This January, PRSSA is hosting its first-ever Career Development Month. Everything this month revolves around one central theme: “Launch Your Career.” As public relations pre-professionals, we are all eager to learn and network in these formative college years so that when it’s our time to enter the workforce, we’ll do so successfully.
Whether you’re looking to launch your career by holding your first internship or by obtaining a job at your dream company, you likely have many tools at your disposal including the vast network you’re likely to build through PRSSA. But what if your network doesn’t include your dream employer?
That’s where informational interviews come in.
Jay Magee, APR, client services manager at Community Hospice of Northeast Florida and a previous president of the PRSA North Florida Chapter, says informational interviews are “your chance to begin selling yourself, building your own personal brand, discerning potential career directions and forming career goals and values.”
These interviews are a gateway to an internship. Whether it gives you the networking opportunity you need to get that position or is a chance for you to find out if this really is the company of your dreams, obtaining one of these interviews takes time and effort. Like any other part of career development, it’s an investment that will pay off in the long run, so invest wisely, says Magee.
So how do you get one of these opportunities? Magee recommends seeking opportunities such as luncheons to network in-person with PRSA members.
“Public relations is about relationship-building, so seek face-to-face opportunities with the people at your dream companies, and you’ll have an advantage over the rest,” Magee said.
If an in-person meeting is not possible, that’s okay. Connecting online on LinkedIn can work to your advantage. Magee recommends personalizing the connection request or InMail, as opposed to using a generic greeting. If these individuals are alumni of your university or a part of PRSA in a different city, don’t be afraid to mention those “points of commonality,” as Magee says; they’re great conversation starters.
Regardless of how you connect with a professional, ask if they would mind setting up a brief 10-minute conversation. If they say yes, seek to learn as much as possible about them, their industries and their firms. Be genuinely interested in what they do, and ask for advice. After the call, or visit to their office, if you’re able to arrange one, keep in touch.
“Many professionals want opportunities to give back to the next generation of professionals, but we get so busy we don’t seek them. Give us the opportunity!” Magee said. “Be consistent, and consistently interested, and you may find a new mentor who, like a strong internship, can enrich your career for decades to come.”
Veronica Mingrone is the 2015–2016 vice president of career services, and a senior at the University of Florida. Follow her on Twitter @veronica_min.