Many of you out there are nearing graduation, trying to fit in those last few house parties and final exams with the omnipresent shadow of the Real World looming over you, threatening to mar your last days as an undergrad. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed at this point last year—I was expected to finish up my classes, study for finals, pack up my room/life, shop for a cap and gown (who knew?!), engage in appropriate celebratory traditions, write weekly TV reviews for the school paper AND find a job. Not to mention that all of this was occurring during one of the worst economic downturns in history, and during some of the best weather in Ann Arbor, causing an inverse relationship between the stock market and my desire to drink sangria on an outdoor patio.
But I’m here to give you some advice from the other side on how to kick-start your PR job search while wrapping up your undergrad life, and remembering to breathe during the process. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get started.
1. Balance is Key. Set aside some designated time every day to spend solely on your job search and applications. This doesn’t mean flipping back and forth between Facebook, your Comm paper and Monster.com—it means removing all external distractions and dedicating 1-2 hours to some serious searching. As soon as you’re done, step away. You won’t find a job in a day, so after you’ve put in your time, get cracking on the rest of your to-do list.
2. Be Creative. Don’t just turn to the standard job searching sites or Google search terms. Try new avenues and techniques—I found one of my first PR internships by opening up the Chicago phone book , starting with “A,” and calling all of the local companies I thought I might be interested in working for. I ended up at Academy Chicago Publishers, helping with research and publicity. You do the math (or, rather, the alphabet).
3. Repeat: Networking IS Fun. “Network” is one of those words that I remember hearing so often from college counselors, teachers and my parents that it became completely meaningless. But working your connections pays off. Begin by making a list of every single adult that you know or have ever met. Then, solicit them (politely, of course)—both through networking sites like LinkedIn and in person. I remember training my parents to ask, “Do you know anyone who’s hiring?” every time they went to dinner with friends or exited the house. This got me plenty of contacts and only slightly destroyed their social life.
4. Keep Your Expectations Realistic. For me and many of my friends, finding a job was a nearly year-long process, with more ups and downs than a typical episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. You’ll be rejected several times, and you’ll likely have some awkward interviews, but it’s important not to lose your cool and upend a table. Just remember that while you might not land your dream PR job right out of college, you WILL find something—whether it be an internship at a local agency, or a position in a related industry.
Good luck—and remember, you really do have to buy your cap and gown, and yes, they really do sell out.