December 15th marks four years since I graduated from college, and I got my first PR job three months ago. While some public relations graduates are lucky to find a position right after finishing school, that’s not the case for many people. So whether you’re just about to graduate, or have been out of school for a few years like I was, here are some tips to break into the PR industry and finally land that first job.
Do Some Research
Your dream job is not going to fall into your lap. Take the time to research agencies or in-house teams that you think you’d be interested in, then reach out to someone at these places to ask for an informational interview. Come prepared with questions to ask and show a genuine interest in their work and their business. You have to take the initiative. Some places may not be hiring when you first begin a conversation, but if you make a good impression and maintain a relationship with them, they may keep you in mind for a future opening.
Apply for An Internship First
While you may have already done an internship in college, if you’re not having any luck on the job front, it may be a good idea to do another internship instead. Remember, the more experience you have under your belt, the more attractive you are to employers. Even though I was older than your typical intern, the experience was a great networking opportunity and the connections I made at that agency led me to my current position at Commonwealth PR.
I do recognize that a lot of internships are unpaid, and even the ones that do pay aren’t lucrative. That may mean you have to do an internship part-time and have some other job on the side. (I was a PR intern by day and a restaurant server by night.) This is definitely challenging, but if you can pull this off, it demonstrates to an employer that you have excellent time management skills and that you’re willing to work hard and make sacrifices to get what you want. Most internship programs will try to work with your work schedule, so don’t let the prospect of balancing two jobs scare you off. It’s not easy- but it is doable.
Make A Portfolio
Most universities require their PR majors to make a portfolio, but if your school didn’t, this is definitely something you should do on your own. A lot of PR work is centered around content, and creating a digital portfolio with Wix or SquareSpace is a great way to show off that content. You should have your best writing samples on display, along with any graphic design work you’ve done. Did you land coverage in a major media outlet? That’s great! Put that in there too! Try to include a variety of quality work, without cluttering up the site. Having solid examples of your work bolsters your credibility as a PR practitioner.
Join Your Local PRSA Chapter
Whether or not you currently have a job in PR, you’re still welcome to join the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). While membership isn’t free, it’s worth paying for. As a PRSA member, you get access to tons of professional development materials and can stay up-to-date on industry trends, even if you’re unable to see them firsthand in your current job. Most importantly, though, there are a lot of networking opportunities, such as monthly luncheons, where you can meet other professionals and jobseekers. I found my internship by reaching out to the Young Professionals Chair in my local PRSA chapter, and that role was the turning point in my job-hunting journey.
While my path to a job was definitely slowed down by the pandemic and its associated hiring freezes, even without an ongoing global crisis, you’re still not going to find a job overnight. If there’s not a lot of demand for entry-level practitioners, you may have to wait until there is a demand. If you’ve been persistent with one agency or in-house department, and you’re not making any headway, you may need to move onto another one and try again elsewhere.
The truth is, you may have to try many different things in order to finally land that first job. These days, many graduates have trouble finding employment in their major, regardless of their major. But don’t get too discouraged- if I could break into the PR industry, you can too!