By Anastasia Maragos
The American University’s PRSSA chapter on Monday November 15th hosted “A Night with PRSA,” a speed dating like event in which students could interact and gain some helpful advice from local PR professionals working in the field today. The speakers included Barbara Burnfeild (Defense Media Activity), Kelly Miller (Cellular Telephone Industries Association), John Ferari (Synergy Enterprises) and Chad Furst (Booz Allen Hamilton).
At the first table, Barbara Burnfeild was running the conversation. She gave an interesting talk regarding resumes and cover letters. Here is a list of her main points and actions you should do to make your resume and cover letter look its best.
-Do research on the potential employer: before sending in anything, do some research on the organization you want to work for. Look to find their mission and their values and from there this information will help you choose the right resume format.
-Figure out which resume format to use: The two resume styles that are commonly used are the chronological resume and the functional resume. Chronological emphasizes the recentness of the work experience and the functional focuses mainly on your skill sets gained from your school and work experiences. Some industries have their own specific style if need be change your resume to work with the format.
-Follow P-A-R: PAR stands for Performance, Action and Resolution. This acronym can be used to help you organize your thoughts and concisely provide information in your experience section explaining what you actually did at that internship one summer. By following this outline, the employer will truly get a sense of the skills you learned and why you could be helpful at the office every day.
-Find someone to spell check and grammar check: Burnfeild emphasized that if a recruiter sees a grammar or spelling mistake, your resume will likely be thrown out. Find a go-to person who is good at spelling and grammar to set yourself up well in your resume.
-It’s OK to ditch the cover letter: Burnfeild explained that cover letters are not always necessary and that some recruiters will just throw them out. You should only use a cover letter if you have been personally referred to the organization, you know the recruiter, or the organization specifically asks for one. Keep the letter to the point and don’t rehash your resume!
Next I went to the table where Kate Miller spoke about utilizing social media advantageously. Miller shared a lot of helpful advice about being mindful and careful with social media so that you can create and present a mature and polished media front on the internet.
-Create public and private accounts on all of your social media outlets: It is always a good idea to make two accounts on social media so that posts or pictures that could be compromising for an employer aren’t easy to find. On your public accounts act professionally and know that it is ok to post very little. Utilize these professional accounts to display that you are hungry, excited and willing to learn new things.
-On LinkedIn, write a concise bio: The bio section of your LinkedIn should be a concise but interesting representation of who you are. It might take a few drafts to write but in the end, this is one of the most important pieces of information that you need to convey to a possible employer. Take your time and finesse it!
-Utilize social media posts to engage with specific industries of interest: Miller talked about the fact that everyone should read the news every day. A good way to catch an employer’s eye and set yourself apart from others is by reading stories and staying up to date on major events and changes in the tech, or energy industry. Once you find something interesting on your public professional page, post something brief about what has occurred and link the article. These simple steps can help you utilize social media to your advantage.
The third table was where John Ferari sat and gave a more interactive lecture on personal branding. Ferari a graduate of University of Florida, has a love of visual art and described how his passion for art helped him with his personal branding and finding a style that helped him to show his personality and be unique.
-Design a website that has a consistent theme: Creating a beautiful and consistent design for your website that is aesthetically appealing is a great way to brand youself. Utilizing sites like Squarespace and following the basic templates is a good place to start. If you are more creatively inclined, you could design something for yourself!
-Make the website easy to navigate: When designing your website, make sure that everything is easy to navigate. Tabs on the website that lead the viewer to another page should be laid out simplistically. A few things to include in the tabs are your resume, a bio with a headshot and at the bottom of the site include links to your social media sites.
Lastly, Chad Furst, a recent graduate from the University of Florida talked about networking and how to succeed in face to face interaction when looking for a work opportunity. Furst provided an engaging conversation and reminded us that you simply need to be yourself.
-Be ready to share your story: It is always good to prepare and think of how you are going to present your “elevator pitch”.
-Don’t talk all the time, listen too: Sharing your story is a must but sometimes it is good to just listen to the person you are talking to and let him or her share. You may learn something new and it will make you look professional and amiable.
-Don’t email your contact person only when you need something: It is NOT a good idea to only email and try to talk to your contact person when you want something from them. Make sure you attempt to make contact with them a few times before you really need something of them.
-Find ways to continue the conversation over email: In the same vein of keeping contact before you need something, email your contact person about something of interest. A good suggestion is to email them with an article about something that affects their industry. Something as small as that shows that you are engaged in the business while also allowing the contact person to better get to know you.
I really enjoyed the conversations and found them to be helpful and enlightening as to what modern employers are looking when considering hiring applicants. The event was very successful and reiterated the concept that we simply need to be ourselves and be confident in what we have to offer to the world.