Tips for summer grads, new interns – landing that first job

Summer is a time when many college seniors pack up their dorm room for the last time, proudly change their tassles from one side to the other and enter the so-called “real world.” 

For those who are prepared, they have at least a few internships and a little industry experience under their belt.  Others might just use their formal education or apply their real-world experience to use as a launching pad to land their first paying gig.  

Obviously, Liza and I have been on both sides of the interviewing process.  We all had to start somewhere and have a few painful interview experiences of our own to share.  And on the flip side, Liza and I spent much of our time reviewing resumes and writing samples and interviewing potential interns and account managers during our time as agency department supervisors. 

Even now that we are out on our own, we still meet with and chat with up-and-coming public relations professionals, and we are happy to lend any advice we have to those who are entering the field…With that said, I thought it would be helpful to jot down a few lessons we’ve learned along the way.

I’d love to hear from others who can add to this list. Any advice to give our future PR leaders is always appreciated!

Here are a few tips – the first few are a given:

  • Be on time.
  • Get involved in your local PRSA– You can obtain a wealth of experience by attending professional development events, volunteering on committees and being available to assist with upcoming luncheons, events and communications inititatives.
  • Dress like you would for an interview at your dream job – Those tank tops and capri pants can be awful cute, I know, but dress it up a little for an interview – even if it’s just an “informational interview.”  And if your new employer has a casual dress code, then by all means sport the tanks at work!
  • Be courteous – Thank the person for their time and consideration.  These days it’s hard to find a minute to spare.  If someone has taken time out of their day to steer you in the right direction, thank them.  This can be at the end of the meeting, but I also think it’s great to send a quick e-mail, while others would prefer an actual “Thank You” card delivered to them via snail mail.
  • Be flexible – When you start out you will most likely be asked to do things you don’t want to do, including answering the phone, making coffee or ordering lunch…Do it with pride!  Even with 20 years experience, you’ll be asked to do things that might not fall under your job description, so just get used to it! 
  • A good attitude and persona can be equally important as someone with an impressive job history.  If you are genuine and really like what you do, it will show and people will want to work with you and include you in a variety of projects that can make you a superstar in your field.
  • Make the most of your current situation – Are you sending out memos and press kits all day and not getting as much time as you’d like in front of a client or at brainstorming meetings?  Well, be sure to read the memos and news releases to get familiar with language, style and client preferences.   When you do get your shot at a client meeting, you’ll already be way ahead of the game.  Also, if you are a waitress, an administrative assistant or a cashier, see if you can use some tactics you learned at school to help promote a small event or personnel announcement at your place of work.
  • Position yourself as an invaluable resource – Don’t focus on what this potential job can do for you and your career, position the situation as an opportunity where you can do great things for your employer.
  • Don’t badmouth your previous position– Look, I know how it feels to be stuck in a job that you don’t like but no one else cares.  If you slam your job in front of me, how do I know you aren’t slamming me when you’re speaking to someone else?  Save the drama for whine and cheese parties with your closest buds.

And last but not least, remember that those who you are interviewing can be instrumental in helping you land your first job, but if they aren’t impressed by you, they can be just as instrumental in not helping you.

Congrats to all the summer grads and good luck!



1 Comment

  1. Great advice here, especially when it comes to being flexible. As a fresh graduate, you have to be more open to shifting your hours around or accommodating to your new job in ways you might not have originally planned on. This is not bad! It’s a part of life, and as the author here stated, it’ll happen later on as well.

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