The Experts Speak: Ten Strategies for Getting a Job after College

By: Mary Vaughn, Jimmy Davis, Jeremy Fyke, and Nathan Webb

As part of a research study, we interviewed 25 corporate communication professionals about what they seek in new employees. We promised confidentiality for the study, so we won’t include their names, but we pulled some direct quotes from the interviews of these local professionals about how you can prepare for your job search in the communication field

1. Show Initiative

  • “Start a blog… you have to produce something that will show future employers that you have initiative… with the digital age, you don’t have to wait for someone to hire you, you make it yourself.” (Account Manager, Public Relations Firm)
  • “Don’t wait to be a professional, join your industry right now.  You’re a student, it’s like having a magic pass at Disney.  No one will tell you no.  You can go anywhere, you can ask anyone, you can do anything.  Go.  Go be, go do, go make something happen!” (CEO and Talent Consultant)

2. Have Perfect (yes, PERFECT) Written Materials – Proofread many times and demonstrate your creativity

  • “If there’s a typo on a resume or cover letter, we throw it out…You know, we get so many a day that if there is a typo we think, okay you haven’t spent time and you don’t have the attention to detail that we need.” (Partner, Public Relations Firm)
  • “We’re probably the most expensive firm in town.  We can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes.”  (Partner, Public Relations Firm)
  • “[B]lack and white bullet points–it just doesn’t cut it anymore, really.” (Account Manager, Public Relations Firm)

3. Be Professional

  • “This last round of intern candidates we were having, there were some really good ones, who were just on time and sharp and put together and very professional, and then we had some that showed up in jeans and flip-flops and chewing gum, and it’s like, `Really?’”  (Partner, Public Relations Firm)
  • “I am surprised by how many students don’t seem prepared for the interview…we had someone who came in the other day and she was wearing sandals… and they don’t send a follow up note which to me… everybody kind of has to do that.” (Corporate Trainer)
  • “Yeah, it’s all I think when I interview anyone whether at entry level or not… how can I put them in front of a client? Will they present themselves well? Will they present well?  Are they going to say “like” every five seconds? (President, PR Firm)

4. Research the Company

  • It’s amazing how many interviews you have, and they know they are interviewing with us, and they haven’t looked up one thing about us.” (Director of Operations, Recruiting Agency)
  • “We have a lot of interns who come in who, it’s clear they don’t really know much about us…” (Senior Advisor and Communication Consultant)

5. Keep up with Industry and Current Events

  • “If your agency works in healthcare, read Modern Healthcare. If your agency works in fashion, read Women’s Wear Daily or The Business of Fashion. Everyone should read The Economist and The Wall Street Journal for general knowledge of what is going on in the world. School is a great time to become really informed.” (President and Founder, Public Relations Firm)
  • “We include a current events quiz as part of our interview process” (Partner, Public Relations Firm)

6. Network Now – Shadow, talk to professors and fellow students, join professional organizations, introduce yourself to guest speakers and convocation speakers; have a Linked-In account

  • “If you plan on being in Nashville and working in business, you need to go to every single stupid networking event that exists.  You need to meet every single person … it is all relational.  So, you got to go make those relationships.”  (Director of Project Development, Media Company)

7. Intern- Have multiple internships and be intentional with your placements

  • “[I]f you are applying for an internship or entry-level job, I would like to see at least three things that you’ve done professionally, three internships. Or one internship and two volunteer positions you had somewhere.  I tell the people all the time, if you can’t get an internship, call your favorite charity and ask to volunteer for an event, ask to do PR for an event, and they will let you every single time, and that is great experience and great for your resume.” (Partner, Public Relations Firm)
  • “My biggest regret was not spending more time researching who I wanted to have an internship with. My internships were great, but they were not able to hire me and they didn’t necessarily look that great on my resume.” (Corporate Trainer)

8. Take Advantage of College Experiences – Write for the newspaper, study abroad, peer tutor, be an organizational leader

  • “I want to see someone who’s not sitting back and letting the world happen to them, but they are going out and they are doing things. They’re proactive.  I love to see volunteer leadership activities, love to see that.”  (Partner, Public Relations Firm)

 9. Be Open-Minded – Don’t be boxed in by major, consider organizational vision

  • “You know we don’t really look for particular majors; you know we don’t actually. It’s more about experience.” (Manager, Training and Development)
  •  “When I was in college, I was very stressed out about making the right decision.  And I think looking back I can just see that you just do the next thing that seems interesting to you, and it leads you to a place where you are happy.” (Senior Advisor and Communication Consultant)
  • “They’ve done a lot of studies about how Millennials want more meaning behind their work.  There’s a lot of people who are just kind of jumping around, and quitting jobs, because they just don’t feel that they are actually doing something that is making a difference.  And, it sounds kind of selfish and entitled and whatever – but I think there’s more of a thing behind that… they just want to be a part of something bigger. And if your work can share that vision with you, regardless of what role you have in it, and if you can buy into that vision – I think it makes your life much more fulfilling, for sure.” (Marketing Specialist)

10. Expect to Pay Your Dues

  • “I did my best to exhibit that I was willing to do anything–grunt work– whatever it took to get my foot in the door.  I would go get coffee and you know.  I don’t think you can come out of college with any sense of entitlement.”  (Managing Director of Public Relations)
  • “You need to spend a couple of years writing press releases and get slick with style.  And then from there can hone your skills into something specialized, but if you’re not willing to put the time…” (Partner, Public Relations Firm)