Industry FAQ answered by our professional advisor

We asked our professional advisor, Karen Bailey, to share her top tips and tricks for securing your dream job or internship, polishing your resume, and nailing your next interview. Looking for personal feedback? Make sure to attend Karen’s monthly office hours!

  1. What’s the best setting/work area (agency, corporate, etc.) to explore the Public Relations field if you’re not quite sure what you’re passionate about yet? 

Whether or not you know what work setting you’d like to pursue, my advice is to be open-minded and creative. Pursue internships in different areas but also make time to learn from people already in those spaces. Consider informational interviews, shadow a professional doing a job that seems interesting and take advantage of opportunities in PRSSA. If you can, try to attend PRSSA National Conference, participate in the mentor program or attend an agency tour. 

I switched my major to public relations as a sophomore after one of my former teachers suggested I shadow the director of communications for a minor league sports team. I learned in one night that I liked public relations, but didn’t want a career in sports PR. Finding the right work setting doesn’t always require a 9 or 12 week commitment. 

  1. What area of PR is best for a Communications major to apply if any/all?  

One of the best parts of public relations is the breadth of what you can do and where you can do it. Nearly all organizations can benefit from public relations so I don’t think there’s a specific area that’s best for a Comms major. However, if you’re a new grad, I would suggest looking for job descriptions with words like ‘associate, coordinator, assistant, specialist or account executive’ and list 1-3 years of experience. Titles and experience levels vary at every organization, but this may be a good place to start.

  1. What are the biggest resume do’s and don’ts in your opinion? 

Resume Do’s

  • Keep it to one page.
  • Proofread excessively. 
  • Always send or submit a PDF version of your resume to maintain your formatting.
  • Be descriptive – use metrics whenever possible. 
  • Be prepared to have something interesting to say in an interview about everything on your resume.

Resume Don’ts

  • Don’t lie or exaggerate. 
  • Don’t use generic language or short sentences. Don’t be too repetitive. 
  • Don’t forget formatting and layout matter. Be consistent. 
  • Don’t create an overly ornate or uncommon resume unless they represent your creative skills or you are seeking a creative/design role. 
  • Don’t forget to double check your PDF before sending to ensure nothing changed with your formatting.
  1. What are some of the first things students should do if they want to relocate?

First and foremost, start to forge a network of people who live where you want to go or who have strong connections to the city. You can do this through family members, OSU’s alumni network or sifting through LinkedIn. Then, start to grow that network. Ask people who else you should know or meet with in the area and set aside time to connect with them. 

Next, I would recommend planning a visit to the area. While you’re there, make time to meet with as many people as possible and to scout out some of the basics, like where you would live, where you will get groceries and whether or not you need a car. You may also want to start getting specific about living expenses. What salary would you need to be able to afford to live there? These questions may help direct where you work and how you approach the job search.  

  1. How long should you expect to stay at your first job?

As long as you’re learning and growing and you feel respected as a person. Some people are a great fit with the role, culture and company in their first job. Others aren’t as lucky. It happens. Although keep in mind the grass is not always greener on the other side. If you’re feeling stuck in your first position, try to identify what isn’t working and then talk with your boss. Listen and be open to constructive feedback, but also be prepared with specific, well thought out requests or concerns. 

In the end, if the role isn’t what you expected, seek out a position that will advance your career. I’ve changed jobs a few times, especially early in my career. The best advice I received is: to always try to move toward something and not away from something. This advice helped me reframe the job search. I wanted to move into a position that moved me forward or closer to a personal goal, rather than leaving a company or position that didn’t fit. This made these transitions look and feel more intentional.  

  1. What are some things you should be doing during the interview process?

Networking. Every job I’ve had came from a relationship with someone who had a position open or who knew someone who had an opening. Don’t rely just on job postings. Meet with people as much as you can. You never know where these connections will lead. 

Leverage Your Network. Now start using your network. Ask people for introductions and ask them to reach out to a company on your behalf. When the company I worked for went through a merger, my team grew rapidly. Whenever I received an email or call from someone I knew on behalf of a candidate, I would always make a note to look at their resume or bring them in for an interview. 

Research. The best way to stand out in an interview or in your interview follow up is to learn about the business or industry. When you ask insightful questions that reflect your knowledge of the company it shows. 

Send a Thank You. Always. Send. A. Thank. You. Note. Handwritten is best, but at least send an email. Thank the interviewer for their time and reiterate your interest in the role.

  1. What is the benefit of joining PRSSA if you’re not sure about what direction you want to go in with your major.

Ohio State has an incredible PRSSA chapter, so I would encourage everyone to take advantage of what the chapter offers. Go on agency tours to see the environment and learn how they operate. Join The PRactice to gain first-hand experience with a corporation or non-profit. Attend a national or regional conference to hear from professionals in different areas and to visit a different city. Take full advantage of the internship postings from the chapter and the national organization. Attend a PRSA event in Columbus or leverage your Ohio State PRSSA alumni network to meet professionals. 

  1. What makes a strong elevator pitch that positions you well for your first full time job?

Great question. A very common first interview question is Tell me about yourself. Trust me when I say the interviewer wants the cliffs notes. I would encourage you to write down your thoughts and practice answering this question. Honestly, if you’re interested in a great elevator pitch, google some or look on pinterest for inspiration or a framework that you prefer. Here are a few considerations on things to include: 

  • Where you went to college and your degree
  • Your career goal(s)
  • A few accomplishments that demonstrate your commitment to that goal (this could be internships or a meaningful volunteer or leadership role)
  • Skills you’ve learned that could apply to the position  
  1. Do you have any tips or best practices for virtual/LinkedIn networking?

Start by leveraging your current network. Ask people you know if they would be willing to make an email or LinkedIn introduction to someone in the field. Then set up a virtual informational interview or zoom coffee but be prepared to ask meaningful questions. 

Focus on people and things that interest you. A great way to connect with people online is to engage with content you actually find interesting. Your responses to posts or articles will be far more authentic and personable. 

Participate in conferences or networking events. Right now, most events are virtual (and many are free or very reasonably priced). Take advantage of these. Even if there isn’t a set time to network with all of the participants, you may have an opportunity to email or engage with the presenters. 

  1. What interview prep should you do for a role you aren’t 100% qualified for?

It is very likely that you may not have experience that matches every duty listed in a job description and that’s ok. The most important thing is not to lie or embellish your actual experience. Focus on your accomplishments and your ability to learn new tasks quickly. Give the interviewer concrete examples with results if possible to demonstrate your ability to adapt. Be prepared to make the connection from something you have done to some that you haven’t. Show the interviewer how the skills relate. Also, find ways to highlight your passion to learn. Be curious and ask good questions. Lastly, keep in mind that hiring for culture is far more important than hiring for experience. Ask about their culture and the type of person that would do well in the role. These might be good cues to build upon. 

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