I Graduated PR School in the Middle of a Global Pandemic: Now What?
On an average day, job hunting can be discouraging and we all know COVID-19 has created an environment that is anything but average.
Today’s graduates are now entering a tumultuous and unpredictable job market that will put immense pressure on job candidates to impress agencies with their capabilities and skill sets. Agencies will be looking for candidates who are hard-working, creative, and who have used COVID-19 as an opportunity for growth.
More than ever, agencies will be under scrutiny from their clients to produce high quality work at a faster rate and they will be looking for candidates who have the hustle to help them manage these new challenges. The post-COVID job landscape will be a terrain like no other, but here are some tips to help get your resume to the top of the recruiters pile.
Have an open mind: All experience is good experience
While you may have had a dream job in mind, it is likely it won’t be the first job you take. It’s important to remember that wherever your career takes you there are valuable lessons to be learned along the way, no matter what job or what position you are in. If you are offered a position that is not ideal, think about this offer critically. What can you take away from this experience that will help you after COVID-19? Are there parts of this job that you can leverage when applying to other jobs? Always remember that you can and should learn something from every experience. The more the better.
Research companies before applying
Take your time to research where you are applying. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself before applying:
- What does this company specialize in before and after COVID-19?
- Who are some of their notable clients in their portfolio?
- Have they won any awards or been recognized for any kind of campaign or client work?
- Are they part of any charity work? Do they do any pro-bono work?
- How many people work at this company? How fast have they grown in recent years?
- What is their mission and values as a company?
- Is the company pivoting to ensure they are adapting to the new normal of COVID-19?
- What were they hiring for before the pandemic?
In addition to researching companies, ensure you are following them on social media and staying current with their projects, culture and news.
Take advantage of free, informative webinars
Many agencies, corporations and organizations are currently offering online webinars to share their specialized knowledge. Utilize these free resources to educate yourself on new skills to prepare yourself for the workspace. Make a list of organizations you are interested in hearing from and browse their website and social channels to learn more about webinars or other services they may be offering. Ensure this list is diverse including PR, marketing agencies, media but also organizations like CPRS. Check out Major Tom who has a plentiful amount of helpful resources available on the hottest trends, companies and campaigns.
Further your experience in crisis management
In the wake of COVID-19, there will be no service more important than crisis management. Peppercomm Media noted “While most businesses have been trying their best to prepare for crisis scenarios, something like COVID-19 is unprecedented. Some 30% said their organization was “very” prepared for COVID-19 while 55% said they were “somewhat” prepared. However, almost half (44%) said their crisis communications plan did not specifically address an infectious disease outbreak. Meanwhile, 10% of respondents did not have a crisis communications plan at all”. Take the initiative to sign up online for classes and webinars that will help you strengthen your skills in crisis management. This is an extremely important service for clients and agencies will be drawn to candidates who demonstrate interest in this category or better yet, have experience with it.
Volunteer your time
If you don’t receive a job offer immediately, seek volunteer opportunities. Volunteering with an agency or a company can lead to a symbiotic relationship and rarely do these positions consume your entire work week. Businesses are hurting right now and many may not be able to add to their team. However, they can still offer thoughtful leadership and training to support your growth. Begin by asking agencies how you can help but also come prepared with recommendations. Updating media lists will be extremely important as media continues to shift in the coming months. Keep a diverse and up-to-date media list on hand to ensure you can properly support agencies when needed.
There is no harm in asking a company if they need assistance during the pandemic.
Continue to refine your skills
Read, write, repeat. If you are in between jobs and are looking for something new, make sure to continue developing your skills. Read something new each day from companies around the world. Draft your own response and communications plan to a crisis you see in the news. While you may not have a team to collaborate with, it's important to continuously train your brain to think in creative and new ways. You have never had more time than now and future employers will benefit from the work you put in during your offseason.
The best space to exemplify your work is in a creative way. If possible, create your own website where employers can view your work including press releases, communications plans, advertising campaigns, and more.
Utilize your peer network
There are many graduates in your position. It is important to continue conversations in your field, whether they are with former classmates or members of a community group. Share your writing pieces or responses to receive constructive feedback. Ask others what they have been working on while they have been looking for a job. Do you know others who found a job quickly? Ask them what they have done differently so that you can utilize these tactics. It can be a surprise to see who assists you in the future, so it’s important to continue to build these relationships.
Pressure makes diamonds, iron sharpens iron, and the early bird gets the worm. There are too many cliches to count, and more time to count them than ever. Your time will come and things will get better. Be patient and work to the best of your ability.
About the Author:
Leading the non-hospitality PR team at Blue Door, Kate Johnny is well-versed in media relations building relationships with outlets including Globe and Mail, Bloomberg, Financial Post and the Toronto Star.