Whether you’re a student planning your higher education and eventual career, you want to make a career change to something you’re passionate about, or if you’re looking for a side hustle, you might be one of the like lucky few who will one day call themselves a communications professional.
If you’re dreaming of starting a career in communications or public relations, you might be wondering about the first steps to take. In this blog post, I’ve compiled some tips to help you move in the right direction to secure your first communications job.
Six tips to help you get your first communications job
Tip #1 – Complete communications education and training
Earning a university or college degree, diploma or certificate will give you the educational background you need to both excel in your communications job, and make you stand out in the job search. Further, a communications education is often listed as a requirement in many job postings.
What are some examples of communications education and training? As an example, I completed my honours undergraduate degree in communication studies at university, then went on to complete a postgraduate certificate in public relations at a college. I found the mix of university’s foundational, theory-based education with the hands-on training gained at college gave me the knowledge and abilites I needed when I join the workforce.
Tip #2 – Build your digital network
Digital networking is now more important than ever. Even if you do meet someone when networking in person, be sure to follow up to extend your connection beyond the face-to-face interaction by email or on LinkedIn.
Also, think strategically about the types of connections you’d like to establish. If you’re interested in working in a public relations agency, for example, look to connect with other professionals with that past or current experience.
Tip #3 – Hold informational interviews
Informational interviews are clutch when it comes to both networking and learning about the communications field. They involve meeting with another communications professional, such as a peer who you can learn from or someone senior to you, for an informal chat or a coffee.
Picking their brain about their background and the state of the industry, and understanding where job opportunities might exist either now or in the future, are just some of the key benefits of informational interviews. I actually got my first full-time communications job after making a good impression at an informational interview, and then being called back a month later when a job opened up on the interview subject’s team.
If you’re not able to meet someone for a coffee in-person, a virtual coffee date works too. Whether it’s virtual or IRL, always be on time, come prepared and send a thoughtful thank you message after the meeting.
Tip #4 – Volunteer or intern
What better way to learn about the communications industry, gain experience for your resume, and make connections than working in the field? Volunteering is a great way to learn your stuff and also support a cause or organization that benefits from your help. Interning, whether it’s paid or unpaid, is an awesome opportunity too.
In fact, I know people who did their training and education in a field other than communications, yet still started off their career with an internship. This experience served them very well as they went on to get a permanent communications job.
Tip #5 – Research the industry
Understand the part of the communications industry that you’d like to work in. There are many types of roles within the communications industry: Media relations, investor relations, internal communications, event planning, and digital or social media strategy. Online research, following thought leaders and industry experts on social media, and joining professional organizations (like IABC and CPRS) are great information sources.
Get to know which part of the industry interests you, then understand the relevant companies and communications agencies with opportunities that align with your interests. You might send your resume to one of these organizations in the near future!
Tip #6 – Prepare your resume
Crafting an excellent communication-oriented resume is the first step in getting a hiring manager’s attention.
Start your resume with a statement that highlights how your relevant skills will help the employer to understand the potential benefits that you could bring to organization, followed by keyword-laden bullets that highlight your specific skills and abilities.
Include how you have demonstrated or mastered key skills and abilities for communicators as previous jobs, volunteer roles or through education and training are described.
Some examples of key skills and abilities for early-career communicators to consider highlighting include writing, using software and online programs (like Microsoft Office, website development, social media and email marketing tools), working with teams, graphic design, project management, and even working at events.
Have a question about the tips I’ve shared above? Comment or email me and I’ll get back you. Good luck as you start out in your communications career!
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