First of all, congratulations to this year’s graduates who have chosen a rewarding and interesting career path that’s never dull or repetitive, always challenging and demanding, and very often just plain fun!
I’ve interviewed hundreds of PR candidates over the years and have come to know that being prepared with the right resources and assets can make a difference in beating out the competition for that coveted first job. Who you know is certainly advantageous in this business, but anyone can level the interview playing field by being equipped with seemingly ordinary and uncomplicated attributes, knowledge and details that can make you the clearer choice as a candidate:
1. An error-free resume
This isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but you’d be surprised at how many resumes we continue to see riddled with typos, grammatical errors, slang and visual inconsistencies. Always triple spell-check your work or have another pair of eyes review it. Be sure to also be consistent in your layout: make sure indentations, columns, bullets, typefaces and fonts match. We are PR pros and we notice the little things – if your resume is sloppy and lacking attention to detail, we’ll likely draw the conclusion that your work will be as such too.
2. A suit
Sorry folks, but even in this day of business casual which I believe has reached new lows in what’s acceptable for office wear, nothing says polished, professional and “I’m ready to take this job seriously” like a suit. You’re safe with navy, black or gray – solid or striped – and it needn’t be expensive. You’ll need it for interviewing, and once you get that job, for important client meetings and events. Remember the adage, “Dress for the position you want.”
3. The latest edition of the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook
Believe it or not, I refer to this book nearly every day. Heck, I can’t remember that the word ‘window dressing,’ when used as a noun is not hyphenated, but that when used as a verb (window-dress) it is! And, once word gets out that you’ve got an AP Stylebook, you’ll make new friends with all of your colleagues who show up to borrow it!! In addition, I also recommend having a copy of Fowler’s Modern English Language Usage which I use often as well.
4. A knowledge of basic table etiquette
Let’s face it, in the PR world, we OWN business lunches and dinners. Unless you’re working for the Ritz or Buckingham Palace, you probably won’t need to bother being able to identify a prawn fork from an oyster fork (incidentally, there are at least 13 different types of forks that are used in high society). However, you should have some basic table manners such as knowing to always put your napkin in your lap immediately upon sitting, how to pass the salt (always with the pepper) and to never text or answer your phone during a business lunch unless it’s completely necessary. You can find more tips at http://verilymag.com/dining-etiquette-101/
5. A Positive, enthusiastic outlook
Trust me, it’s not always the smartest, best-educated candidate who wins the job – it’s the one who shows dedication, enthusiasm, heart and an eagerness to dive in. Employers don’t expect 22-year olds to know everything, but they typically do want new employees chomping at the bit to apply what they’ve learned thus far, and to supplement it with new on-the-job knowledge and insights they’ll gain from working daily with public relations pros. I know you have student loans to pay back, but remember that this is the beginning of a wonderful, fulfilling career for you – make the most of it now. If you chose the right career path, this should come naturally to you. And, if you aren’t a positive person, then practice with all of the available and immediate resources at your fingertips.
Good luck and much success to all of you!