You can’t get a job offer, without first getting an interview. Check out these tips for getting your foot in the door.
By Melanie Salemno
The moment you thought was light years away has finally arrived. As you look back on your time in college, you can remember move in day like it was yesterday. Now, your time as a student is coming to an end and the stresses of finding a job are taking over. The key to success in this moment is to relax, take the process one step at a time and find confidence in yourself. You can do this!
I recently graduated from American University in December 2016. It was a long path to get there, but at the beginning of December, I was fortunate enough to have a selection of jobs to choose from. I made mistakes along the way, and it was definitely overwhelming, but in the end it all worked out for me. Below are a few tips I recommend for getting that first interview.
- You can never start too early. As graduation gets closer and closer, you may be wondering “When should I start applying or jobs?” The answer is now. In Public Relations, especially agencies, many open positions are for immediate hire. For positions like this, I recommend beginning the application process about a month before your anticipated start date. However, there are many things you can and should be doing in your job hunt now, like networking, which brings us to tip number two.
- Network, network, network! Every single one of my job offers resulted from networking. I applied for dozens of jobs through an online portal (mostly way too early) and received very little call backs. It can be very difficult to stand out in a sea of applications online, especially at entry level. I started getting leads when I started asking people on coffee dates and for advice. Never underestimate the power of an informational interview.
My very first job offer stemmed from an informational interview about two weeks before the position was even open. I made a connection with an HR representative at a large PR agency through my role with PRSSA (PRSSA is awesome and don’t ever forget it). I was genuinely interested in learning more about the company and the culture there. I asked the HR representative for a quick phone call and we had a great conversation: I learned more about the company, and she learned about me and my interests. I did not mention the possibility of a job at this time!! Then, about two or three weeks later, she emailed me saying there was a position open that sounded like a good fit, and I started interviewing from there. After a few interviews, I ended up getting a job offer!
- Take advantage of those LinkedIn DMs. LinkedIn is a great resource! If you’re not already using it, you’re behind. The most advantageous way I used LinkedIn, was through the “How you’re connected” feature. I researched companies I was interested in working at in on LinkedIn. On the company profile, LinkedIn will show people you are either directly or indirectly connected to that work there. Message those people, explain who you are, and ask for an informational interview or coffee date. They will most likely say yes and 9/10 times will pay for your coffee. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about the company, and ask for interview tips. The most important part here is to maintain the relationship with your new friend! Check in, and build a true relationship here. Then, when a position at their company opens up, ask him or her to help coach you through this process. I reached out to various people on LinkedIn, and one of my new friends ended up passing my resume on to HR, which resulted in an interview and ultimately a job offer. Take advantage of LinkedIn, but remember not to take advantage of the people you’re connecting with and stay genuine.
- Be genuine. While you are networking, it’s important to stay true to yourself and honest. People are perceptive and your motives are very clear when you’re just looking for someone to pass your resume on to HR. Networking is about just that: meeting new people and forming relationships. It is not about finding someone who will get you a job and then never talking to that person again. Since I’ve started working at Weber Shandwick, people started contacted me from out of the blue very clearly looking for me to refer them for a job position. Be aware of your own motives and make sure you’re asking people for help in the right way.
- Look for growth at your internships. One of the biggest mistakes I made was keeping my job hunt a secret from my internship coordinator. I was afraid that if she knew I was looking for full time jobs, it would make me look undedicated. But, by the time we began discussing future opportunities, I already had to make a decision on my other offers. Be open and honest with your internship coordinators and what you want. People aren’t mind readers. If you like your internship, but want a full time job after graduation, tell them that. Many places hire entry level positions straight from their internship pool; you’re already ahead of the game there. Even if there is not a position available at your internship, your manager will want the best for you and will help you along the way.
Finding a job after graduation is a long process. Finding what you want is just as important as actually getting a job. Stay true to yourself and put priority on the companies that you are most passionate about. You will fare much better by investing significant time and networking with three companies as opposed to sending out 50 applications online. This is an important time in your life – treat it like that. These are some of the ways I got that first interview. Keep an eye out for my follow up blog with ways to nail the interview after you got your foot in the door!