With fall term coming to a close, winter break is a great opportunity to schedule an informational interview. Sitting down with someone in the company or position of your dreams allows you to gain knowledge that you can’t find on a company’s website. However, finding the right way to ask for an informational interview can seem intimidating at first.
Here are a few tips on how to contact someone for an informational interview:
Research: Before reaching out to anybody, look into a specific company and find out what that company does, what they supported, and recent projects they’ve done. Then think of related questions you might want to ask. This will help to narrow down where it is you want to contact.
Reaching Out: Once you find the person you want to talk with, study up on them. Find out where he/she has worked, went to school, and other work related information. Then think about the best way to contact that person. Some interviewees prefer to call the person directly. This can be done by calling the main number for the company and asking to be transferred. If your phone call is not answered, hang-up. Leaving a message is not best, as the person you are trying to reach does not know you. If they do answer, make sure you have a 30-45 second speech prepared on why you are interested in getting in contact. Also sending an email is a safe bet and allows you to craft your message to make a good impression. As with a phone call, make it clear why you would like to talk with them.
Be Direct: When you finally get in contact with the person and are working to set up an interview, be direct. PR professionals are busy and don’t want to deal with college students who are beating around the bush. Tell them right away that you are calling or emailing about finding a time to schedule an informational interview. Next, explain why you chose the company and that particular person. Maybe you found out that he or she started as an intern and is now working as a manger. Flattery can help you catch their attention and make them more willing to schedule the interview you’ve been chasing.
Although contacting people for informational interviews can seem intimidating at first, just remember that most people are more than willing to tell you about themselves and exactly what their jobs entail. Make sure you have thoroughly researched the company and arrive at the interview prepared with a list of questions. Don’t assume the interviewee will lead the conversation for you, this is your interview and you must take charge.
Have you done an informational interview before? Share your experience with me and other readers in the comments.
Photo credit: Daniel Foster
Austin is a senior public relations student graduating in fall 2014. Austin is interested in pursuing a career in investor relations and financial communication. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first term of the year has come to an end and the heavy stress of finals no longer weighs on your shoulders. The plans are set, flights booked, and your mom has called to confirm almost ten times. You start to remember what it’s like to sleep in, eat home-cooked meals, and do that thing time never allows for anymore – relax. However, most college students fail to realize all that free time is a gateway to opportunity, productivity, and success. Here are a few ways you can be proactive with your college career over break:
Hunt for summer internships.
It’s never too early to plan out your summer. In fact, for many popular internships the applications are due before the end of winter. It’s better to start now with no homework to do, than in January when the chaos of midterms is in full swing. Also, don’t forget to reach out and make a memorable impression so you’ll stick out when they’re making their selections.
Not exactly sure what field you want to get into? The only way to find out if you will truly enjoy it is through experience. Make a list of three possible careers choices and find out if there’s anything similar near where you’ll be over break. Call and ask if there’s any chance you could job shadow just for the day, and don’t forget to ask whoever you’re shadowing questions. After all, it’s possible you’ll be in their shoes one day.
Start applying for scholarships, now.
Regardless of where you’re at in your college career, scholarships are always beneficial. Not only do they help you financially by taking some of that future stress of student debt away, but they can ease your checking account too. Plus, they’re always a great addition to the “awards” section of your resume.
Create something beneficial to add to your portfolio.
Take on your passion and just let it flow with this one. Videography? Make a video combining your love for shooting and editing with your love for your local animal shelter. Writing? Write freelance stories about things that interest you and see if anyone will publish them. Designing? Collaborate with that girl from high school who just started her own business and design her logo. Be creative and expand your experience.
Learn something new.
This can be a tricky one to do in just a month, but even just skimming the surface of broadening your knowledge can get you closer to where you want to be. For example, my goal is learning how to build a website through Wordpress over break.
And lastly, relax.
Go to the cheesy holiday festival with your family. Watch movies. See your friends and make travel plans to visit them in the spring. Read a book in your favorite hometown coffee shop. Do all the things that aren’t possible or realistic when you’re staying up till 2 a.m. writing that history paper that’s due tomorrow, because after all, the month will go by quickly and you’ll once again be swamped.
What are your goals for winter break?
Brooke Adams, External Relations Committee Member, is a junior transfer student, majoring in Public Relations and minoring in Business Administration. Brooke is a native Oregonian, avid coffee drinker, and music lover. Contact her at email@example.com.
Wondering how to stand out from other candidates during the job search? Welcome to the beauty of an informational coffee date, your new ally in the battle of finding a job post-grad.
Informational coffee dates give both a student and a professional the chance to get to know one another without the stakes of a job on the line. The ambiance of a coffee shop provides a relaxed, casual environment to make a connection before you’re on the hunt for a job.
Use these tips to make the most out of your next informational coffee date:
1. Be up front with what you want to talk about
Be specific about what you’re hoping to find out and why you specifically want to meet with this person. This eliminates misconceptions from the professional’s end and gives you a foundation for what you will get out of the meeting.
2. Come prepared
Do some background research on the professional you’re meeting with and their company to avoid wasting time. Try to find out what accounts they have worked on, current happenings within the company and personal interests you can connect on. Have a list of question at your disposal, but remember to listen and carry on the conversational.
3. Keep it short
Be respectful of how long your interviewee is available for and do not exceed that time limit. Many public relations professionals have long days and tight schedules. Sticking to a time frame shows you respect their busy schedule.
4. Ask how can you help them
Stand out by asking if there is anything you can do right now to help them. Asking this question shows the professional you are interested and care about them and their company beyond just the informational interview.
5. Follow up
Be sure to write a thank you note to show your gratitude and a deeper level of interest.
Remember that an informational coffee date does not guarantee you a job. However, if done right they can get you foot in the door. Coffee dates are also great way to gain valuable insight into the industry while building your network.
Have you conducted informational interviews before? What worked for you and what didn’t? Did any of these tips surprise you?
Karly Tarsia is currently a junior majoring in Public Relations. She is also the internal events project manager for UOPRSSA. Feel free to follow Karly on Twitter at @karlytarsia
It can often be nerve-racking or even intimidating to go on PR agency tours in different cities. You are meeting PR professionals who could potentially hire you one day for your dream job. However, when going on an agency tour, there are a few things to remember that can help you get the most out of it and have an experience that will benefit your future.
Do your research.
Before going on an agency tour do your own research on the agency or agencies you are visiting. Find out what type of PR they focus on, who their clients are and the size of the agency. After some basic research on the agency itself, read over their employee bios to find out more about the people who work at the agency. This will give you a better picture of what the agency culture is really like.
While you are researching, brainstorm potential questions you would like to ask. Think beyond the generic questions you can answer yourself by looking at their website and ask questions that will make you stand out. Also, ask questions that show you have done your research. Mention specific clients you know they have worked with based on the research you have done, not just what they are telling you on the tour itself.
Be professional and courteous.
Remember, the agency you are visiting is taking time out of their busy schedules to educate you on what their agency does. Be respectful of that and engage with the professionals who are conducting the tour. Say, “Thank you for your time, I really appreciated learning more about your agency.” When it comes to networking after a general presentation, remember not to jump the gun by giving them your resume or business card. Unless the moment is right, this will give the wrong impression.
Dress to impress.
It is very important when going on any agency tour to dress appropriately and in business professional attire. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Slacks, pencil skirts, appropriate blouses, blazers and closed toed pumps or flats are appropriate for women. Men should wear slacks with a dress shirt and dress shoes. Blazers and ties are also appropriate.
Whether you have completed multiple internships or are preparing for your first internship, here are some best practices for interns to make a difference:
Being professional means something different to everyone you ask. Exude professionalism by taking your work seriously. As an intern, you may be delegated large or small tasks. No matter the task, appreciate the opportunity your supervisor has given you and complete it with honesty and integrity. Being professional also encompasses sporting a professional image. Your image includes your online image as well as your personal image; the best advice I’ve received about my personal presence is to not dress for the job you have but for the job you want.
Treat Your Internship as a Real Job
While an internship in nature seems temporary, treat your position as a real job. It is vital that you honor the commitments that you make during your internship and self-regulate yourself. Before you start, be sure to research the company and its industry. This knowledge will not only show that you care about the company but also allow you to do better work. Once you build a foundation with your boss, ask him or her about the different business functions you are curious about. You never know — your internship could lead to a full-time position at the organization. The more you know about a company and its culture will help you decide if you would be interested in staying with the organization.
Take your internship in your own hands by going the extra mile. Ask your supervisor and colleagues if you can help out with a certain project or shadow them for a day. Ask if you can attend meetings, if it is appropriate, and speak up during them. By being an active listener and engaged participant, you show your colleagues that you are interested in being a part of the team.
By being an intern, you are surrounded by professionals of many levels and industries. Use this new network of yours to build relationships and ask questions. Listen to those around you; every individual has valuable advice. On the same note, remember it isn’t about you. Remain humble about your accomplishments. Most importantly, say thank you to your supervisor and colleagues for the opportunities they have given you. Even after you leave, be sure to stay connected and check-in from time to time.
Hallie White serves as the Vice President for UO PRSSA. She spent Summer 2014 as an intern at UPS in Atlanta, Ga. Follow her on Twitter at @halliecwhite.
Networking is essential to a successful career. You should already be working to build relationships with your peers and make connections with professionals. LinkedIn is one of the easiest ways to accomplish this, but it’s not the only effective way. So what are other ways to start networking as a full time student?
I just returned from PRSSA National Conference in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. I have to say that this is the “headquarters of networking.” After being placed in a group of PRSSA students and thrown into a mixer with PRSA professionals, I gained some insight on networking effectively.
Here are my top three ways to network as a student:
Demonstrate your skill-base through multiple platforms
Did you know that LinkedIn is not the only way to exhibit your skills and experiences? Not that LinkedIn isn’t effective, but there are other tactics to network. In-person communication has been proven to be the most effective way for others to remember you. By putting a face to a name, people are able to remember each unique personality. On the other hand, WordPress, Cision and Vocus are other unique online databases you should begin developing.
Force yourself to practice
Put yourself in a situation where you will have to make conversation with unfamiliar people and professionals. I know, I know – who wants to use their free time to talk to strangers, right? But it’s a well-known fact that practice makes perfect. Start going to mixers on campus or attending meetings and dinners organized by groups associated with your interests. Even if you’re not good at networking now, the practice will send you on your way to being an expert. Start building your networking skills now, so when the time comes, you’ll be prepared to wow.
Always have your projects and information on hand
If you don’t have business cards, I’d suggest you design and order some. If you don’t have a portfolio of your work, I’d suggest you put one together. These methods give you hard-copy ways to demonstrate your skill set as opposed to just tweeting your projects or publishing your work online. Prepare for the possibility of networking at any time.
Sophie Lair, Finance Director, manages and prepares the chapter’s budget for the academic school year and collects annual dues from members. Sophie is currently majoring in public relations with a minor in French. Follow her on Twitter at @sophielair.
As exciting as a new school year may seem in the weeks leading up to it, that can quickly fade to resentment without the proper preparation. Use these tips to manage your assignments and commitments while making the most out of your year:
Get organized. Whether you love old-school paper and pen or swear by your iPhone calendar app, make sure to have a plan in place before showing up to the first day of class. A planner with plenty of room to write or a multi-functioning app such as Fantastical is key.
Start early. Keep track of important due dates right from the beginning. Professors generally give out due dates with the class syllabus (which is often available on Blackboard before the first day of class). Take advantage of this by outlining your calendar early. That way you’ll know ahead of time when you can take on extra responsibilities or have time to plan something with friends.
Freshen up your online presence. Between sunny vacations and demanding internships, it can be easy to let your social media accounts go dormant during the summer. Take the week before school to bring them up-to-date. Add that summer job or internship to your LinkedIn profile, send out a few professional tweets, and remove the bikini pic from your Facebook profile. Now you’re all set to begin networking with professors, peers and professionals.
Join a new campus organization. Make this the year you go above and beyond by getting involved on campus. Before you head back to school, do some research on the organizations you can join. Whether that’s applying to be part of Allen Hall Public Relations, attending the first PRSSA meeting, or lending your skills to a campus cause, be sure to try something new. You’ll never know what passion or career path you may discover until you do.
How are you preparing for the new term?
Hannah Osborn, Public Relations Director, is a senior pursuing a double major in public relations and magazine journalism. She manages all UO PRSSA social and digital media platforms. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahmarieoz.
Landing an interview is the most exciting and nerve racking experience in a new graduate’s life. In this day and age, we face extreme competition not only from our classmates but also from kids across the country. This is why it is important to do your homework before heading into an interview. Here are a few tips to impress an employer at your next interview:
Research. You should never underestimate the importance of research. Your insight will show your employer that you have come to the interview prepared. Most importantly, it will demonstrate your ability to problem solve and give them confidence that you can complete assigned tasks.
Bring Questions. Have at least five questions written down that you can refer to in case they slip your mind. Make sure your questions show you looked into the company and you have a good understanding of how the company operates. Something you might ask is, “I see that your company’s motto is … can you explain to me how that is seen in day to day operations?” This will show that you have done your research and that you are assessing whether or not this company is right for you.
Take a deep breath. Everyone knows that interviews are scary and stressful, but you want to appear calm and collected. Deep breaths help to calm you down so you can think more clearly, and a calm demeanor will show confidence in your abilities.
Send a thank you note. It may sound old school, but it is always good to follow up with a hand written thank you note after the interview. Thank you notes show you appreciate the opportunity to interview and handwritten notes will set you apart from other candidates. Start off your letter by thanking the employer for taking time to meet with you. Then in the body talk about things you learned from the interview and referring to your relevant skills. Conclude by thanking them again and encouraging them to contact you if any questions arise.
The job market is full of stiff competition and you need stand out. If you enter an interview with a solid understanding of the company and bring good questions, you will be sure to make a good impression. What are some of your interview tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments.
Austin Zerbach is a senior majoring in public relations. Austin plans to pursue a career in event management post graduation. You can contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As PR majors, we’re often told about the importance of personal branding while looking for a job or internship. While telling an interviewer what they want to hear may land you the job, it won’t land you the right job. Here are few tips to branding yourself before you start the job hunt:
Be consistent. Branding yourself is about more than a neat heading at the top of your resume. It’s about being consistent across multiple platforms. This means employers can draw the same conclusions about you from looking at your Twitter or your LinkedIn. It’s about showing not telling. One great way to show an employer your passion is to consistently show off your niche. And on that note…
Embrace your niche. The truth is, you produce better work when you’re passionate about the work you’re doing. So, if you’re into technology or the environment or health care, don’t be afraid of letting employers know that. It will not only set you apart from other applicants but also open doors for which clients you work with at an agency.
Know what excites you. Yes, flexibility and a willingness to try new things can look great in a job candidate, but knowing exactly what you like does too! Don’t lie and say you love social media if you could really care less about Twitter. Instead, focus on what does excite you and why that makes you a great hire. Plus, if you are hired, you will be able to do something you actually enjoy!
Remember, everything you do reflects on your personal brand. So, keep it clean, consistent and authentic.
Have any other tips on how to stay genuine when starting off? We’d love to hear them! Comment below to keep the conversation going.
Mandy Shold is the 2013-2014 University of Oregon PRSSA chapter vice president. She is currently a senior double majoring in public relations and environmental studies. Follow her on Twitter at @WayToRepresent or check out her portfolio at mandyshold.wix.com/portfolio.
Although writing a cover letter can often be frustrating, it is the first and most important thing a potential employer sees. The right cover letter can get you one step closer to an interview. Here are a few tips to make the writing process easier and your cover letters more successful:
Keep your cover letter well organized and easy to read. Use the first paragraph to explain why you are contacting the organization. Be sure to include any mutual acquaintances and mention your interest in the company or a specific position. In two to three concise body paragraphs, elaborate on your relevant skills, experience, knowledge and expertise. Conclude the cover letter by reiterating your interest in the company and mentioning a call to action, such as “I look forward to hearing from you.”
Tailor your descriptions of skills and experiences to fit the position. Use the job posting as a guide to identify two or three key skills that the employer is looking for. Then, brainstorm the ways in which your skills or experiences illustrate those reoccurring themes. By using key terms from the job posting, you can show that you not only understand what the job entails, but that you’re the right fit for the position.
Remember, they want to know what you can do for them. The more clearly you illustrate how you can benefit the organization, the more likely they call you for an interview. Consider concluding each of your body paragraphs with a sentence summarizing how the skill or experience you mention is relevant and how it will impact the employer.
For more advice on writing a standout cover letter, read this post on the seven-step resume makeover and this article on the mind trick that will help you write a more creative and passion-filled cover letter.
What has been your most successful trick to writing a unique cover letter? Let us know by leaving a comment.
Hannah Osborn, external relations committee member, is a junior pursuing a double major in public relations and magazine journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahmarieoz.