I recently attended a ‘Getting Started in PR’ event (April 19th 2010) hosted by the CIPR. The event was designed to provide graduates looking to begin careers in PR with tips on how to get that all important first foothold on the career ladder. The morning consisted of three bite-size sessions covering ‘What Employers are Looking for’, ‘Getting your Foot in the Door’, and ‘CV & Interview Advice’. In this blog I hope to summarise the advice given in order to help other aspiring PR professionals. Comments and further advice greatly appreciated.
Who was there?
Chair: Julio Romo, MCIPR (@twofourseven)
Guest Speaker #1: Margot Raggett (@MargotRaggett), CEO of Lexis PR (@LexisPR)
Guest Speaker #2: Charlotte Butler & Lucy Keogh, VMA Group (Recruitment)
(Unfortunately, due to the Icelandic Volcano, speaker Claire Gibson from Energy UK was unable to give her talk, however Margot Raggett of Lexis PR helpfully stepped in to cover all bases)
Session 1 & 2: What Employers are Looking for/Getting your Foot in the Door
Led by Margot Raggett
Margot stressed the importance of having relevant work experience, or to borrow the quote on her slide, ‘experience, experience, experience,’ in order to stand out and succeed in PR. She mentioned her own career route which involved being able to show evidence that she had been an editor for her university newspaper, a responsibility that she had taken on outside of her studies to expand her skills and boost her CV.
Margot stressed that it is increasingly important for aspiring PR professionals to have a passion for, and ability to use, new media, in order to meet the demands of the online PR digital revolution. The consensus was that, if an applicant could not be found on LinkedIn (the business equivalent of Facebook) then their CV would land itself in the bin, regardless of the content.
She therefore recommended that graduates build themselves a strong online presence by blogging (WordPress.com is easy and free), tweeting (Twitter.com), and by paying attention to the latest social media trends.
As recruitment agencies and careers advisors will repeatedly tell you, getting into Public Relations is competitive. Therefore it is important to stand out. Margot recommends:
- Being creative!
- Making sure your CV is not boring
- Sending it in an innovative way (but don’t bribe)
- Using connections if you have them. Contacting companies directly can save them money on the costs of publicly recruiting.
- Checking your splling, I mean *spelling
- Tailoring your application – make it personal, i.e. you recently attended a talk led by so-and-so who informed you of blah-de-blah and told you about the company (that you are applying to)
- Selling yourself in the covering letter – how can you help their organisation?
- Being smart, determined and business like in your search for a role
N.B. All present also attested for the effectiveness of Flattery.
Lexis’ Generation Xpert graduate scheme requires applicants to have: – a basic concept of PR, – a flair for communicating positively, – a passion for the breadth of UK media, – the ability to juggle demands and negotiate clear agreements on deadlines, – a confident and creative writing style, – and experience of working to please customers to prove that you can turn on the charm when required.
Margot stressed the importance of knowing and getting involved in the latest social media trends. The trend at the time was FourSquare, a geo-location tool that enables brands and businesses to interact with potential consumers on the street, however, recently, this tool looks likely to be overtaken by Facebook who are planning on offering the same tool: [link].
Lexis’ HR Team look for:
– Commercial awareness (so do your homework)
– Communication skills
Session 3: CV & Interview Advice:
Led by Charlotte Butler & Lucy Keogh, VMA Group
Your CV is the first thing about you a company will see, and so it is vital that you get the presentation and content of it right. Remember that HR officials have to trawl through hundreds of CVs when recruiting so it is vital that yours ticks all the boxes. To summarise what the VMA Group representatives said:
– Keep it simple
– Be honest
– No more than 2 pages
– Front page is critical
– Keep it concise – bullet points, succinct, summarise.
– Begin with a personal statement
– Provide experience and education details
– Give description of roles and responsibilities
– Highlight key achievements
If in doubt, take your CV to a careers advisor, or send it to friends and family for constructive feedback.
Before: Research the company thoroughly; read press releases; find out about the person and format; know the latest news, financials, competitors; read the job specification carefully, and practise talking about things on your CV so that you sound fluent on the day.
On the day: Plan your journey, be on time, think about first impressions (don’t slouch, yawn, stare into space, etc.), know who you’re meeting (can find professionals on LinkedIn), give a good handshake (not too soft – firm, but not bone-crushing), think about body language – be confident, and if in doubt, dress smart.
During: Be honest, enthusiastic and motivated, establish a rapport, listen carefully to the question, think about voice – pace, pitch, tone and style, don’t be afraid to pause, ask for clarification and think about your answer before answering, keep it concise and targeted, tell your story – employers want to know about you, ask probing questions – prepare at least ten so that you learn about them too.
For ‘Bad Things to Say at a Job Interview’, or just for a laugh, see BBC’s Mock The Week, available on YouTube:
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