PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

21 Ways to Get Hired, Get Ahead and Enjoy Lifelong Success

On Thursday, I attended the 5th Annual Career Summit held by MSU Career Services. The theme of the event was “The Big Picture” and I can’t think of a theme more relevant for those about to begin their career. I talked about having this strategic approach in a recent post, yet the event added a lot to my ideas about what the big picture of my own career is.

The keynote was delivered by Kevin Donlin, an MSU alum who runs The Simple Job Search. He gave us some great tips on finding that job while offering a unique perspective on such priciples as networking and success.

Here are his tips broken up into three groups.

7 ways to get hired faster:

  1. Start with clarity. Figure out what job you want, the skill sets necessary for that position and your top employers.
  2. Stop networking – start helping other people get what they want.
  3. Employers are like children – write what they want you to read. In your cover letter, you should be talking about how you will help your potential employer. Heather Huhman, who was kind enough to give me feedback on my resume and cover letter, has some great tips about this here.
  4. No Experience? No problem! Let other people sell you. Use LinkedIn to get recommendations, but don’t ignore the importance of having a recommendation in print, too.
  5. Combine tactics to product synergy.
  6. Create your own board of directors for your job search. Use mentors and professionals within your network to helped you in your job search.
  7. Start working before you get hired by doing research on the company and offer suggestions and solutions in your interview.

7 ways to get ahead:

  1. Control the first hour and the rest of the day is easy. Kevin recommended not to read the news because it’s bad and out of our control. I disagree with this, probably because I’m a news junkie, but if your specific career doesn’t require this, try it out.
  2. Do it now! Put your ideas into action and get the job done.
  3. Make yourself indispensable. You can accomplish this by doing what others can’t do, doing what others won’t do and by doing more than is expected of you.
  4. Practice kaizen by constantly improving yourself and you work, especially through professional development.
  5. When at work… work. Don’t get distracted by Facebook or the refresh button on your e-mail.
  6. Document your results. Set goals that are measurable and track them. Also, keep a portfolio of your professional work demonstrating versatility and quality.
  7. Learn how to think by writing down things. Instead of just thinking in your head, Kevin recommended you write your thoughts down.

7 ways to enjoy lifelong success:

  1. Find a hero (Kevin’s term for a mentor). Every master was first a student and many are willing to help out the younger generation.
  2. There’s a benefit in every adversity – you just have to find it. With so many people losing their jobs, it’s easy to feel down in the dumps. But by unpacking your experience, you just might be able to get something out of it.
  3. Capture ideas in a journal. Or a blog.
  4. Adopt funnel vision by doing the work in the interview and treating cover letters as sales letters.
  5. Leave your comfort zone. Kevin said that all growth happens beyond it and all successful careers demand it.
  6. Become a lifelong learner. Read, go to grad school.. the opportunities to learn are endless.
  7. You can be a success now. Choose a worthy goal and start making progress today.

All in all, it was a pretty interesting presentation. It’s also pretty relevant to a wide variety of careers.

So, did Kevin miss anything? There are probably many more ways, but I found this to be a great set of principles.

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Investing in Your Career

Back in my freshmen year, I served on our PRSSA Chapter’s committee to host a regional activity. This was the first event (of many) that triggered my passion for the public relations industry. We had some great sessions and I learned a lot. But if I can remember anything, it was Rhoda Weiss’ keynote address to us.

While this regional conference was occurring, Rhoda was serving as Chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America. I could go on about her accolades as an industry leader, but suffice it to say that she rocks.

She talked about investing in your career as one of the best things that you can do as a pre-professional. For some of us students, professional development can be expensive. Add up traveling to conferences, membership dues, magazine subscriptions… you can easily drop a couple of grand in a year. I recommend planning out your year and setting aside money with each paycheck to be used for professional development. I don’t want to disclose any details of my sad bank account, but I do have a separate account strictly for professional development things.

Here’s a list of some of the things a pre-professional should be spending their money on:

Professional association membership
If you know me, you’re probably heard me say, “you know, you really should join PRSSA…”At the beginning of the semester, I promised our eager group of students that if you make the most of this organization, you will walk out of MSU with a job. And I mean it. The economy affects the amount of jobs, the changing indsutry affects the amount of jobs, but if you make the most of your student career, you can prove your worth to any company.

After discussions with a couple professionals, there are three general things companies look for: education, professional experience and professional development. You can get good grades in school and have a couple of solid internships, but there will be people who have done the same as you AND been involved in student organizations and associations. Don’t underestimate the power of networking with your peers – after all, you will be working with them when you graduate.

Professional development seminars
Your group or organization that you join will most likely have some kind of conference. Go to it! It makes a world of a difference when you list your group on your resume and being able to answer the question, “so what did you do with _______.” Recruiters will know the difference between an active member and a non-active member.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

Some pretty awesome PRSSA Chapter Presidents at the PRSSA Leadership Rally in Scottsdale. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people in the world.

For PRSSA, the most common objection I hear is “it’s too expensive.” I’m not made of money. But I do have my conference registration saved up for next year. And the year after. Professional development takes priority in my pre-professional career over a new car or spring break. I’m not saying don’t spend money for fun, I just can’t emphasize enough the importance of saving your money for the right things.

Dress the part
You will be judged if you don’t look your best at interviews. Once you get the job, it’s important to stay on top of your appearance, too. Make the investment in a really good suit or two that will last for a long time. A good friend of mine, Jenni Lewis, pointed out to me that she will buy expensive business clothes because she knows they will last a long time. Also, keep in mind that people look from the bottom up. Give a nice pair of shoes, too.

Industry publications
Making yourself knowledgeable of the current industry news sets you apart from other interns and entry level employees. You never know when you’re going to run in the CEO of your company – it’s best to have something to talk about.

The good thing about industry publications is that most will have student discounts. PRWeek and Advertising Age both do – check them out. Also, pay attention to when these publications are seeking participants for surveys interviews. It’s a nice way to get some ink before you graduate and makes you look pretty cool to potential employers.

There’s a nice supplement to the above list. Please note that I did not say alternative – it’s important to do both. You can do some of these things online! Read blogs and news. For blogs, get started on Alltop.Β  Check out podcasts – you would be surprised what a quick search of “public relations” or any other industry search shows up on iTunes. Also, follow the right people on Twitter and you will hear about Web seminars and discussions.

What else can you do invest in your career? Is there a way to invest too much in your career? Not enough?

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Finding PR in Everyday Life

Internships. Love ’em or hate ’em, you gotta have ’em to get a job in public relations. The job market is getting more and more competitive, especially in today’s tumultuous economy. But it’s not just a solid internship experience that will separate you from the rest of the crowd. At the big agencies, they sometimes review more than 300 resumes for a summer internship. So besides an internship, what else will separate you from the rest of the crowd?

When it comes down to it, there are a couple of key principles that public relations practitioners must be proficient in.

  1. Strong communication skills
  2. Generating content for a myriad of communication channels
  3. Ability to adapt and learn

A huge part of public relations is communication skills. Where can you practice this? I think a better question is where can’t you practice this? Practicing AP style in regular e-mail conversation, papers for class and even on your resume is helpful down the line.

Generating content is something that you will have to do in virtually every function of public relations. This might include writing and drafting speeches, writing and editing articles for a company newsletter and generating content for a Web site. The best way to get this going is to get involved with a campus organization. It’s even better if the organization is not PR-oriented because this will allow you to build and develop a public relations system for the group.

Today, with the constant changes occurring in the public relations landscape, it is integral to keep up with the times. Read PRWeek, subscribe to blogs, join online conversations, join professional associations.. the list is endless. Support your own professional development and make sure that you are saving money to partake in professional development.

Besides becoming proficient in those three skills, there are several experiences you can have outside of a public relations internship are pretty important in making you a more well-rounded pre-professional:

  • Sales. Some love it and some hate it. Whether it’s telemarketing or working at your college newspaper, the skills you learn in sales are critical to pretty much any career. I work at The State News, MSU’s newspaper, in the advertising department, so I’m responsible for selling ads. Every day, I’m cold calling potential advertisers, building relationships with current advertisers and working with a team to accomplish individual and department-wide goals. It sounds a lot like PR, and it is.
  • Writing for different mediums. This is something everyone can work on, and I’m looking for new ways to try this out, too. Writing for your college paper is how a lot of great PR students get experience and I would recommend it, too. It’s also a good idea to try out alternative and online publications to get a feel for different writing styles. Maintaining a blog doesn’t hurt, either.
  • Usability of social media. Not only can you get yourself out there online, but this is also an open forum for networking. You can find and connect with new people.

In general, one who can draw from multiple experiences and can demonstrate a strong ability to learn new things is a pretty solid candidate for any position. As a manager in the ad department, I take part in the interviewing for new account executives. That’s what I look for, and that’s what a lot of recruiters are looking for, too.

*Most of this post comes from my favorite career-related book is Knock ‘Em Dead. They have a killer Web site with a FREE resume critique section. Check it out!

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