The vast majority of PR executives (79%) believe that “experience in a PR role” is a professional’s most valuable asset, according to the CIPR’s 2015 State of the Profession report. So how do you break into the industry if you’re just starting out? Here’s are five surefire ways to increase your chances of being hired.
Get to know the industry
The PR and communications sector is huge and growing fast. Before you fire off job applications, take the time to research which area you want to work in.
‘Each sub-sector varies widely in terms of day-to-day workload and future opportunities,’ explains Julia Meighan, CEO of VMA Group, a leading recruitment business for PR and Marketing executives. ‘Carefully consider your key skills, strengths and areas of expertise, mapping them into any potential roles.’
As well as being aware of trends within the industry, you need to stay up to date with current affairs.
‘Keeping an eye on the world around you is vital when advising clients or brainstorming campaign ideas and you should be able to offer intelligent opinion on any subjects that arise when networking,’ says Julia.
Tracey Barrett, Managing Director PR & communications consultancy BlueSky PR, adds: ‘One of first things I ask a candidate is what has struck them about the news agenda over the past week and what the main stories are.
‘At BlueSky, we need a passion for and an interest in current affairs and so being able to demonstrate that is key. Depending on the specific specialism of the agency you are applying to make sure you read around their subject areas so that you can demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm.’
Network, network, network
Communication roles are all about making connections with people. Prove your PR skills by building a good rapport with key people in the industry, taking an active role on LinkedIn and attending industry seminars and events. Focus your attention on PR recruitment companies, as well as employers, as recruiters are important gatekeepers to many jobs in the industry.
‘It is a simple law of human nature that people like familiarity – employers prefer to hire people they know, or who come highly recommended by others whose opinions they value. If you are looking to break into PR you cannot afford to miss opportunities to meet people who may have the ability to enhance your professional prospects,’ says Julia.
‘Practice your elevator pitch, ask questions and listen to the answers. It is here that you will gather intelligence which may lead to future opportunities. In small groups an inquisitive disposition will make you seem switched on and passionate. And by asking intelligent questions in forums and meetings you could make a lasting impression on the group.
‘When speaking with new contacts, remember details which will provide useful opening lines next time you meet. And of course, once you have acquainted yourself with somebody that interests you, invite them to join your network on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Nurturing relationships is just as important as building them.’
Demonstrate a passion for writing
In terms of the skills employers look for in junior recruits, written communication skills top the list (followed by interpersonal skills, social/digital skills, oral communication skills and attention to detail), according to more than 2,000 PR people interviewed for the CIPR’s State of the Profession report.
Consider creating a portfolio of your writing and social media campaign experience you can take to recruitment agencies and send it as part of your CV when applying for jobs.
‘Blogging is a great way to show off your writing skills and it’s free and easy to set up. It will give you an instantaneous portfolio to wow potential employers with and it’s also great experience,’ adds Tracey.
Target your approach
Don’t wait for roles to be advertised – decide which company you want to work for and find out about their clients, their work, and stalk them on social media. Even if they don’t have a vacancy immediately, they may add you to their virtual ‘talent bench’.
‘PR can be exciting and rewarding but also hugely competitive and success depends on you being creative – yet targeted – in your approach to hiring managers and recruiters. Have a clear idea of the type of role you are aiming for and ensure that you have evidence to back up your suitability for the position,’ says Julia.
Finally, it’s up to you to provide proof that you have what it takes to succeed.
‘Dependent on your goals, you may be able to demonstrate experience in a similar area, voluntary work, outstanding sector knowledge or even a personal YouTube channel with a bank of loyal subscribers,’ says Julia. ‘It is crucial that you are persistent but not pushy – if you don’t have the confidence to sell yourself, nobody else will.’
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