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Job hunting Dos and Don'ts for public relations professionals

Feeling restless and unappreciated in your current work environment? Thinking about that “dream job” you’ve always wanted? Getting a great job in public relations is not rocket science, but it does take time and effort.

As a former public relations professional and current Talent Manager for Canada’s largest public relations firm, resumes land in my email box every day. Some arrive as a result of candidates applying for jobs. Others come from people seeking unadvertised opportunities. Many are forwarded from current and former colleagues recommending a friend or acquaintance for consideration.

I review every resume, and try to respond as tactfully as possible, so that people asking questions get answers that could potentially help them land a job. Not everyone is invited to our Firm for an interview; some people don’t have the right qualifications or experience. There are some simple steps, however, that can maximize the chances of getting invited for an interview, acing the interview, and securing a job.

1. Visualize the dream job. Are you an adrenalin junkie, hooked on revolving media relations assignments or crisis communications? Or, do you prefer the extreme focus of promoting one corporate brand? What are your strong suits? Writing? Event planning? Media training? New business? Have a vision of the type of work you want to do.

2. Prepare a straightforward resume. Keep it simple and honest, showing job experience, education, and volunteer pursuits. Don’t use more than two adjectives to describe your expertise in particular areas. Ensure faultless spelling; a communication job demands it!

3. Apply where you would aspire to work. Not all public relations firms are the same. Neither are corporations. Do research about the firms or corporations for whom you might want to work. If your calling is public service, think about government or one of the increasingly important non-government organizations or advocacy groups. Choose employers you would most like to work for, and jobs that fit your dream.

4. Ace the job interview:
Dress to impress. Wear the most professional looking garment in your closet. Make sure it’s clean. First impressions are lasting.
Grooming is not just for pets! Hair and nails should be flawless.
Be on time. When a candidate is tardy, everyone begins the interview with a bad taste in their mouths. In debating the worthiness of one candidate over another, being late can be the deal breaker.
Shake hands firmly. There is nothing worse than extending a hand to a dead fish. A confident shake says you are up to the task and eager to work.
Make direct eye contact. Indirect glances across the table express insecurity and shiftiness.
As a communicator, you need to know the news that is shaping the world and the potential employer on the day of the interview. Read the news in print or online to get informed. You will likely be grilled on the headlines.
Ask questions…employers want to see that you are curious and engaged.
Have a story to tell. Know in advance what you want the prospective employer to learn about you.

5. Follow the interview with one thank-you email. Don’t pester the employer; it’s annoying. Second and third interviews are often conducted weeks after the first. Relax. Your dream job is out there. Just go and get it!

Sandra Upeslacis is the Manager of Talent Retention and Acquisition at NATIONAL Public Relations, Canada’s largest public relations firm with more than 325 employees in nine offices across Canada, in London and New York. . Email, [email protected]

Karen Pierce Gonzale

Great post! Had to laugh because I've interviewed potential assistants and can tell you I've been amazed! A few have been prepared, but most of them aren't. I remember one applicant who explained to me that she wanted to work with me so that she could turn around and promote her own fledgling business. Another candidate had none of the job description qualifications but promised that he was a quick study and, if given a few weeks of on the job training, could figure it out. nSo thanks for offering these words of wisdom! nBest, Karen

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