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Review // How to get a job in PR

Sarah speaking resized
Sarah speaking resized
Written by
Helen Carney
Published date
20 February 2018

How do you get a job in PR? It’s the question on every PR student’s lips, and Sarah Stimson, author of How to Get a Job in PR, was on hand recently to guide London College of Communication undergraduates through the maze. Sarah has over 15 years’ experience in recruitment in PR and is the Course Director of the Taylor Bennett Foundation, set up to encourage diversity in the industry. BA (Hons) Public Relations student Aaron Shardey outlines Sarah’s secrets:

1. Skills

  • First impressions are everything, and the first thing most recruiters will see is your CV/cover letter, so sharpen up your writing skills. How will you be able to write a cut-through press release if you can’t sell yourself in your CV?
  • Have an online portfolio in the form of a blog, a website and even your online presence. This way, potential employers can see the work you have done and your creativity skills before a possible interview.
  • Expect to be Googled by a potential employer! We need to think about what we write on social media and how we write it. Are we using the correct English or colloquialisms? 140 characters may not be a lot but employers can use this as an introduction to how you write.
  • An employer will expect you to be social media savvy. Yes, this is obvious but as we live in the social media age, we need to have an understanding of what it actually is and how to use it. If you wouldn’t let your mum read it, then don’t post it.
  • Time management skills are essential. You need to meet deadlines and most of the time, deliver work before these. By being ahead of the game, it makes you more efficient and makes things easier for yourself and your organisation.
  • In your first job in PR you will sometimes be given the grunt work. Don’t be precious, don’t moan and remember, somebody has to do it; all the people around you have done it at some point in their development.

2. What makes a good CV?

A CV needs to be to the point. Laboriously long CVs are not going to get someone’s attention.

Include:

  • Personal Details – Name and contact details and any social media accounts that you are happy to share.
  • Education – If you already have your degree, keep it simple. All you need is your degree name and what you got. Do not list all your modules; this can be done in your cover letter if relevant. For A-levels give name and grade. For GCSEs include the number that you obtained including Maths & English.
  • Employment History – Who? What? When? Where? List bullet points rather than paragraphs. All statements listed should be provided with examples and further explained in your cover letter. If you have no experience in PR then put your previous jobs and find the skills you needed for them, relevant to PR e.g. Waitress? You are a good communicator and are able to deal with consumers.
  • Additional Information – Languages, IT packages, voluntary work etc. Never say that you enjoy socialising – this can misinterpreted by employers!
  • ‘Creative CVs’ aren’t for everyone but are currently in vogue in some creative industries. Traditional industries (and many recruiters) still prefer more traditional application methods.

3. Job Applications

  • So many of us apply for jobs that we don’t understand. A job application is designed for two reasons; to entice you to apply for the job and to entice the right people.
  • When applying, take the advert and repeat what they are looking for. Provide examples of your matching work/experience/skills.
  • Speculate. Those who aren’t looking are more likely to consider you as you could be the only applicant of the day rather than one of the 200 they probably receive when recruiting.
  • Pick the top 20 companies you want to work for, find the people you need to contact, build a relationship and then send them an application.
  • You need a great cover letter which consists of three things: the role you have applied for (include a reference number), why you are a good candidate for the role and why you want to work there.

4. Interviews

  • BE ON TIME. Never be late! But don’t arrive too early; 5-10 minutes before is acceptable.
  • Be prepared – make sure you do as much research as possible on the company including media coverage, their clients, work they already do and who their competitors are.
  • Be smart – ask them questions about what they are doing, tell them what their competitors are doing and if they plan to do the same or something similar.
  • Being nervous is OK – the interviewer is probably more nervous than you.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS. Write a list before the interview. Ask them questions about the person who previously had the job you have applied for – have they been promoted? Gone elsewhere? What is the culture of the company? What are the employees like?
  • After the interview, send them a thank you – they could have interviewed a lot of people but if you are the only person courteous enough to send them something, they are more likely to remember you.

5. Networking

  • This is what getting a job in any industry is all about. PR is no different.
  • Start online with Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or Pinterest.
  • Use sites that are relevant to PR. PR Moment? PR Week? Behind the Spin?
  • Blog about things of interest to you as this shows people how you write and gives them an idea of your interests.
  • Go to PR events, ‘tweetups’ etc.
  • Be brave! People love to talk about themselves, so ask them.
  • Follow it up – after you have met them, thank them.
  • Give before you receive, ask them if they need your help for any upcoming events and give them your contact details.

Words by BA (Hons) Public Relations student Aaron Shardey

Read about BA (Hons) Public Relations