Spamming career web sites and job listings is an ineffective way to find a great job or internship. Instead, utilize the this simple strategies and your own initiative and you will make valuable contacts who may help you land your dream career.
1. Don’t wait for a public job listing or advertisement! Determine where you want to work and identify the person for whom you’d love to work. Check the company’s blog, explore the press/media room, follow the company and key professionals on Twitter, Instagram, etc. Google the company, research them on LinkedIn. I’m not telling you to be a stalker, just do your research. Armed with this information you can write a short cover email (or Twitter comment) about something the company said, wrote or did. Indicate that you would love to learn more about its work. Once you start a dialogue, write a note about an idea you have for a client. Down the road, email your resume and a well-written cover note explaining how you would be an asset to the organization. If you can provide a compelling reason why the company should hire you, you’ll be amazed to see them create a position for you.
2. Subscribe to the free email newsletters in your industry and related areas. For PR, the advertising, social media, PR and marketing trades are a great resources. When you see a new client win or other announcement from an agency or corporation, write a note of congratulations. The company or PR firm will probably staff up to service this new business. As a follow up, send your customized cover note and resume showcasing how you will be the perfect team member to help deliver results for this client.
3. Scan the business pages and executive moves section or site of your local newspaper. Every week, newspapers include executive appointment announcements (as do industry trades). I’m not looking for a job, yet I frequently drop a note of congratulations to new corporate communication and public relations executives I read about in the paper. Many have become guest speakers in my classes and several have hired my students for internships and jobs. Identify quotes from a company spokesperson and get to know them on LinkedIn or Twitter.
4. To connect with someone via LinkedIn, always include a personal message. Here are two examples: “I read about your new client” or “I loved your quote in The New York Times.“ Include a short sentence about who you are: “I’m a PR student with my own travel public relations blog,” or “I’m a junior-level marketing professional interested in crisis communication” or “I’m an alumna from your college and would love to learn about your career path and successes.” Never just blindly ask for a job or a “follow.”
5. Customize, customize, customize. When you do apply to job web sites or published job postings, be sure to CUSTOMIZE your resume EACH TIME. Include SEO key words used in the advertisement, in your cover letter, reference a specific achievement or skill that is relevant to the job, highlight a specific project or example that relates to the business need. Taking the time to make your resume and cover letter a specific fit for THAT position will increase your chances of getting a call back. And ALWAYS find a contact name (never “to whom it may concern”).
6. Send your resume snail mail. That’s right, don’t just apply online via the online career sites. Also find the HR executive, recruiter or your eventual boss and send a hard copy of your cover letter and resume in the mail. Professionals received hundreds of emails each day, but are less likely to receive resumes and writing samples via mail.
7. Volunteer. If you aren’t working now or if you need to fill an employment gap, volunteer. Working for your local PTA, non-profit association, political party or religious group will help you remain connected with potential references, employers and contacts. It will also help you to build timely and relevant portfolio and resume-friendly skills. Any fundraising, social media work, writing or leadership activities are employer friendly.
8. Consider graduate school or continuing education courses. Many quality graduate programs have been revamped their curriculum to include employment-ready skills and knowledge. Some programs are specifically designed to help career-changers or the unemployed. Identifying a professional program that works for you may also lead to additional internship and practicum opportunities, plus, many faculty have extensive professional connections and career resources.
9. Explore freelance and consulting work. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic downturns, many companies prefer to hire long-term temporary or freelance employees. While not always ideal situations, many of these can become a path to full-time career (if you are a STAR performer, companies WILL find the budget to keep you!). The experience and contacts you make at these organizations also become resume gap fillers and quality reference opportunities. You may also turn these “gigs” into your own consulting business!
10. Exercise patience. Take the time to develop a rapport with your new contacts. Don’t just ask for a job, ask them for their insights, tips, and advice. Help them learn who you are. Show you are insightful and smart, and good at tracking and spotting trends.
A job search may seem daunting, but by allocating time for networking and creative outreach, i.e. telling anyone and everyone that you are actively searching, you are opening yourself up to opportunities. Friends, customers, relatives and neighbors love to share their ideas, insights and contacts with friendly, confident, smart and positive people. With some initiative, creativity and a proactive approach, you can find a position that will lead towards your dream career. Attack your search with some goals in mind and execute a smart strategy to move you towards career success.
And when you do succeed, don’t forget to pay it forward and mentor aspiring professionals and students.
Lorra Brown is an associate professor at William Paterson University (WPUNJ). Brown develops and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in public relations management, strategic marketing communication and corporate social responsibility. Professor Brown serves as internship coordinator and Student Public Relations Association advisor for WPUNJ students. As former senior PR agency executive (Weber Shandwick, Ogilvy), Brown has spent nearly three decades providing career and leadership guidance to students and PR professionals.