When it comes to finding a job, it’s not the most qualified person who gets the offer. It’s the person that does the best job marketing their skills.
I’m part of a local organization that happens to have a lot of public relations professionals among its members. From them, I’ve been able to learn more about PR and witness these pros in action – a great way to pick up tricks for marketing your skills and promoting your brand.
PR folks must understand what the public, their target audience and their competitors, are thinking, feeling, expecting and experiencing. They are expert listeners and also pick up on non-verbal cues and unconscious body language. They are curious and interested.
Do the same with any potential professional contacts you meet. How did they get their start in the industry? What is their company like? What do they like about their job and what do they find challenging? This also applies when speaking with potential employers. Ask meaningful questions about the organization and what they look for in potential interns or full-time hires. Be interested and you will be interesting – and memorable.
PR people must be able to interact and build rapport with anyone. It’s helpful to know a little about a lot of topics, even if only remotely connected to an organization or brand, in order to strike up a conversation with anyone and hold their interest. The same holds true when networking or at an interview – you never know what you might have in common with someone. You also never know who someone in your network might know.
The ability to take in a lot of information, no matter how seemingly random it is, and process and synthesize it, is a valuable addition to your skill-set.
In addition to listening, PR professionals have to be articulate and able to communicate concisely in verbal and written form. They know the people they are trying to reach – the media, bloggers, customers, etc. – have limited time. Therefore, PR pros are experts at boiling down their message to the absolute essentials and making sure it catches the attention of their target audience.
Employers say, time and time again, the number one skill they look for in new hires are communication skills. Continually look for opportunities to be a better public speaker, a better writer and a better conversationalist during your time on campus. Know how to explain complex concepts in simple terms but also understand those complexities and corresponding jargon in order to gain credibility with people who are knowledgeable in your subject area. Practice reading situations so you know the level of formality and/or the level of technical, industry-specific language that is appropriate.
Know your audience
During a job search, conducting research about companies or organizations for which you would like to work is essential. This information allows you to tailor your resume, cover letter, networking emails and interview questions to the employer. PR professionals have to tailor their messages to their target recipients all the time. They must identify what kind of needs or problems their target group has and then articulate how their organization, product or service can help them with those needs or problems.
Job searching is the same way. You cannot possibly show an employer you are a good fit for the organization if you don’t know anything about that organization. Don’t waste your time discussing in your cover letter how well you work with a team if the job requires you spend 90% of your time working independently with little supervision.
When working in a field where one has to be persuasive, pitch ideas to reporters, create buy-in, and generate buzz, PR professionals inevitably need confidence. Similarly, job searching and networking have ample opportunity for rejection. Not fun. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and fail, especially while in college, when you may have more room to make mistakes and learn from them.
Kelly is a career advisor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she assists undergraduate business students with all aspects of their career development. Connect with Kelly on Twitter, LinkedIn or BrazenCareerist.