Public relations is exactly what it sounds like — creating relationships in the public eye. Although the industry is projected to grow and evolve in the coming years, finding a good job in the industry, after years of studying, and ‘studenting’, can be a frustrating endeavour. Here are some of the things I have learned along the way when looking to launch my own PR career – advice that our lecturers in varsity may have left out of their lecture plans:  

Networking

Networking is an essential skill that every young PR professional should have. More importantly it may even help you land your first job or move up in the industry! Starting to build a network very early in your career is of pivotal importance, it is essential to always do your research and connect with people whose work talks to you and appeals to your personal brand. This will assist you in creating new relationships and to build up a series of connections within the industry.

You are basically moving to a new town and you don’t know anyone. With this in mind you need to get involved and start attending networking events in the industry, and while at these events it is important to introduce yourself and start conversations with other professionals. Strive to create a great first impression that they will remember when a job opportunity arises in their company.

You must join organisations such as the Public Relations Institute of South Africa (PRISA), as these organisations hold many events that are attended by industry professionals –and will allow you the opportunity to discover new agencies, new people and new opportunities. And of course, don’t forget about creating your own digital footprint – a one that showcases your professional outlook and aspirations. Try LinkedIn, as a start, and connect with other PR professionals. They can view your curriculum vitae through your profile, and get a better feel for your interests, expertise and skills – which is a great way to promote yourself. Start networking today!

Volunteering

Through my own experience volunteering offers a great platform to build young professionals’ career.

Think about it, what better way to gain actual work experience – and put all the theory you have learned in varsity into practice – not to mention boost your CV and demonstrate your own commitment to a strong work ethic.

We always hear the term ‘work experience’ and I believe that through volunteering you can still build your curriculum vitae and gain the work experience needed – so when that first interview at your dream PR company comes along, you will have something to show for it! This will not only make you a more attractive hiring candidate, but it will show your growth potential and lengths you took to learn more by refining your skills in the field.

The rewards of volunteering are endless, but perhaps most importantly is that it offers a ‘hands-on’ experience which makes the learning experience more broader. The skills that one gains through volunteering are skills that are transferable. These particular skills will also be necessary to advance your career – think about it, the skills you gain access to range from people interaction and time management skills, interpersonal skill development, customer service, listening and delegation skills. The experience will also offer you some insight into areas like entrepreneurship, leadership and motivation, which are important in establishing yourself and your career.

So, go make a difference – it carries a great personal return on investment.

Building your personal brand

Effective personal branding will differentiate you – but as you know it will mean consistently establishing and reinforcing what you stand for in your career and who you are. Our generation is often labelled as ‘entitled’ within the industry and one of our goals is to shatter this belief by proving that we actually have the talent and work ethic to move forward – and succeed on our own merit. You are a brand!

This means that today your brand is often summarised by your online presence and not just your personal interactions. So, it is important to note how you present yourself, online and offline as all this supports your resume and CV. It is essential to lay a solid foundation for your imminent career.

It today’s digital age, your online presence is often your first impression because a huge chunk of our lives are documented online. You need to monitor your online presence – your social profiles are a search engine away from your future employer. It is important to remember this and be more aware of what you post online – proactively search your name and see what will appear and measure whether you would employ yourself if the roles were changed?

Whether you use your personal brand to find a job or build your professional network, it is important to create a brand that shows your professional experience and personality.

So, go make a name – you are proud of – within the industry!

So, as we celebrate Youth Month – be proud to be a young professional who is looking to further your career. But remember, focus on learning – as your willingness to learn will lead to far more opportunities that you can imagine and helps you to gain a deeper understanding of the industry you want to work in. More importantly remember it is okay to be rejected, just don’t be discouraged. You can’t win them all but keep on working hard and making connections and the wins will definitely come!

Happy Youth Month to all young professionals – the industry awaits the phenomena that is you!

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