Three Tidbits I Gained from Speaking with an Informational Interviewer

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This past summer I had the amazing opportunity to spend several months in Washington D.C.  working as a communications intern for the United Nations Foundation. I had a fantastic experience working in for a global NGO and experiencing the great sights and sounds of our nation’s capital. This experience was also an important stepping stone towards my goal of working for a public relations agency following graduation. As part of my efforts to reach this goal, I made plans to learn as much as I could about the public relations agencies located in the D.C. area. Next, I set up several informational interviews with various professionals and our visits ranged from quick stop-by office tours, to food truck lunch picnics and many, many cups of hot chocolate (my substitute for coffee). I found each conversation to be enlightening and enjoyable but one conversation in particular with a recruiter at a top agency really stood out to me in comparison to the others I had during the course of the summer. Here are a few of the insights I gained from this particular recruiter:

“Connect with recruiters first, employees second.”

Many times students will connect with an employee, expecting that the professional will hand them a job or an internship right on the spot. While this certainly is possible, it is far more likely that you’ll have to go through a process of waiting, applying, interviewing and negotiating before you actually land a position. Instead of just reaching out to a specific employee, the best approach is to begin with human resources. When you send an employee your resume, the eventual next step is to pass it along to the HR representative who will oversee the hiring process. Sometimes well-intending professionals may forget to pass along your resume, undoing all your hard work and leaving you clueless as to why the opportunity didn’t pan out. By sending your resume to both a recruiter and an employer, you give yourself the best shot at being considered as a candidate for a job or internship. Besides, establishing a relationship and a connection with a recruiter will keep you top of mind for the future jobs as well.

“The first thing I look for on a resume is experience in PRSSA.”

There you have it folks. These were the exact words from the recruiter about what stands out to them on a resume. Your involvement in PRSSA does set you apart as you graduate and the experiences you gain make you far more attractive as a candidate for any internship or entry level position. I hope that you each understand that your involvement in PRSSA is crucial for launching a successful career and that a strong pre-professional Society is vital for the development of our industry. As mentioned in the 2016 Holmes Report, talent is the biggest challenge for this industry — and PRSSA is an ideal environment to discover and develop the talents necessary to succeed as a public relations professional. No other organization can enhance your education, broaden your network or help you launch your career in the ways that PRSSA can.

Agencies often use our website to locate Chapter presidents and faculty adviser information as they plan out recruiting trips.

For those of you who have participated in our Phone Email Outreach Tree initiative, pat yourself on the back if you have stayed in communication with PRSSA National and updated your Chapter information. I shook my head when I heard that this particular recruiter had struggled to establish contact with a few schools when attempting to schedule campus visits to recruit for the agency’s internship program. What a missed opportunity! By simply keeping your Chapter’s information up to date and accessible you do your part to ensure that recruiters and professionals are able to find you when they are looking for potential employees.

My experiences over the summer helped me to understand and value informational interviews. It also reaffirmed to me how many professionals out in the “real world” understand the value of PRSSA and look to hire our students. As students, we must always be willing to ask questions and dive deeper into the nuts and bolts of this industry and should actively seek to create opportunities to listen and learn. I hope that each of you make time to do informational interviews and to learn from the professionals, hiring managers and recruiters about what it takes to succeed as a public relations professional.

Andrew Cook, 2017–2018 PRSSA National president, is a native of Columbus, Ohio and a senior at Brigham Young University (BYU) studying public relations with a minor in global business. Andrew is passionate about approaching social issues with the perspective to “do good better” and spent his summer in Washington, D.C. at the United Nations Foundation working on the Nothing But Nets campaign to end malaria. Andrew enjoys eating chocolate chip cookies with friends, sharing crazy #Cookfamily moments on social media and setting aside #QuietTime each day to stay energized.

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