How to use social media to find that first PR job

Since I speak to a lot of student groups I thought I’d discuss a topic that comes up pretty regularly today with that crowd: How to use social media effectively to help you find that first job.

The primary issue for recent grads is they know HOW to use social media for personal use–to chat with friends, to find information, and to coordinate events. But, when it comes to using social media to achieve a certain goal, that’s a little different.

Social-Media-and-the-job-search

And, I also think recent grads just don’t know where to start. And no one within their academic institution is helping them along with this.

So, I will.

Here are four ways I would suggest using social media to find that first job (keep in mind, I’m not saying social should be the primary way you find a job–but instead simply a set of tools to help you along the way):

Establish a digital home base

For many, this is going to be LinkedIn. For a much smaller number of students/grads, I think this could be a blog. But, let’s start with LinkedIn since that’s the primary “home base” for the lion’s share of grads. What’s interesting to me is the amount of recent grads with NO LinkedIn profile at all. If you fall in that camp, I’d recommend changing that ASAP. LinkedIn is often the FIRST place hiring manager and HR will look for information about you. When they look and find nothing (or an incomplete profile), what do you think that says about you? The fact is: A complete, optimized LinkedIn profile is table stakes in today’s job search environment. I know for students you don’t have a lot of prior job experience to list, but that’s no excuse. List jobs you had in college (both relevant to PR, and those that might not be). List professional organizations you’re a part of (PRSA, etc.). And make sure to include widgets for your blog (if you have one) and Slideshare (for prezos you may have given in school or as part of PRSA, etc.). Be sure to have a short, but punchy, summary. And, I’d also recommend sharing stories/links on LinkedIn regularly–it proves you’re an “active participant” on the social network (and employers like active participants). Bonus points: Ask a couple of your favorite profs–and maybe even a student leader or two within your school–to write you a recommendation. My guess is very few recent grads have recommendations listed given their lack of professional experience, so this is a nice way to separate yourself from the competition.

 

Start a blog–today

One of the refrains I hear from college students is: “I’d like to start a blog, and know it’s important, but would I blog about?” My response: Anything. Blog about PR. Blog about cookies. Blog about running. The point is: Start blogging now. Why? The reasons are myriad: 1) It’ll hone your writing skills. Blogging 2-3 times a week will help you become a better writer–which is a key skill among younger pros. 2) It’ll also help you refine your creative process (coming up with 2-3 posts a week isn’t easy). And, the longer you blog, the more it shows deep commitment (keeping a blog up-and-running also isn’t easy). 3) Finally, it’ll also give you a great tool to showcase in the interview process. What better way to showcase your writing skills than to show the potential employers samples from your blog? You could even write posts ABOUT the potential employer prior to your interview that you could showcase in the interview (5 reasons I think COMPANY X is doing a great job with PR). I mean, what employer wouldn’t love that in an interview? But, the big X factor here is differentiation. How many recent grads have long-standing blogs? I’m guessing not many. 1 in 10 maybe? I’m no math major, but I think 1 in 10 (a complete guess, by the way) translates to 10%. Be the 10%. Increase your hiring odds. Start a blog. Now.

 

Use Twitter to network–and show your personality

I often tell students if I were 22 again, I would be thrilled with the current environment. Why? Because tools like Twitter have completely flattened the playing field and put me on the same level with my peers. With Twitter, you now have access to CEOs of agencies, HR specialists at Fortune 500 companies and other employees who might work for that employer you’re targeting. That simply didn’t exist when I graduate. I had little idea who many of these people were. Now, you can talk to them in real-time online whenever you’d like. Now, I’ll grant you, getting their attention can be a challenge. But the fact remains: The opportunity is there (and again, not everyone is taking advantage). Grab it. Start Twitter lists of agencies you’re targeting in your job search. Start another list for employees who work at that agency (cross reference with LinkedIn and use Google to find Twitter accounts). And start yet more lists to find recruiters at companies/agencies you’re targeting (you can also follow the #happo hash tag for job referrals every day on Twitter). Twitter is the ultimate door opener–use it to meet colleagues before the interview, as a precursor to coffee meet-ups and as a way to get to know others in the PR industry.

 

Use social to build a REAL network

It’s great to have 10,000 followers on Twitter. But you know what’s better? To have a network of people in the community you live in that are willing to help you out at a moment’s notice. Ask my friend Heather Cmiel, who recently relied on her network to help her find her new gig at Bellmont Parnters PR (she even blogged about how she relied on said network in this MN PRSA blog post). I suggest using social tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and your blog to grow that “in person” network? How? By using Twitter and LinkedIn as door openers to coffees–where you can really connect with people. Remember, you’re most likely going to find that first job (and subsequent jobs thereafter) via your in-person network. Those people who you’ve met face-to-face. Who know your full name. Who know a bit about your experience. Who believe in you. That kind of depth can’t usually be facilitated on Twitter or LinkedIn alone. But, you can use these tools to get people to meet with you IN PERSON, where you CAN nurture that kind of relationship. And remember, once you do get a few coffee meet-ups, don’t treat them lightly. Prepare, prepare, prepare. I wrote a whole post about the coffee meet-up a couple years ago. Twitter/LinkedIn are door openers. The coffee meet-up is in entree. And it’s up to you to close the door.

6 comments
Kate Johnson
Kate Johnson

I found this post extremely helpful being a public relations student myself because I am only familiar with the social aspect of social media. I never thought about how it's not important how many followers you have but mostly who they are. I'm glad that I know now that it's really important to network.

mlohr
mlohr

Great post Arik! I follow Communications Conversations religiously and have incorporated many of your pointers into my day-to-day. Question. I have several years experience in corporate PR and want to transition to agency life. Any advice for a mid-level PR professional trying to land first agency gig?

MichelleLim1
MichelleLim1

I never would have thought how much impact social media has on helping us to land a job, especially the part about starting a blog. Thank you for the advice, it really opens up my eyes to the importance in optimizing my engagement with social media.

MikeSchaffer
MikeSchaffer

Awesome advice! The point you made about many new grads understanding social platforms for personal use but not for professional use is a huge stumbling block so many entry-level folks face. Understanding the marketing potential is critical. Also, a "fresh" LinkedIn profile isn't a bad thing when you just graduated. Nobody is expecting you to have 33 internships and jobs right out of school. Although I do believe @samanthabankey had that many.

JasMollica
JasMollica

Thanks for writing this, Arik. Your post should give students a really good primer to "righting" their social media ships. The fact that you mentioned LinkedIn first is huge. Way too many student have incomplete or no profiles at all. I wish most colleges/universities would stress LinkedIn's importance in the job hunt. 

SamanthaBankey
SamanthaBankey

 @MikeSchaffer  Haha, thanks Mike! Not 33 though... Not all of my undergrad experiences were "internships" but some were jobs that catapulted me into the field and gave me great experience. If those count, then there were 14. Quantity isn't the matter though - just one internship may be the ticket to a great career!