Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Career Advice for PR Students and Grads

Here is my follow-up post on Informational Interviews, you can find the first one on how to do informational interview here.
Thus far I have done 7 informational interviews and have met a significant number of different PR professionals form my area and have learned from first-hand experience. Completing 7 info interviews might seem like a lot, but once you get contacting people you get good at it, it becomes easy and natural. I found that I wasn’t able to meet some people face to face and so I did some Skype and phone interviews as well. Each type had its own feel, but because I was prepared and they were willing to help me, they all went smoothly. The key is making sure the info interviews are helping you and not stressing you out. So while I recommend that all graduating students do some, 7 might not be feasible for everyone.

That being said, I have gathered some interesting insights from a variety of people from different areas of the PR industry. Because I believe in helping my peers and because I want to give my readers some value I will share what these PR professionals so generously shared with me about the skills you need in PR and the advice they have for grads.

Essential Skills for PR
(Other than writing and communication)

1. Business savvy
You need to understand your business, your organization’s priorities and how PR functions within the overall profitability of the business. This means not getting distracted by personal motives or caught up in the PR side without considering the business side.

2. Data management
One of the interviewees told me “The person who has data wins.” In PR, evaluation is everything, so data is essential. The data points to what is working, what is not, why you do certain things and why you don’t do others. When analyzed properly, data is valuable information that can be leveraged to justify what you do, how you do, and most importantly why it works!

3. Perceptive abilities
In PR your job should not just be coming up with ideas, but seeing holes in plan where others may miss. The ability to anticipate reactions, needs, disasters and gaps where others can’t is what will separate you from others. This is why knowing who your stakeholders are key!

Advice for PR Students and Grads
  • Volunteer work is a great way to build your portfolio and skills.
  • Finding a mentor is a great way to learn about your career goals.
  • Join professional organizations to make networking easier.
  • Network and build valuable connections whether it is in-person or via social media.
  • Keep in contact with people you meet, following-up is essential (this means following up with the people you do informational interview with).
  • Stay open to opportunities – say yes and always follow through.
  • Dress the part, no matter what you should look respectable, it shows that you care and that you pay attention to the little details.
  • Make a plan of your goals and be specific. Writing them down makes you more accountable to yourself.
  • Do something every day that will bring you closer to your goals. This will build your momentum and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • You don’t get, if you don’t ask – this requires you to reach out and be proactive in seeking out opportunities.
  • Know what you are asking for (i.e. meeting or job) and know what your give is. When asking for something, make sure you can return the value in some way.

Finally, the great thing I learned from doing informational interviews is how to be confident when meeting people. I feel so much more comfortable in interview settings now and with cold calling people too. I also learned some great advice as shared here!

I hope this helped and if you have advice to share, please comment below. And let me know, how do you feel about informational interviews?

P.S. I love PR.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Step 13 - The Social Resume

Don't Underestimate the Power of Social

Lately I have been seeing a lot of buzz around the topic of Non-Traditional or Social Resumes. I came across this article from Platform Magazine that gives a great overview of non-traditional resumes. But non traditional or not, social resumes are the new it thing. And coincidentally I just finished reading a book by an expert on the subject Miriam Salpeter's "Social Networking for Career Success". In her book, Salpeter covers how to use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in your job search. The topic itself is timely for me as I begin my job search and it has led me to research and question more this idea of using social networks for employment goals.

If you want a career in PR you need to have a successful online presence, and so that is why I have chosen to make this Step 13. I suggest seeking out as much information on the topic as possible and leveraging it to your advantage.

Here I will cover what I learned about Twitter, LinkedIn, other tools and where a social resume can take you, but keep in mind that I am not an expert. These are some of the things I have learned that you may find useful. First, the popularity of social resumes has not gone unnoticed by employers. They are now somewhat expected in PR and marketing anyway. Apparently 92% of employers use some form of social media for recruitment in 2012. This coincides with the increase in social resumes created by job seekers. 88% of job seekers have a social profile, while 64% have two and 44% have three separate profiles on social media.The reason for the use of social resumes is that you are able to include information that goes beyond work experience. You can showcase visuals, creativity and more of your personality. That is why a social resume should remain consistent with your personal brand as I discussed in Step11: Personal Branding 101.

And of course here is a handy Infographic that can sum up some of the research on social resumes.

Social Resume Tools

1. Make the best of your Bio
Ideally your Twitter bio should include  your career specializations and goals. You will want to use a professional photo rather than one shot from last Saturday at the club. And to help keep your "personal brand" and online presence consistent, link back to your other sites like LinkedIn, blogs, websites, a Slideshare, Pinterest or whatever link is most useful for you.

2. Tweet like a professional
Tweet about your job search, your industry, or your goals. Make sure your tweets have content and not just hashtags that will alienate followers. Share links that followers will find useful (and use a shortlink to save on space in your tweet). Also, try to avoid tweeting about your personal stuff like trips to the gym, don't use hashtags that don't apply to your tweet just tog get attention, try to tweet some original thoughts or opinions. Doing these things right will make you more retweetable and more credible in your area of focus like PR. And always remember social media etiquette.

3. Who to follow?
It is safe to follow influencers like industry professionals and organizations.You can follow past employers, past colleagues, your school's alumni, professors, companies you're interested in applying to and government bodies that affect your industry. Once you follow someone take a look at what they are tweeting and see if you can join in the conversation to network. Twitter chats are also great to follow. Remember not everyone will follow you back, and that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep them on your own list.

The advantage of LinkedIn is that every time you connect with one person you are expanding your network (think 6 degrees of separation). Here are some reasons why LinkedIn is a must for your social resume:
  • It is where employers hire from the most in the social networking world.
  • It ranks high on Google and search engines -  this gives you a stronger online presence.
  • It is a solution to staying in contact with the people you meet through networking.
  • It is more professional than Facebook or Twitter - this works well for a personal brand.
LinkedIn is simple to use, but the toughest part may be your personal summary. Make sure to answer these 3 questions:

Who are you?
Who do you want to help?
How are you going to help them?

Once the different sections are filled out do what you can to make your profile complete. You are 40% more likely to come up in search results when you have a profile that is 100% complete compared to 90% complete. That is a huge jump!

I also recommend that you personalize your LinkedIn URL. In edit mode click the edit button beside your current URL and change it to get rid of the useless numbers. Instead use your name and maybe your profession. So for instance mine is danielleaprilboucherpr.

Once this is done you can share your LinkedIn on your other profiles and in your email signature.

Other tools
Some other tools you may want to consider are Blogger, WordPress, Flikr, Pinterest, YouTube, ResumeSocial.com, VisualCV.com, SlideShare and Facebook.These tools can be used to create online portfolios of your work. Finally, after you have put in all this work, you need to optimize it. That's right SEO! There are some great resources out there for enhancing SEO and then you need to monitor. Google Search yourself and see what comes up, use HootSuite, Google Analytics. These are all tools you should know how to work for your job anyway.

You may wonder why a job seeker or recent grad should put in all this effort to create more online presence in their social resume... Well some recruiters are not even considering paper resumes anymore. And joining this trend shows you are ahead of changing times and know what your industry (PR and Marketing) look for in candidates.

If you need an idea for where to start check out this online resume via SlideShare. 
And here are some other ideas that will get your creativity flowing. 

What do you think about Social Resumes? How do you use social networks for employment goals? And do you think paper resumes are a thing of the past?  

I also strongly suggest you check out this blog called Things Career Related, it is full of useful information for job seekers, many of which are applicable for students and recent grads.

P.S. I love PR.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Step 12 - The 5 Steps of Informational Interviews

Recently in my PR program at Mohawk, we were given the task of completing an informational interview as an assignment. This was a great way to force us students to realize that we need to get in gear. While I have been networking over the course of this program, I had not conducted an info interview yet and I was excited to get started. In fact, this excitement lead to 4 informational interviews, more than was required. But the thing is, info interview are helpful for my career beyond an assignment, and now is the best time to be doing them.

So I took the time to seek out new contacts and set up info interviews. I have my first one tomorrow, which I will share with you here in a follow-up post. Now I want to take the time to share some knowledge I have gained on info interviews and why they are important for student and soon-to-be professionals.

But wait. Before you go any further here is a caution: informational interviews are not job interviews. Why I am beginning with this forewarning is to clarify misconceptions that you are attempting to get a job from info interviews and ease any hesitations you may have about actually doing info interviews. Also, because info interviews are not filled with pressure and nerves like job interviews are, they should be something you look forward to. They should also be a means to your end of learning more about the industry that you want to work in and the profession that you are striving for. You may be asking why bother with info interviews if you already have a lot on your plate preparing for graduation. Look at it as an opportunity to learn more about the job you may get. It could also lead to a job prospect down the line. And any job opportunity is a good thing.

The 5 Steps of Informational Interviews

1. Make Contact
  • Search out professionals in your field that are located within a traveling distance that you are comfortable with. It is futile to contact someone that you are unable to reach if you don’t have a car. 
  • Contact them (email or phone) to introduce yourself and ask for an interview. Make your intent clear and keep the emails minimal else you become annoying.
*Maintain a positive outlook here as some people may dismiss you if they are busy. Just remember there are many out there willing to help. 

2. Preparation is Key 
  • Schedule a mutually agreeable time to meet, preferably at their office (unless they suggest coffee at a shop nearby). 
  • Research the company they work for so you have an idea of the work they do. This will help you in knowing how to interview them. 
  • Prepare a list of questions to bring along.

3. Do it Professionally
  • Show up to the interview early, dressed professionally. Introduce yourself and immediately thank them for meeting with you. Be honest in why you approached them, and be courteous in not taking up too much of their time. 
  • They may ask to know more about you, so be prepared to answer this question with a 30 second commercial or personal pitch. 
  • You should have a resume handy in case they ask too. But don’t give it to them unless asked.

4. The Q & A 
  • Ask your questions, and take notes. You may want to ask them if you can record the interview with your phone or voice recorder to better capture their answers. 
  • Once the interview comes to a close one of the last questions you ask should be a referral. 
  • Ask them if they know anyone else you should talk to. 
  • Ask them for their business card so you can keep in touch post interview. Even better, show up with your own business card handy as well.

Writing a Thank You Letter
5. The Thank You 
  • Thank them profusely, but don’t act silly. 
  • Follow-up the interview with a formal thank you by email or mail. 
  • Keep in contact, with brief messages, maybe through LinkedIn. 
  • This person is now a connection in your network.

Additional Resources
I also suggest you seek out additional information on informational interviews. This blog post addresses 5 things you should remember that are complimentary to the ones above.
To know more about the types of question check out the list here.
And to know what a Thank You Letter looks like check out this link.

You can also check out my other post of networking for student on the IABC Toronto Blog: Conversations.
What do you think about informational interviews? have you done any?

Stay tuned for more on my informational interviews.
P.S. Good luck with your own.