Lesson Five: Always practice good public relations

As a public relations student, I’m a firm believer in the importance of practicing good PR on a day-t0-day basis. It doesn’t matter what you’re majoring in or what your career goals are, practicing good PR can improve your chances at landing and internship or job. Why you may ask? Most employers are on the hunt for an employee worth hiring, but you already know that. What you may not know is that many of the skills used by PR practitioners can help mold you into an employer’s ideal candidate. It may sound strange, but think about it this way: a PR practitioner works with a company to improve its image and relationships with its publics. As a potential employee, you’re job is to put your best foot forward and make the best impression on an employer as possible.

Now I’m not saying go out and study PR until your face turns blue. There’s no need for that. I’m simply saying you should view yourself as your client and use the following tips to give yourself a PR makeover before applying for your next job or internship.

Keep your image clean: Your online presence may be more important than you think. Any posts, tweets, updates or whatever else you release into the online world can be traced by potential employers long after you press upload. If you have a social media channel you wish to share with your friends, make sure to hike up your privacy settings and even change your last name. While you can make your profile as private as possible, I still suggest you avoid publishing any content you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see. Do whatever it takes to keep pictures of you bonging beers and doing keg stands out of an employers search engine.

Develop relationships with professors: As a student, your professors can be your most valuable resource, if you know how to use them. Most professors have had hands-on experience in the field and are connected to area employers. Creating strong relationships with your professors not only gives you a solid reference to put on your resume, but can also help you get a foot in the door of your desired employer. Attend office hours, turn in your best work and, most importantly of all, ask for help.

Build your network: Networking is a large part of the public relations profession. We live, breath and dream about networking opportunities, as weird as it may sound. After seeing multiple firsthand networking success stories, it’s clear that students of every profession should print out a fresh stack of business cards and hit as many networking events as possible. Think about it this way: as an employer, would your rather give the job to a potential employee you’d previously met at a networking event or one that you’re meeting for the first time at an interview? There are multiple ways to start expanding your professional network. Informational interviews, coffee dates and attending local networking events are all great ways to get your name out there and your foot in the door. Never underestimate the power of networking.

Avoid burning bridges: While it may be hard at times, taking a step back and being the bigger man may pay off in the end. You never know when someone will come back to make an appearance in your life. About a year ago, I encountered an extremely awkward situation. I did my research, put on my best professional outfit and nailed the interview. After shaking the employers hand, I turned to leave and ran straight into an old-friend. Let’s just say our friendship ended on bad terms. At that moment, I knew all the preparation and interview answers would mean nothing. Boy was I right. A few days after the interview, I reached out to the employer to inquire about the interview. The response I received was short and to the point.

“After discussing your potential employment with an intern of ours, we have decided not to offer you the internship,” the email read.

Ouch! Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll never see him/her again. When conflicted with difficult situations, it’s always better to bite your tongue and keep the bridge open. Don’t let burning bridges fall on you.

Research your client: When applying for jobs, think of your potential employer as your client. What does this mean? Do your homework and get familiar with the company. Don’t just tell an employer you want the job; show them you want it by asking relevant questions and showing your knowledge about the company. Learn about their strengths, weaknesses, needs, competitors and whatever additional information you can get your hands on. Turn the interview into a two-way conversation. Prepare questions that will spark conversation about the company then demonstrate your knowledge about the subjects.

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