I reckon that I get a couple of emails a week from students wanting tips on breaking into public relations.
There is no magic and there are no shortcuts but there are plenty of things that you can do to put yourself well ahead of your peers – and as you’ll see it needn’t take more than 30 minutes each day.
The CIPR and the PRCA published a careers guide for young people last week about the opportunities in public relations and kickstarting your career. Check that out as a start point.
The Taylor Bennett Foundation’s Sarah Stimson is set to publish an ebook in December with advice from more than 50 practitioners. Sarah has helped numerous people start out and develop their careers and now plans to share her insight with a wider audience.
My advice to students looking to get hired is to get cracking while you’re still at university. You need to build a network online (Twitter) and offline (CIPR, IoD and PRCA events etc), develop an online CV and portfolio (LinkedIn) and start creating and sharing content relevant to your future career.
Build a network
Social networks are entirely democratic. Signup to Twitter and you can connect and listen to anyone in the industry. Join in Twitter chats such as #CIPRchat and #commschat, and engage in conversation with people that you follow.
Ideally use an app on a mobile device so that you can jump in and out of conversations during the day. If you spend 15 to 20 minutes a day on this activity throughout each day for a month you’ll quickly build an engaged community. In time you’ll have the confidence to jump in and out of conversations and you’ll find out when organisations are hiring.
Create an online CV and portfolio
LinkedIn is a shop front for you to promote your experience and qualifications. It’s the first place that recruiters head when they’re searching for a candidate. Optimise your profile for the job that you want to land and rather than the experience that you’ve got.
Complete your profile and build a virtual network that supports your real life network. Everyone applies different criteria to making connections on LinkedIn. I typically connect with people when I meet them for the first time.
It will take you four to five hours to create a profile and network. Make sure you proof the content when you’re done. Thereafter spend 30 minutes a week keeping your content fresh and building your network. If you’ve time to spare consider joining relevant LinkedIn groups as part of your networking activity.
Publish your own content
We get candidates walking into Ketchum all the time that claim to be digitally native yet when you check them out via a Google query they have no visible online presence.
Blogging is the best way to consistently build your personal reputation in my view. It’s also an excellent way of exploring ideas and building relationships through hyperlinks and comments.
If you write about the market and companies that you aspire to work for you’ll soon attract their attention. Share your views and join in conversations on other blogs about the challenges that your chosen profession faces such as research, analytics, creative, and expertise in all forms of media including paid, earned, shared and owned.
You should aim to post a blog once a week, or so. It’ll likely take a couple of hours to research, write, edit and proof. Aim to spend as much time editing and proofing as you do writing.
If you’ve time to spare I’d also recommend investigating Google+ and AuthorRank and consider pitching guest posts on blogs such as mine, Behind the Spin, comms2point0 PR Examples, and Rachel Miller, as part of your networking activity.
30 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day, 30 minutes a day
If you do these three things consistently you’ll be well on your way to building a personal brand by demonstrating your skills. You should start as early as possible in your student career rather than waiting until you need to land a job.
The likelihood is that you’ll be approached by organisations wanting to hire you rather than vice versa.
Good luck. Let me know how you get on.
Wadds is chairman of Admiral PR, European Digital & Social Media Director at Ketchum and President-Elect of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Author of Brand Anarchy and Brand Vandals.