Sunday, March 22, 2009

How are YOU differentiating yourself in the job market?

Tomorrow, I will be participating in a podcast discussing the difficulties upcoming graduates are facing in the job market, and how to differentiate yourself.  The conversation will be hosted by Peppercom's Co Founder Steve Cody and COO Ted Birkhahn, and I will be among one of a group of senior PR students answering questions.

(For those of you who aren't familiar with Peppercom, it's a PR agency which offers global communications services with offices in New York, London, Chicago and San Francisco. It was also ranked by the Holmes Report as one of the nation's best places to work for three consecutive years, which is why I'm hoping to intern there this summer!)

I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about what advice I can give my fellow upcoming graduates.  With the media constantly in our faces about how bad the economy is and how impossible it's going to be to find a job when we graduate, it's hard to stay positive about our future! We've all worked hard through college, we have internship experience, and we're almost done earning our degrees... so now what?

No matter how bad things get, the fact of the matter is - there are still jobs out there.  You just need to be able to differentiate yourself and prove to potential employers why you are the best one for the position.  Competition is fiercer than ever, but rather than getting discouraged and resigning yourself to move home with mom and dad in a few weeks - do something about it

Here is some of my humble advice, based on personal experience and recommendations I've gotten from professors and fellow students:
  • Use your network! HR departments get hundreds of resumes and cover letters a day, why should they read yours?  Talk to professors, other students, family friends - see if anyone has any connections that might be useful to you.  This may sound like you're just using people, but based on my experience people are more than happy to help if they can.
  • Do your research.  If there is a company you're interested in working for, know them inside and out.  Read their blog, follow them on Twitter, find out everything you can about them.  Being knowledgeable about a company will set you apart from other candidates when applying for a job.
  • Be proactive. After living and interning in NYC last summer, I knew it was where I wanted to be after graduation.  So, in December, I flew up for a few days for informational interviews with a few companies I researched and was interested in.  Just showing your face and talking with someone shows your interest and can teach you a lot about a company, more than you could ever learn from their website.
  • Be open-minded.  Don't just look at big agencies, research smaller companies and internal communications positions.  There are a lot of opportunities in public relations, so look outside your comfort zone to find other jobs than you had imagined you would be looking for.  
  • Intern! By now, we all should have internship experience, but you can never have too much.  There's nothing wrong with interning after graduation, and you never know where your connections with a company may lead you.  
  • Immerse yourself in the industry and keep up with the trends. There is so much to learn about public relations outside the classroom, it's almost intimidating.  Spend time every day reading relevant news articles, follow the latest social media trends.  I learn so much every day just by clicking through links on my Twitter feed.  There are so many knowledgeable professionals out there with great information, so follow them!
Hopefully some of this has been helpful.  I'm really looking forward to hearing what other seniors have to say, and am so honored to be participating in this! I'll post links once the podcast is finished.

I'd also love any feedback on what you are doing to differentiate yourself, or just any thoughts in general on this topic!


  1. Hey Jessica! This is great! I am in the New Media program at UGA and I am building a website to house my portfolio and resume so that I can send everything out at once and showcase my skills at the same time. :)

  2. Kaitlyn,That's wonderful! If I could go back and do anything different, I would want to get a New Media certificate.
    PS - keep up the good work with the CVB blog! :)