Writing skills are highly prized by PR employers but if you’ve had three (or more) years of writing essays and dissertations, how do you go about changing your writing skills to be relevant to a PR career? Continue reading
Tag Archives: careers
Mentoring is a hot topic at the moment. Everyone is banging on about it, but what is it, and why should you be looking for a mentor?
Having a good mentor can be a real boost for your career. Someone with plenty of experience and knowledge to share can be a great sounding board when you have a work-based issue, and a guiding hand when you need a second opinion on the direction of your career. They may also have access to a network of people it would take you years to get to know so they will be able to open doors for you that previously would have been closed.
If you can join an established mentoring scheme that’s great, but there’s no reason why you can’t find a mentor independently. Preferably, someone you don’t currently work with as you’ll need to be able to discuss work issues without worrying about upsetting the apple cart. Perhaps an ex-colleague or boss you have admired, or approach someone in the industry you have seen speak at an event, or have read their blog and like what they say – they may say no, but they will be flattered to be asked and you never know, they might agree to it.
Have a think about what you want to get out of the mentoring relationship. Do you need help writing a decent CV and covering letter to get a job? Do you want someone to help you write a structured career plan, and help you achieve certain goals? Or do you need something a bit less formal and just an ear to chew on now and then? Make sure you establish both yours and your mentor’s expectations right from the start. It is also useful to set a time limit on the relationship – do you expect to be mentored for the entire length of your career by this person, or are you looking for someone to help you through, say, the next five years?
The onus should be on you to keep in touch with your mentor and make it easy for them to spend some time with you. Don’t expect them to chase you if they haven’t heard from you – they are doing you a favour by giving you their time so make sure you respect that.
The mentor should find mentoring you a rewarding experience and so it’s important that you update them regularly on your progress and be suitably thankful when they give you advice.
If you get the mentoring relationship right, it can be a fantastic way to get an experienced point of view and may make you think differently about how you can achieve your career goals.
Note: This post now also appears on PRcareers.co.uk along with lots of other useful PR careers advice.
So you’ve mastered the CV format and written a brand spanking new one following the the brilliant guidelines in my book but you’ve still got that pesky bit at the bottom to write – the bit most people call “hobbies”. So what do you do if you don’t actually have any hobbies? Should you leave that section blank? I think that everyone has something interesting to say about their pastimes and there’s a number of ways you can tackle it.
Firstly, don’t title that section “hobbies”. Continue reading
I often get asked advice by graduates looking to break into the PR industry so here’s my round up of useful articles for job-hunting grads:
- Turn up. If you can’t go to the interview for any reason, call the interviewer to apologise and explain so that they can give your slot to someone else.
- Be on time. Not 30 minutes early, not five minutes late. ON TIME. If you are unsure where you are meant to be going, do a trial run a few days before. If you get there very early on the day, go to a coffee shop and hang around until it is time for the interview. If you turn up early, the interviewer will feel under pressure to interview you then, when they may have other things to do. If you are late, you are wasting their time. Being late says “my time is more important than yours”. Not a great start.
- Dress smartly. If you don’t have a suit, buy one or borrow one. Polish your shoes. Have brushed hair and pay attention to your personal hygiene.
- Take a copy of your CV, along with anything else you have been asked to take – a portfolio of work for example.
- Do your research. Make sure you know what the company does. Find out as much as you can about the person interviewing you too.
- Read the job spec (assuming you have one) and the job advert, carefully. These will give you an idea of the questions you will be asked. If the job spec says that one of the requirements of this job is “a good eye for detail” they may ask you to give an example of when you have demonstrated that skill.
- Practise your handshake. A wet fish in your hand is not nice. Likewise, don’t try and crush your interviewer’s hand. Firm, but not bone-breaking, is best.
- Be interested. Don’t stare out of the window when they are talking to you, or pick your nose, or stare at your shoes.
- Be prepared to ask questions. At the end of the interview you will probably be asked if you have any questions. They may have already covered everything you need to know, but it’s best to have something to ask. Good questions include asking about their training opportunities, what the next stage in the interview process is likely to be, or when you are likely to hear from them.
- Remember that an interview is a two-way process. It is your opportunity to decide if you want to work for the company, just as much as it is their opportunity to find out if they would like to hire you.
Whether you’re a recent graduate looking for your first break into PR, or a seasoned professional wanting to make your next move, job hunting can be a total drag. Here’s ten tips for finding your next role.
1) Set yourself a specific time for job applications. If you’re out of work, then treat it like a 9 – 5 job. Get up, make a cup of coffee, turn on your computer and start hunting. Resist the urge to turn on the telly – Jezza Kyle is far too tempting. Take a break for lunch and then get back to it until the end of the working day. If you’re already in a job then set aside an hour every evening.
2) Do your homework. Before you apply make sure you understand the role and the company you are applying to. Reflect your research in your covering letter and make sure each application is specific to that particular company. Standard covering letters go in the bin. If you are applying through a recruitment agency this is a little more difficult, but try to make your application as relevant to the role as possible.
3) Keep a record. A recent graduate once told me that he’d worked out it was taking him, on average, 33 applications to achieve one interview for a PR role. That’s a hell of a lot of applications but it is not surprising. Competition for roles, particularly at entry level, is fierce. I generally advise graduates to aim for twenty five applications per week, and those people who are already in jobs to aim for one application a day. With that amount of correspondence you need to keep a record of who you have written to, which position you were applying for, whether you had a response and any other info that might be useful – like a copy of the job advert or role specification so you can refer to it if you’re called for an interview. Admin is tedious, but it will make your life easier in the long run.
4) Be persistent. 90% of the companies you apply to won’t even acknowledge receipt of your application let alone give you feedback if you’re rejected. Don’t take it personally. Replying to job applicants takes a huge amount of time and administration and for some firms it’s really low on their list of priorities. As a rule of thumb, if you haven’t heard back from a company in two weeks, you are unlikely to be called to interview. Don’t give up though. It may mean you’re not right for that role, but other positions make crop up that are more suitable so keep applying.
5) Apply speculatively. If you apply for a specific job you are competing against all the other people applying for that role. If you write to a company speculatively here is less chance that you will be competing against others and that your letter will stand out. Make it clear what you are available for – full time, part time, temporary, permanent, contract, internships etc. Ask them to keep your details on file for any suitable vacancies and if you haven’t heard back from them in three months, write again.
6) Network endlessly. Use social network sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to follow influential PRs and get yourself noticed. Go along to Tweet Ups, conferences and social events – lots of which are free to attend. Make a point of collecting business cards and connecting with the people you have met after the event.
7) Be realistic. If you’ve got two years of experience and are currently paid £25,000 a year, don’t apply for Director level roles paying £100,000. You’ll be wasting your time and that of the recruiter.
8) Dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s. Attention to detail is incredibly important when applying for jobs. Make sure you address your application to the right person, and spell their name correctly. Don’t just rely on spell check to pick up errors. Proof read your CV and covering letters several times before you press send, and make sure you attach the relevant documents to your email. Good writing and proof reading skills are required for most PR roles so it’s essential you can prove you have mastered the basics.
9) Pay it forward. If you spot a vacancy that would be great for a job hunting friend or acquaintance send them the link to the advert. Hopefully, they will return the favour.
10) Say thank you. If you get a personal response to your application – even if it is a rejection – write and say thank you. If you get an interview – even if you don’t get the job – write and say thank you. If someone introduces you to a contact who then offers you an interview, write and thank the referrer. Such a simple courtesy will make you stick in their minds and will make them more likely to recommend you again in the future. Thank you letters and emails are rarer than you might imagine and are a really easy way to build your reputation as a thoughtful and friendly person to work with.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Oooof. I really dislike this question. I think it’s a bit lazy, but a lot of interviewers ask it. They are looking to see how self critical you can be and whether you can give a balanced view. The strength side of things tends not to be too difficult, particularly if you have a job description or advert to work from. If they have asked for someone with a good eye for detail in the advert, it is a good idea to pick that out as a strength and give an example. So you could say something like “I am a stickler for detail. In my current role my colleagues always ask me to proof read their work as I am anal about typos and grammar.” The weaknesses element of this question is more difficult. The most common answer I have heard is “It can take me a while to get things done, because I’m such a perfectionist.” Yawn. I guarantee every recruiter has heard interviewees say that a million times. The basis of the answer is sound – pick something negative and turn it into a positive – but the answer itself is rather dull. So instead, pick something you know you are weaker on but that you are aware of and do something about. For example, you could say “I am terribly impatient and get annoyed when other members of the team don’t deliver in time, but I have learned over the years that everyone’s working style is different so I try to be more laid back about it now and offer to help the others so that we meet the deadlines.”
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Here, the recruiter is looking to see if you are flighty and if you are really committed to staying in this industry. Recently I interviewed some graduates for an entry level PR position. When asked this question one of the interviewees replied “Oh, I’d love to be teaching in a primary school.” They didn’t get the job. Declaring that your real passions lie elsewhere is not the best technique for interviews. Instead, you should make it clear that you would like to be in the industry you are interviewing for, and that hopefully you will have progressed into a more senior position. You are then reinforcing your commitment to the job and making it clear that you have ambitions to build on your skills and experience.
Why should we hire you?
How good are you at selling yourself? That’s what this question really means. This is your opportunity to give a comprehensive picture of why you are better than the other ten candidates they are interviewing. You need to find a balance between confidence and arrogance. Saying “I’m the best” is arrogant. Saying “I’m the best at my current firm and have handled some really difficult and demanding clients in the last twelve months so I think I could bring some useful skills and experience to your team” is confidence. Justify your reasons with examples of your past experience.
Why are there gaps on your CV?
If you have been out of the job market at some point, it is likely it will be picked up on in interview. The rule of thumb here is, be honest. You may have taken time out to have children, for example. Tell the interviewer that and that you now have excellent childcare arrangements and are committed to going back to work. In the last year, many people have suffered job losses and redundancies due to poor economic conditions. Redundancy doesn’t have the stigma it had ten years ago, so tell the interviewer you were one of several job losses in your firm and that although you were upset to lose your job, you realise your bosses had difficult decisions to make. If at all possible, tell the recruiter how you have kept your hand in, even when you’ve not been working. You may have continued to write a relevant blog, or kept abreast of your sector’s media coverage. Make sure you make it very clear that you are committed to a long-term relationship with your next firm and that your break from employment was for genuinely good reasons.
Do you have any questions?
I have lost count of the amount of people who nothing to say at this point in an interview. Make sure you do your research before you go. Investigate the company website, check out their media coverage, ask people who have worked there before what the firm is like. Compile a list of questions to ask – and take it with you to the interview. At the end, when the interviewer asks if you have any questions you can pull out your list and refer to it. If all your questions have been answered in the course of the interview you can say “well, as you can see I did come with a big list of questions for you, but you have answered them all already, thank you!” It demonstrates that you have done your homework.