own eye on potential talent) so it’s important you sharpen all three “prongs”.

Happy hunting.

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