Mrs Robinson, you're trying to recruit me, aren't you? Scottish PR Agency share their top tips for securing a graduate job.
Monday, July 25th, 2016
Top Tips on How to Pitch Yourself to Employers – From a Newcomer to Our Scottish PR Agency
OH FOR those heady days when all a graduate had to worry about was which of his or her parents’ attractive friends would try to seduce them.
That may be a great plot for a Dustin Hoffman movie, but today’s modern University leaver has got a lot more to worry about than a predatory Mrs Robinson.
As Government ministers are so fond of reminding us, the UK has fuller employment than ever before, while the labour market is populated with well-educated and willing workers.
It can be tempting to come of out of the successful end of Higher Education full of optimism and belief that you are God’s gift to employers. However, the harsh reality is that getting your break can be a long, stressful and dispiriting experience.
Even vocational degrees are no longer a guaranteed passport to success. Here in the Holyrood PR office we have eight degrees between six people – but only two are in public relations.
The rest are politics and economics, film and media, philosophy (x2), journalism and French & Spanish. When it comes to our two directors, it turns out they both hold post-doctorates in hard knocks from the University of Life.
As the holder of those two philosophy degrees I’ve recently made the successful transition from ‘unemployed’ to ‘in work’ as the newest member of the Holyrood PR team.
Three months in I’m loving every minute of it – and have been struck by the similarities between pitching client stories to the media and pitching yourself to a potential employer. So here are my tips and observations on the art of promoting yourself to get ahead in the competitive jobs market.
ONE – Pitching your story
Most of us leave uni with a new found ability to endure caffeine-fuelled all-nighters while pulling together huge volumes of information into a usable, readable and gradable whole.
This is a useful skill and shows you can be a hard-worker, but does little to prepare you for being a small fish in a big pond.
Every job vacancy receives a stream of applications and CVs promising the world from talented young graduates. It can be incredibly disheartening to receive rejections, even once your hide has thickened.
The same is true in the world of public relations in Scotland. Every day journalists, bloggers and media influencers receive floods of pitches and media release, all promising a “great story” that will bowl over readers.
In both cases, the only way to stand out is to pitch yourself effectively.
One thing it’s important to bear in mind is the need to concentrate on the quality of your applications and not fall into the trap of firing off CVs to every company hiring in the hope that your generic writing will pique someone’s interest.
What I’ve already learned in PR is that when pitching media releases and story ideas, it is crucial to customise.
In public relations, that means clearly highlighting the aspects of the story that make it relevant to the specialisms of the individual journalist, the interests of their readers or the geography of the area they serve.
Simply using a first name rather than the vague “Hi there” signifies that you have invested time in properly researching the person you are reaching out to.
If you aren’t willing to send such a tailored message, then the journalist is justified in assuming that you have low hopes of pick-up and might click the bin icon without even reading the content.
This parallel to job-hunting should be obvious.
If you’re not invested enough in the position to bother to spell my name right, I can assume you haven’t got a huge amount of hope for your application. If you don’t care enough, why should I?
Show you’re willing to make the extra effort it takes to be a fantastic employee.
Ultimately if you don’t believe you’re absolutely perfect for the role, no one else will.
TWO – Not-So-Social Media
Social media should be one of the first thing to spring to your mind when starting out on building your career.
Firstly it is a tremendous source of information, tips, opportunities and knowledge – from who is hiring, to what employers are looking for.
Secondly, it is platform for you to project your best traits. Think about it: your pals may love your authentic, sweary, alcohol fuelled antics on a Saturday night. But what might hat unvarnished view of your social and personal life say to a potential employer.
Twitter is one of the most underused resources for career building.
There are a number of national and regional accounts advertising vacancies in all kinds of sectors and if you’re not following your dream employer then you’re just not trying hard enough.
Having been told in interviews by social media managers that they enjoy the upsurge in followers in the days following interview invites you can be sure that if you don’t follow their feed it will be noticed.
Similarly, if you haven’t polished your LinkedIn profile to within an inch of its life employers won’t give you a second thought.
Most importantly on this platform you should be showing off the things you’ve been doing for fun and free that show off how good you would be in your chosen field.
The bosses don’t just want someone who will be good at their job they want someone who’ll be happy to do it.
Why put up with a moaner when there are loads of candidates who will love doing what they’re going to be asked to do?
THREE – Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer
This does not mean annoy employers until they hire you!
What every graduate should know is that ‘no’ once, twice or even a third time doesn’t mean you’re worthless or not up to the task.
Particularly in popular trades, employers may not want to take on a staff member who they fear may switch careers after just a few short months.
During interviews I was regularly questioned about how I could prove my commitment to PR when measured against people who had spent years studying the subject.
I quickly realised that I had to find ways of demonstrating that I knew I wanted to pursue a career in this field for the long term.
There’s not a lot you can do to prove this, if like half the team at Holyrood you have a non-vocational degree, other than sticking to your guns and getting what experience you can when it arises.
When we say don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, don’t just insist, prove your commitment with actions.
Examples? Take up internships. Join the relevant professional body, like the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). Volunteer to help out with PR for a charity or other good cause. Start a blog or a site dedicated to curating the best information in your sector. Or get really creative and start collecting interviews and advice/tips from the movers and shakers in your target sector.
Not all of these steps are guaranteed to work out. But they will get you noticed.
FOUR: What’s the story are you trying to tell?
This is where everything comes together.
If your message isn’t coherent and driven at gaining a specific job or career you’ll put yourself at a serious disadvantage.
Take all of these tips and apply them to your profiles, CV and even your Twitter account.
Work to put together a portfolio (whether physical or not depends on what you’re after) of work and pitch it hard through every outlet you can.
In today’s world of self-promotion if you’re not seen to be in love with your career path you can bet that some other applicants will.
It’s not always possible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, luck will always play a part, but give yourself a shot by taking care of the details and showing that you want it.
How could your business benefit from working with a PR Agency that understands the art of pitching?
We believe that stories are at the heart of any successful business – and when those stories are well told to the right audiences, it helps that businesses to become more profitable, while creating a happier workplace.
The team at Holyrood PR are experts at digging out those stories which most businesses don’t even realise they have. Then we package them up in words, pictures and videos and ensure they make a positive difference.
Pitching those stories on behalf of our clients is part art, part science and all passion – and we have helped countless businesses to build, reap and enjoy the success that comes with an enhanced media profile.
To find out what we could do for your business, give us a call on 0131 561 2244, or fill out the simple form below and we’ll get straight back to you.
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