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Tips for Prospecting Your First Agency Job

Let’s be honest – job hunting can take a lot of time and effort, and perhaps a few tears of frustration. However, overcoming the obstacles and landing the job, particularly in our current, tumultuous climate, is extremely rewarding.

When I was approaching my final days at Ball State University, I realized I needed to take my job search seriously. The days left until graduation were dwindling and I needed to make decisions regarding my future career fast.

I combed through LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed and all the typical job sites, searching terms like “communications” and “public relations” in the hopes that my dream job would suddenly pop up. At that time, nothing remotely close to what I wanted seemed to be available and I was met with tons of “we regret to inform you” messages. Doubts began to fill my mind that I’d ever find a good fit.

At one point, I met someone who was well-versed in the public relations field at an event and he was able to recommend several organizations and agencies to look into – ones I hadn’t heard of during my time in college. Immediately following the conversation, I went to work checking agencies’ websites and reviewing their client lists, employees, mission statements, before applying to open positions. I landed an interview at Hirons not long after.

I know it’s even harder right now than it was for me, with the COVID-19 pandemic having sent both employers and soon-to-be graduates into a tailspin of uncertainty. Here are a few tips, based on both my experience and what the experts are saying about our present situation:

Know what you’re looking for (but be flexible)

This process will get even more complicated if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for. Write down a clear vision of the job you hope to obtain and the type of agency you’d ideally work for. This could include key phrases like a diverse staff, mission statement or goals that align with my own, fast-paced work environment, etc. Use those parameters as a starting point, visiting the websites of contenders directly rather than only looking at job boards. If you are unclear whether a job meets your requirements, apply and make sure to ask the necessary questions during the interview. Remember, your first job isn’t likely to be your dream gig – try to look for at least three positive things when making your decision to apply, even if they’re small.

Keep track of your prospects

As you search, maintain a list of all the jobs you would like to apply  to and/or have applied. It’s also helpful to make a list of agencies you are interested in and any key factors you like or dislike about those agencies. Stay organized using a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets and mark the status of your application, any contact info you’ve found, the agency’s website, and why you were interested in the role or agency. I also recommend keeping track of the date of your application so you know when to follow up.

Have a concise and complete resume

Take time to edit your resume, including your LinkedIn profile. Make sure they are both up-to-date and include relevant job history, volunteer work, certifications, etc. that are relevant to the position you’re considering. Your resume is the first thing that showcases who you are before an interview, so use it to sell yourself and your capabilities. Indeed suggests reevaluating your resume and cover letter each week to stay on top of things and making sure that what you’re offering aligns with what you’re looking for.

Be confident

Show who you are and why you belong at the agency throughout every step of the process – whether through your resume, or during a video or phone interview. You’ll show you’re qualified for the job by being confident in your abilities and qualifications. Note, this doesn’t mean you have to be a robot with perfect answers – employers like to see your personality, too.

Strengthen your connections through online networks

Now is the time to utilize online networking sites more than ever. Connect with people via LinkedIn, create a conversation with your past professors, mentors and colleagues to see if they know of any companies that may be of interest to you. Glassdoor suggests joining Facebook or LinkedIn professional groups to broaden your network and job search.

There is no one way to search or land a full-time job at an agency. However, the most important thing that I discovered during the process was that I needed to be intentional about what I wanted and confident in my work ethic, skills, experience and personality. With those key characteristics, I knew that I was more than qualified to get the job done.

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