From PR student to PR professional: how to get a job in the industry

By
LAUREN ENNIS


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The time has come. You’ve completed the assignments, you’ve sat all of the exams, you have your degree in-hand, and now you’re on the hunt for your first job in the world that is PR.

Daunting? Yes, it can be. But the key to making your first step in the ‘big bad world’ of employment is knowing where to start.

PR is a continuously evolving field that demands more than just textbook knowledge and good grades in order to succeed. It’s an industry that is best suited to a ‘Jack of all trades’—there’s no blueprint for what makes a good professional.

Leaders in PR value the intangibles of candidates: it’s not a matter of ‘tick-the-box’ criteria, rather how you can adapt your own skills and background to enhance everything that the industry has to offer.

So, how can you best position yourself for hire in an industry that doesn’t necessarily have specific requirements? 

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1. Show your personality

Attending an interview can be a nerve-wrecking experience because you want to put your best foot forward, but what people don’t always realise is that the best foot you can take is to just be yourself.

More than most industries, PR embraces the individuality in people, so the worst thing you can do is try and be something else.

PR agencies want people with ‘can-do’ attitudes who are sociable and good with people. You have to show them that this is you. Don’t let the formalities of an interview conceal your personality.

2. Be news savvy

There’s a perception that young people don’t read the papers or listen to the news.  Every young person looking to pursue a career in PR needs to defy this claim.

Keeping up with the news and having a grasp of what is happening in the world is crucial in all aspects of PR.

It’s common practice for your boss, your colleague and very often your client to ask you, ‘Did you hear X on the radio this morning?’ or ‘Did you read Y in the papers?’. Trust me, you don’t want to be the one sitting there looking lost and confused.

A top tip for people entering the industry is to start following the news now. Make it part of your daily routine and incorporate it in a way you’ll enjoy. It’ll be a great way to show potential employers that you’re already up to date with the world and its workings.

3. Build a portfolio

If you have skills, put them to use! Creating your own content is the most effective way to personalise your ‘brand’ and set yourself apart from the rest. This goes for anything from writing to videography, graphic design or content creation.

Given my journalistic background, writing and video creation are two of my strong suits. Throughout college and during internships, I began putting these skills to use. I wrote news articles for the college paper, I created videos for the college news station, I wrote press releases as part of my internship, and I created video content for the organisation’s social channels.

At the time, this was all just a bit of practice for me. However, when it came to my interview for my job at PR360, I could use my portfolio of work to show my employer I had the skills they needed, rather than simply telling them.

  Read, write, capture and record the news, in print and online, whenever you get the opportunity.

Read, write, capture and record the news, in print and online, whenever you get the opportunity.

4. Always be willing to learn

Don’t dwell on the fact that you’re not an ‘expert’. If you’re only starting out in your career you’re not expected to be. The main thing is that you’re hungry and willing to learn.

In PR, no day is like the last. You’ll always be faced with new challenges and tasks. Experience is the greatest teacher in this industry and there are a lot of things that you won’t know how to handle until you’re in the situation.

Utilise the people around you, especially those in more senior positions. They’ve been in your position before, so they know how to help. Ask the questions, show interest, and learn from what they know.


5. Do your homework

Once you have all of that under your belt then anything else that you do is an added bonus. One last way to keep a potential employer happy is to show them that you know all about them.

First and foremost, if you’re applying for an agency role, you need to know who they are, what they’re about, and who their clients are.

It’s likely that you’ll be asked why you want to work for the company that you’re interviewing for. A well-informed answer will always do better than, ‘I think I’d like it here…’

Understanding a company’s mission statement, knowing their clients, and being up to date with their recent media activity show your potential employer that when you put your mind to something, you put in the effort.

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The metaphor of a career ‘ladder,’ although questionably dated, serves as a great lesson for anybody starting out on their career path: in order to get to where you want to be, you must start at the first step.


LAUREN ENNIS

Lauren is a Client Executive at PR360. She is involved in developing, cultivating and maintaining a positive corporate identity for her clients. A chatterbox by nature, Lauren loves meeting new people and finds others’ stories and experiences to be life’s best sources of inspiration.