Back to Basics… Informational Interviews

The biggest piece of advice I could give to any student is to take advantage of informational interviews. Here are some great tips from PR Daily on conducting them in person, but since I want to move to the DC area, most of mine have been over the phone. I’ve experienced times where I would send out 9 emails and only hear back from 1-2 people. But if you make that one connection, and stay in touch consistently, you’d be surprised to see how far it will take you.

How to Start?

  • Look through the school’s alumni network, google companies you would like to work for and use LinkedIn to find contacts.
  • Go out on a limb – I wanted to learn more about media relations at a corporation so I emailed the person whose job I thought sounded most in line with what I wanted to know more about. I sent an email and the next day we had a 30 minute conversation about her job. I had nothing to lose and now I have a solid contact who could potentially help me with advice and the job hunt in the future.
  • Send your resume, especially if you’re a senior.
What to Say?
  • Have questions prepared and save answers from the informational interview for future reference.
  • Tailor some questions to their company and their work that you’ve researched through their website.
  • This isn’t a job interview so you’re asking a majority of the questions, but be prepared if they want to know more about you. Always be prepared with your elevator speech.
Sample Questions
How did you get started in this industry?
What are some of your daily tasks/assignments?
What advice would you give to me as a PR student?
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you started your position?
What would you say is the most important thing I need to know to do well in this field?
What type of experience do you suggest I pursue now that will help me be better prepared for this field?
Is there anyone else you think would be great for me to connect with?
What’s Next?
  • Stay in touch – I’ve made it a habit to spend at least 30 minutes a week strictly for networking emails to connect with past internship supervisor, follow up with professionals and reach back out to people I’ve met at career fairs and conventions to let them know how I’m doing and so that I stay in their radar in case an opportunity arises. Also, I’ll email at least 3 people a month who I am trying to build a new relationship and set up informational interviews.
  • Take their advice to heart so when you send the next email, set up another phone call or meet in person, let them know of your progress and that you’re taking this career path seriously.
  • Ask him/her to look at your resume and/or cover letter.

Everyone’s been in your position before and professionals know what your goal is in contacting them, and usually want to help. If anything, they respect your tenacity in reaching out. The biggest key in networking is keeping up these relationships. Try that and you’ll be amazed at how far it takes you. Happy networking!

Tips for New PR Professionals

By now, it’s been pretty much ingrained into us that writing is the cornerstone of a great PR pro. But what about other skills to success? This article from womeninpr includes both traditional and new skills for PR professionals and this one from PR Daily include essential steps on how to take your career to the next level with the changing landscape of PR. You should read both articles, but here are the top 5 that I’m working on this semester:

  • Attention to Detail – If you’re making a point, is it clear to your audience why this is important? Contextualize your argument then edit thoroughly.
  • Media Relations – It’s best to get this experience early and often. I’m lucky to intern at an agency that specializes in achieving media results for clients. While awkward at first, I know I’ll become more comfortable with practice.
  • Microblogging – Twitter. It’s essential to know how to connect with and attract followers whether you’re managing your personal account, or your client’s.
  • Realize the importance of teamwork - Everyone moans when a class is assigned a group project, but it has taught me to work with different personalities, leadership styles and covering for people’s different strengths and weaknesses. Despite the moans and initial uneasiness, it’s the real world.
  • Learn a client’s industry and their business – Know their competition, how the market is performing, latest developments, trends, and more. As for the business, know their strength, challenges, expected growth, and so on. The key is to be curious.

Senior Year Timeline – February

Can you believe it’s already February? Crunch time! Graduation is approaching (May 13, 2012!) and all my family is asking about plans after college (insert deep sigh). While I’m not quite there yet with a definitive answer, here are some tasks I would like to get accomplished and some that I’m continuing to work and improve on for the month:

  • I’ve already started a job search spreadsheet with companies that I’m interested in. It includes the deadline to apply for internship/fellowship, location, application materials needed, and an action plan. Soon, I’ll be adding full-time positions as companies post opportunities in March or April.
  • Target informational interviews to companies I want to work for. Use j-link to find a UNC connection.
  • Create a new layout for my resume. Design is just as important as content. When an employer has hundreds to look through, I want mine to automatically stand out.
  • Tailor my cover letter and have it reviewed by professors and PR professionals for feedback.
  • Take advantage of social media outlets. Participate in twitter chats (#PRstudchat, #internpro, #PR20chat) and comment in LinkedIn groups.
  • Make new business cards.
  • Reach out to contacts for letters of recommendations.
  • Submit applications!

How is your job search coming along?

“Don’t be pushed by your problems; be led by your dreams.”

Its hard to believe that today marked my first day of my last semester of college. I’m feeling anxious, to say the least. With so many unknown variables as graduation approaches, I realize that I can’t worry about the mistakes, which will become more abundant as I enter the workforce and away from the safety net of UNC. Ultimately, I want to become the best I can be in my public relations career, and this is only the beginning of my path.

This is a reminder that issues will arise and everything I do won’t always be right, but the bigger picture is so much more romantic than the speed bumps of right now. I vow to not rush through these last five months and embrace the present as it will only lead me closer to my goals.

Here’s to a memorable spring semester and a job waiting for me in May!

2012: Balance

New Years Resolutions never really worked for me, not saying that I haven’t tried. I’m guilty of heading out to the gym at the beginning of January only to be found on my couch two weeks later. My issue was that this resolution was set by some arbitrary time and it wasn’t right for me at that moment. Reflection and resolutions should be a continuous process.

But in the spirit of  the new year, I’m taking advice from this Forbes article and creating a theme for 2012: Balance. “A vivid theme acts as a compass when you make decisions about specific goals or strategies to ensure they are aligned with how you’re feeling overall.” This creates a guideline, not strict rules, in making decisions in 2012.

Anybody close to me can tell you that I tend to take on a lot in terms of work while neglecting other areas, such as sleep. But, as I prepare for my last semester of college, I look forward to creating memories with friends and learning more about media relations and event planning at my internship at BoltPR, while not letting either area consume me. While keeping in mind my main goal to find a job, I don’t want to sacrifice late night runs to Cookout or spur of the moment trips on the MegaBus. So again, maybe I won’t get too acquainted with an 8-hr sleep schedule, but I want to make the most of time at UNC and still be prepared with foundations for a career in public relations and beyond. This also extends to finances (mainly shopping habits), healthy eating, and then as I transition to the real world, developing a comfortable work-life balance. Instead of looking at exact goals I want to accomplish, I’m working on how I want to live and means to make decisions and achieve goals I choose to set throughout the year.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

Happy New Years!

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Fall Semester Goals Revisited…

One semester down, one semester to go. I vividly remember move-in day freshman year when graduation seemed like a distance goal, now it’s less than five months away. Ohh, how the time flies. To first wrap up my fall semester, I made a list of goals and want to reflect on how far I’ve come and areas of improvement.

1. Explore a different area of PR. As an intern at S&A Cherokee, I obtained a glimpse into the lifestyle of a PR agency through creating media lists, distributing and tracking press releases, and researching. Also, with numerous informational interviews, I was able to speak to public relations professionals in the fields of healthcare, consumer and corporations.

2. Learn a new journalism skill. Based on a referral from my friend, I took JOMC 333: Video Communications in Advertising and PR where we made a PSA for a nonprofit. Our assigned organization was the Chapel Hill Fire Department. As the editor, I learned Final Cut Pro to bring the video all together. While challenging and tedious, it was rewarding to see the finished project and I now have a piece of work to diversify my portfolio.

3. Find a job! Won’t stop until it’s done!

4. Step up my Twitter/blogging/all of social media game.  There’s always room for improvement. Still looking to blog more regularly.

5. Budget.  I learned to save, but shoes are still my weakness.

6. Eat healthier. Another work in progress. I may even fit a little exercise into my routine over the break and into next semester.

7. Network. Continuing with 4-5 informational interviews a month and keeping in touch with contacts.

8. Senior Year Involvement.  This semester has definitely been a test in time management and I am happy to say it’s over and I’m still alive. With only 13 hours next semester, I hope to relax more and enjoy my last semester at UNC.

I’ll check back in with a revised set of goals in January. But for now, I’ll enjoy the time off for Winter Break, and also to celebrate my 21st birthday. Happy Holidays!

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