5 Ways to Land Your Next (PR) Job

help-wantedI’m dedicating today’s post to the job seekers among us. It’s difficult for me to ignore the fact that so many people are out of work right now, so instead of offering you best practices for the job you might not have, today I’m all about helping you get the PR job you’ve been dreaming of.

I know you’re conducting an active search by scouring job boards, newspaper classifieds and even talking to recruiters. But here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting noticed by people who are looking for someone like you.

1. Head to the Top. Talk to people who know people—preferably people who know lots of people. Befriend the heads of your local (and national) professional organizations. Request a sit-down with leaders in your field. I know what some of you are thinking. “Why would the leaders want to talk to me?” You’d be surprised at what people are willing to do when you ask them. Find someone who knows your target and request an introduction. If you don’t know someone who knows the person you’re trying to reach, use Google or LinkedIn to connect the dots. Make a phone call or send an e-mail introducing yourself. Detail your experience and your goals. Ask for what you want. They may not have a job to hand you, but chances are, they’ll know someone who will. And be patient. Once you begin talking to the right people, and they begin mentioning your situation to their people, something will eventually open up.

2. Go On Informational Interviews. I love informational interviews and make a practice of doing these a few times a year, even when I have a job. For PR people, especially, it’s a great idea to get in front of people who practice different types of PR if you’re thinking of changing your focus. Informational interviews are great because there’s absolutely no pressure on you or the interviewee. Your host doesn’t feel pressured to “give you something” and you’re not competing for an open spot at their company. However if something should open up for you, that’s great,too.

When I was finishing up at Howard University, I spoke to an English professor about my writing goals. She mentioned that her sister was an editor at the Washington Post and I should set up an informational interview. Well, the sister turned out to be Marie Arana, the Washington Post Book World Editor-in-Chief at the time (in short, a really big deal). Marie connected me to several other Post editors who agreed to do informational interviews with me as well. They gave me invaluable advice about journalism and writing that I have repeatedly used and actually passed on to several people who have come to me for advice. But all this came about through a simple request: Sit down with me and tell me about what you do. No strings. No pressure.

3. Create an Amazing Linkedin Profile. If you’re looking to land a PR job, you’d better have a killer LinkedIn profile. If your LinkedIn profile is doing what it should be doing, you will get noticed. I’ve had recruiters, potential clients, PR newbies and organizations contact me based on my LinkedIn profile. When describing your goals and experience, this is not the time to be modest or shy. Vividly describe your skills and past experiences, including volunteer and pro bono work. Check out my LinkedIn profile to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

4. Publicize Your Job Search: Blog About It. Tweet About It. If you’re job hunting, you probably have a little time on your hands, so why not set up a job search blog, or a Twitter page at the very least. You’d be surprised how much exposure you can get from putting your experiences out there. Believe it or not, some people just love to help others, and may see your need and be able to hook you up with an interview, job announcement or more. But they’ll never know about your search if you don’t spread the word that you’re looking.

5. Volunteer. This is age-old advice, but I guess it’s age-old for a reason. It works! You should obviously be volunteering for your professional organizations (PRSA, IABC for PR people) but there are other ways to use your skills to help others while still helping yourself. Also consider volunteering for an organization that doesn’t have a dedicated PR staff but has evident PR needs. Or you can work with a new business that’s well-positioned for growth.

Let’s say you notice a great new restaurant in your neighborhood. They’re just opening up and business is a little slow, but you believe in the concept of the restaurant and really like the owners. If the restaurant owners don’t have money to spend on PR, why not volunteer to help them out by doing a little pro bono pitching and event planning? By doing this you will 1.) keep your skills sharp—there’s nothing like a long stint of joblessness to dull the saw, 2.) add projects to your portfolio and fill that gap in your resume and 3.) put yourself top of mind if and when this restaurant begins generating enough revenue to pay for a PR person. And if you’re doing your job well, that day should be just around the corner. :)

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