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How to Start on the Right Foot in Your First PR Job: Advice from the Experts

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If you’re nearing graduation and biting your nails about scoring your first job, you’re not alone. Every graduate wants that dream job, but few really know how to get it. When it comes to getting the inside tip on transitioning into your first public relations role, you’re ready to pay attention. And who better to ask than the folks who have the jobs you dream of?

We tapped our expert network to get you the best tips to succeed in PR. These professionals have experienced firsthand the journey you’re about to embark on, and offer their own words of wisdom and lessons learned to make your trip a little less rocky.

Get Your Foot in the Door

You might not get the job you’re sure you’re qualified for as soon as you graduate, but as Mike Maney, influencer management consultant and founder of ManeyDigital, says: “Check your diploma at the door.” You might have to start at a lower level than you’d like, but the key is to learn from whatever role you are hired into.

Maney started as an administrative assistant for a top Executive Vice President at Ogilvy, a position he wouldn’t have taken if he had gotten stuck on wanting a better role. Instead, he saw everything, learned from it, and parlayed it into gradually more advanced roles.

Don’t Sweat the Details at First

Maybe you’ve mapped out the exact industry you want to work in, the role you want, and all the details of that first PR job you’re looking for. But Public Relations Consultant Paula Brici says it’s better to “Jump in and just start working…your career path will set itself.”

Brici explains: “Your first job(s) should tick some of your boxes – industry, responsibility, good people to work with, company culture, etc. – but it doesn’t have to tick all of your boxes. Not yet. You’ll get there.”

So leave some of your ideal dream job details a bit vague, and be open to where opportunity takes you.

Build on What You Learned in College

When you have little job experience, all you know is what college taught you. But as Susan Ditz, a Communications Consultant, says, what you learned in school is just the foundation.

“The most significant learning will take place on the job, so pay attention, do your homework and keep your eyes open. You have to pay your dues — be willing to do whatever you are asked with enthusiasm and if you’re not sure what’s expected, say so.”

You won’t be expected to know how to do everything fresh out of college, but a willingness to learn and an open attitude will take you far.

Focus on Delivering Stellar Service to Clients

If your first job is at an agency, remember that keeping your clients happy is more important than having market expertise and knowing the latest PR jargon.

“…exemplary client service and support is what your clients will love most about you — and it’s what they’ll come back for. If you say you’re going to do something, do it,” says Juli Greenwood, Communications Consultant at Greenwood Communications.

And if you work in PR for a private company, treat your boss like your client, and focus on overdelivering on your assignments each time.

Become a Media Junkie

Maney also says that if you’re not already addicted to media, you should get that way if you want to succeed in PR. He advises familiarizing yourself with a variety of media: “Everything from TechCrunch to WSJ to Politico to The Superficial. Make sure your knowledge of inane current events is a thousand miles wide.”

Subscribe to blogs and magazines. Watch television. Read books. Get to know who the journalists are in your industry so you can pitch intelligently when you have a relevant story.

The key to getting your first PR job is to be open to growth, because you’ll likely start from the bottom. How fast you work your way up is entirely up to you.

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