How to Manage Your Next Job Interview Process

Untitled design (3)Many people assume that job interviews would be “no big deal” to a PR professional. After all, don’t we get paid to interview and be interviewed for stories? Here’s the catch–most interviews aren’t job interviews. Job interviews are intimidating. They are a necessary evil that many people fear, yet we all encounter.

If you’re getting nervous just thinking about job interviews, don’t worry. There’s several tips that can help you manage the interview process and put some that PR training to work!

Before the Interview

The interview process begins long before you put on your best outfit. It begins with the job application. How you present yourself in your resume and cover letter impacts whether or not you’re even offered an interview.

To be successful you must customize your cover letter and resume for every job application.  Job coaches suggest creating a “master” resume that includes everything in your repertoire so when you apply for a job you can select only the information that best reflects your qualifications. From this list you can also choose a few examples to highlight in your cover letter.  

This is where your PR training comes into play. You have spent several years learning how to write persuasively. Take that training and infuse it into your cover letter. Target your writing and convince them that you are the right person for the job.

During the Interview

Believe it or not job interviews aren’t about you, your abilities, or your education. They are about how you can fill a need in their company. More importantly, job interviews are about connecting with people. Hiring is expensive.  That’s why companies are concerned with hiring the right person and not just anyone that can do the job.

Yes, you need to be prepared with your resume, portfolio, and lots of great questions that show your interest, but none of that matters if you can’t connect with the people who are interviewing you. Be genuine and leave a lasting impression with everyone you meet—from the secretary to the CEO. You never know who may influence the hiring decision.

Don’t be surprised if companies have researched you on the internet. They recognize that cover letters and resumes are “sterile” representations of your personality. They want to know what you be like on Monday morning after your car broke down and you walked to work in the rain. No, seriously, they want to know who you really are and if you are a good fit for their culture and their current team.

After the Interview

After your interview follow up with a thank you note and include any additional information from your interview. While emails are appropriate, you may find that a handwritten note will leave more of an impression. Electronic communication is easier, but don’t let that stop you from picking up the phone or writing a note.

Be mindful and patient as you wait for their decision. Remember, it’s all about people, so use any follow up conversation to build on the relationships that you began in your interview. At the end of the day, whether you get the job or not, it all comes down to people. They are life’s common denominator no matter what situation you are in or profession you may pursue

As PR professionals we are trained to relate with people. Take that training into your next job interview. You may be surprised to see what happens!

RuthannCampbell (1)Ruthann Campbell graduated from Pensacola Christian College with a bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations. She is currently the Communications Specialist for a non-profit organization located in Rochester, NY. You can connect with her directly to network or share ideas on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Three Easy Ways to Leverage Your Leadership Positions

Three Easy Ways to LEverage your leadership positionsYou’ve probably heard or experienced firsthand how hard it is to get a job (let alone a career relevant one) in today’s economy. Whether you are newly applying or just want to spruce up your resume, college leadership positions are an excellent way besides internships to showcase experience. However, it is not the title of the position that matters, but its how you emphasize those responsibilities to employers that can either make you stand out or go unnoticed.

Use the positions relative to the field.

While this might be obvious to some, having relevant positions can only be positive since it’s more in-line with the responsibilities of today’s PR practitioners. It is also a great moment to highlight the strengthening of your weaker skills, development of new ones or even the defining moment of identifying the sector that you enjoy working in. While the title can range from Publicity Chairman to Communications Delegate, make sure the duties they entail are relative to the field. Using these leadership roles can show your early dedication to advancing your career by showing interest in your professional development.  

Highlight transferable skills.

While a PR-centered position is great and easier to describe, showcasing other experiences through transferable skills is an excellent option as well.  Start by creating a list of all of your responsibilities and tailor your description of duties to emphasize relevant aspects before the non-relevant ones.  For example, as captain of the soccer team, training and assisting others, delegating responsibilities and managing conflicts are great management skills that employers are seeking. Ultimately, if transferable skills are presented in a manner that can be applicable to your next role, they become an optimal way to help your position appear much more credible and relevant.

Change your vocabulary.

It’s astonishing how just a change of words can make a world of a difference and get you hired. While “discussed and planned an event with peers/colleagues,” sounds good, “participated in an event development and execution group,” sounds much better and more professional. The key is to switch everyday words with action words. Assisted vs. helped; developed vs. planned. Don’t let your poor choice of words throughout your resume be the reason you didn’t move on to the next round.

Tip: Don’t lie. There is a difference between rephrasing and overstating. Nothing is more embarrassing or damaging to your credibility than showing up to your interview and having to explain the misrepresentation of your skills.  

While these changes might not seem brand new or revolutionary, they are easy enough to forget in the resume writing process. Remember, employers want to hire professionals and using your college leadership roles not only shows your capabilities of being a leader but more importantly your willingness to accept new responsibilities. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone like that?

Stephanie VelardeStephanie Velarde is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Business. She has a knack for crisis management, an interest in global communications and a guilty pleasure for event planning. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

Four Ways Giving Back Helps You Grow as a Leader

MY VACATIONLaunching your career isn’t a one-step process. It takes time and strategic planning to really narrow down both your short- and long-term goals. But thinking about these goals isn’t enough. How are you going to get there?

As new professionals, we need to proactively think about how we’re going to land those senior-level executive positions. It’s not going to happen tomorrow but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to take initiative now.

Yes, we’re driven and have aspirations, and we really do want to be leaders. But the important part is for all of us to take steps back and ask ourselves, why? Why do we do public relations, and why do we want to be leaders of the industry? Then, we need to focus our approach on that.

For me, the answer derives in the reason I chose public relations and my biggest motivation in the work that I do: to help people. PR gives me the capability to effect change for the causes and organizations I’m passionate about, so becoming a leader means I’ll have even more knowledge, experience and power to do so.

Looking at my career with that perspective made it easier to narrow down what I could do in addition to my day job to grow professionally while simultaneously making a difference in my community. For me, that’s using my skills to help local nonprofits and community organizations.

The agency I work for, similar to agencies many new professionals work for, works with nonprofits and other community organizations on both a client and pro-bono basis. For me, this includes participating on fundraising and networking committees, directly communicating with donors or members via newsletters and social media, and so much more. By building relationships with these clients and executing campaigns, I’ve noticed firsthand how much these organizations rely on volunteers to achieve their missions, a universal truth for all nonprofits.

As a new professional, you can make a bigger difference than you may suspect for the nonprofits and organizations in your community. In addition to feeling great about doing good work, you’ll:

Expand your network.

As PR professionals, we understand the value of relationships. And while our co-workers become our work families, it’s important to build a network throughout the community beyond the office. Volunteer positions do just that.

It can be intimidating to arrive alone to your first meeting or event, but you need to start somewhere. Before you know it, you’ll no longer feel like you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and want to start volunteering for leadership positions. Also, it’s likely you’ll meet and work with people from different industries and professions, who could then turn into friends and mentors. These relationships can last a lifetime and open the door to new opportunities and shared passions.

Become the expert.

Depending on the organization or people you’re interacting with, you could be the only PR professional in the room. So when a communications-specific question or request is brought up, all eyes turn to you. This doesn’t mean you’re expected to know the answer in a blink of an eye, but you’re expected to be able to figure it out – an important skill as PR professionals are looked to as problem solvers. As an added bonus, you’ll become more comfortable and confident speaking up or learn when to let others do the same in these situations, which can help in all aspects of your career.

Build your resume.

Volunteer-based experiences are often equally as beneficial as on-the-job experiences. Most nonprofits and community organizations run on shoestring budgets, which make successful campaigns extra impressive. The ability to articulate your role in a successful project can speak volumes to your impact and leadership skills. Through volunteering you’ll also get hands-on experience with industries you may not typically be involved with, which can help round you out professionally or let you explore new interests if you’re not super passionate about the PR work you’re doing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn new approaches and skills.

You’ll notice there are similar practices utilized among different organizations, but you’ll also pick up on differences. An organization may use a strategy or tool you’ve never explored. Each new skill you learn can enhance your value and help set you apart from peers, vital steps for career growth. And as you gain new skills and ideas, you’ll be able to contribute a different perspective to the meetings you attend – positioning yourself as a leader.

It’s never too early to get involved – whether you’re a college freshman or seasoned professional – take some time to consider how you can give back and become a better leader.

What types of volunteer roles do you have in the community? What are other career benefits you’ve noticed from giving back?

Hannah Leibinger Headshot (1)Hannah Leibinger is an account strategist at Piper & Gold Public Relations, a boutique agency in Lansing, Michigan, that specializes in government, nonprofit and small business public relations. In the Lansing community, she serves as the chair of communications for Grand River Connection, new professionals co-chair for the Central Michigan Chapter of PRSA, social media coordinator for Giving Tuesday Lansing and a member of the Old Town Commercial Association business development committee. Connect with her on Twitter (@hleibinger) and LinkedIn.

Career Limbo: Transitioning from Entry-level to Mid-level Positions

Breaking out of the entry-level barrier to mid-level positions is not easy. Many times, it means getting past the catch-22 of needing the experience to get the experience, but there are avenues to make the journey easier:

  1. Always exceed your employer’s expectations: This work ethic will get you noticed and shows you to be a team player. Sometimes learning a new skill simply means volunteering for it. You may have to work a little bit later – but if you want to become a social media expert, for example, the best way is to enthusiastically take on the new work responsibility.
  2. Volunteer pro-bono with other organizations, local charities and religious affiliations: If you are not getting the type of experience in your full-time job that you need to move on to the next level, try local affiliations or industry associations and chapters for experience. They will appreciate the free assistance, and it’s a wonderful stretch to try your hand at new tactics.
  3. Network with purpose: Nowadays, it’s not enough to hand out business cards and think you made a bonafide contact. Learn about the individuals that work at the organization you are aspiring to join. Visit their LinkedIn profiles and Facebook pages. What are their likes? Did you go to the same school? Are they traveling to an area with which you are very familiar? Can you make some restaurant recommendations or suggest vacation spots? When you meet someone – state your vision. Who are you? What is it that you want to do? What was the biggest problem you solved in the workplace?
  4. Perfect your personal branding: Your personal brand is something you should be working on upon graduation. Positioning yourself as an expert is all about your blog content and your contribution to the industry. If it’s too early in your career to develop your own content, work with Google Reader, have the content come to you and then share it with others. Learn about the relevant content sites out there and get involved in Twitter chats. These outlets will help grow your reputation as a thought leader. Also, consider writing some short dos and don’ts about your field of expertise. It may sound strange, but “don’ts” always pull more clicks. People are always most afraid of making major mistakes.
  5. Research, research, research: Getting to the next level means knowing exactly what the position entails. Learn about the keywords used and all the qualifications. Be sure you can back this up with tried-and-true experience. Nothing aggravates a potential employer more than someone that lists keywords on their resume but doesn’t have the actual practical experience to go with it. Choose about 25 key companies for whom you’d like to work and research them on and Become acquainted not only with the company’s business, but also their corporate culture.
  6. Know how to make that salary and position jump: You may now be at the stage where you are qualified to do a job that pays $20,000 more but still getting paid $20,000 less. How do you address the salary question? Always remember to come from a positive place. You never want to say that your company was holding you back or that they don’t pay well. Whether you like your current job or not, never back-bite. You are heartbroken to leave your current company, but this opportunity is a dream job, and you feel you can make a real contribution.
  7. When asked about salary – you have a few options: You can always turn it back to the employer, asking what they’d consider based on your qualifications. However, that may lead to a game of salary Ping-Pong. The next option is to give the potential employer a very wide salary range. The range can be as wide as $10,000 or $15,000. The next option of course is to let them know that it was key at the time to gain the skills you needed to excel in your field. Now that you have those skills and the practical experience putting them to use, you are ready to earn the salary that more closely matches your skill set.

Most of all, have faith that you will get to that next level. Remember that 20 percent of job rejections eventually result in a job offer – so don’t give up.


Richard Spector is the manager of client services for PRSA Jobcenter.

Three Reasons to Get a Graduate Degree in PR

When I entered the field of public relations at the ripe old age of 22, I felt like a latecomer. I had just moved to Washington, D.C., for an internship in PR at a theater (as I thought I wanted to work at a theater, but did not know in what capacity) and quickly realized how exciting and creative PR could be. With no formal PR-focused education, I decided to take an introduction to PR class in a strategic public relations graduate program at The George Washington University, which turned out to be a great career decision.

PR is a field that doesn’t require post-graduate degrees, and professionals in the field have a variety of undergraduate majors and minors. A lot of schools do have PR undergraduate degrees, such as the Newhouse School at Syracuse, as well as PRSSA chapters. Many people, though, come to PR with a strong background in writing, speaking or community outreach and may be looking for more formalized training, which was exactly what I needed. Benefits from obtaining a master’s degree include:

Learning from classmates

Much of the knowledge I gained from attaining my master’s degree in PR came from speaking with my fellow classmates. In my introduction to PR class, filled mostly with part-time students with full-time jobs, I met people working as press secretaries for senators, account executives at PR firms, graduate interns in formal government postings, sole PR practitioners at non-profits and in a host of other positions. The class also included some less experienced people such as myself, but class conversations were more often carried by people with experience, and it was interesting to hear their thoughts. Though my classmates’ collective experience intimidated me, I appreciated being able to learn from the stories and ideas they shared.

Connecting to internship and networking opportunities

Experience is key in PR. Internships can help a new professional determine what kind of place at which he or she would like to work. (Agency? Non-profit? Government?) They can help a new pro get his or her foot in the door. Networking is also a good way to gain knowledge about the PR field in a specific area and meet people who can connect you to a job. Combining networking and the experience of obtaining a graduate degree is sure way to achieve success, and, in fact, networking and getting experience can be much easier to do through enrolling in a graduate program. Many companies may require internship candidates to be enrolled in a graduate program, such as government Student Career Experience Programs (SCEP), and university career centers often help connect students to internships or full-time positions. Graduate programs or university career centers often host helpful networking events as well, free to students. Take advantage of these if you enroll in a program.

Getting an edge on your resume

Toward the end of my graduate program, I began to look for a full-time PR position through the career center at which I worked. I found a position that required applicants to have either a certain number of years of experience (which I didn’t have) OR less years of experience and a master’s degree. Since I would had the degree, I was qualified…and got the job! In other situations, when your resume may look nearly the same as another candidate’s, but you have a master’s and the other candidate does not, you’ll come out on top.

The decision to get a master’s is a big one to make. Aside from assessing whether it will help you improve your job prospects, you’ll have to consider the cost–what program to choose (PR, communications, perhaps even an MBA), which schools to apply to, whether to go full-time or part-time and if you’ll be able to handle the work load. Try applying for a job at the school you decide to go to. After I started working full-time at GWU, my tuition costs were almost completely covered by the school. Whatever you end up deciding to do, make sure it’s something that will add to your career, that you’ll be learning new information that you didn’t know before and that you’ll enjoy the program. If you apply and get in, make sure to go out and have fun with your classmates—they’ll be your future colleagues!

Whitney GrayWhitney E. Gray, communications coordinator for CropLife America, an international trade association of agrobusiness companies. Hailing from the snowy state of New Hampshire, Gray has been working in Washington, D.C., since 2008. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in theater arts and American studies from Brandeis University and has a master’s degree in strategic public relations from The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Gray once served as the PRSA New Professionals Section membership co-chair.