Tips For PR And Marketing Grads Entering The Big, Scary World

May 20, 2011

It was one year ago today a former college professor emailed me about an internship opportunity at an integrated consumer marketing agency in Minneapolis.

The hiring process was fairly unconventional: Submit a resume, per usual, but along with it, a three-minute video cover letter. If you make it through interviews, show off your social media chops by earning the most Likes for your video cover letter via Facebook. Winner gets the gig.

Long story short, I didn’t arrive at Fast Horse through a traditional hiring process. (I probably wouldn’t have been hired if that was the case.) We just recently launched the 2011 Summer Intern Search, which has me thinking a lot about the boatloads of talent graduating college this spring, on the verge of entering the marketing and public relations world. My experience may have been unique, but I still think there’s plenty to be taken for those just starting the job hunt:

Don’t sell yourself short
Reading newspaper headlines, you’d think the meager American job market has taken unemployed college grads hostage. If you can find a job — take it, right? Not necessarily. It’s important to know your first job probably won’t be your last, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for something that’s clearly a poor fit. When you’re applying for jobs, ask yourself, “Could I spend two years here?” Think of your first job as the chance to adjust to the rigors of a full-time job. It’s a totally different ball game.

Professional development over income
Don’t let money dictate the jobs you pursue. Instead, consider professional development opportunities. What I knew about marketing and public relations before starting at Fast Horse could’ve fit in a shot glass. Here, I have been given chances to try and, sometimes, fail, all with the space and understanding I can learn and grow and do it better next time. You can take agency in your own professional development by seeking out mentors and continuing your college education, but nothing beats on-the-job training and a place that embraces trial and error. Although, a respectable income is nice, too.

It is who you know
Had I not stayed in touch with my college professor, I probably never would’ve discovered the Fast Horse internship opportunity. Make it a habit to recognize your mentors and understand the power of relationships and network and blah blah blah — I’m not saying anything you don’t know. However, there was a time after college where I saw relying on who I knew as a weakness. If I was going to get a job, I wanted to land it on my own merit. Now, I view my relationships as a testament to my abilities. Don’t be stubborn and go it alone. Be aware of the people who can vouch for you when an opportunity arises.

It’s not just who you know, though
Sure, knowing the right person might move the needle just enough to get you hired somewhere, but at some point, you have to show your worth. Know your skill set and and utilize your strengths. Recognize your shortcomings and look for opportunities to improve them. Project yourself as someone who brings a desirable set of skills, but will still jump at every opportunity to learn something new.