A successful cover letter summarizes your relative experience and expresses your interest in a position. Your cover letter should leave the reader wanting to meet you for an interview. During the writing process, it’s important to use your unique voice, while also maintaining a professional and appropriate tone. Here are a few tips for making a great first impression with your cover letter:
Be personal. Whenever possible, address your letter to a specific person.
Do your research. Know what the position entails and learn as much as you can about the industry and organization you are applying for. Doing so allows you to focus on specific assets that match those of the position you’re applying for and tailor your cover letter to best suit the job.
Avoid using clichés. Employers sift through a number of cover letters with the same language. If you’re able to find unique ways to express your enthusiasm and interest for the position, you’re more likely to stand out.
Support your claims. Relate your strengths and experiences to the job description. This gives your letter substance. It also shows you are prepared for the position and prove your written communication skills.
Use active voice. It’s powerful. It shows your confidence. It keeps your ideas clear and easy to understand.
Proofread. Put your cover letter aside for a while, and then reread it. This is an old revision trick, but it works. You will likely discover grammatical errors and sentences that could be improved when you come back to it. Also, consider having a professor or advisor read over your letter – another set of eyes is very helpful when editing.
Don’t forget to format. Take time to make the letter clean and attractive. Keep the same font and header as your resume, but stick to traditional business letter formatting. Don’t forget to include a handwritten signature.
Your letter is the first impression a potential employer has of you as a professional. Remember, be yourself and let your strongest qualities stand out in your writing.
Post by Ruby Betten, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Ruby through our blog editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer is just around the corner. You know what that means? It’s time to start making those summer vacation plans. Summer is also a good time to advance your skills and take advantage of networking connections and opportunities. Whether you are working at home, backpacking through Europe, or interning for a public relations firm, here are some simple tips from PR professionals on how to have a productive summer as a PR major.
1. Write, write, and write
Writing is arguably the most important skill a PR professional can have. It is important to keep writing skills polished, even when school is not in session. Try starting a blog about your summer adventures, writing in a journal, or creating something as a portfolio piece.
2. Learn a new skill
Without the stress of deadlines and assignments that come with being in school, summer makes the perfect opportunity to learn something new. There are plenty of fun skills that you could learn or improve on this coming summer. Photoshop, Final Cut Pro X, and photography can all make valuable additions to your skills toolbox. Personally, I am hoping to improve my InDesign skills this summer.
Volunteering is a great way to get involved and start networking. These experiences can reveal jobs, expand professional networks, help make new friends, provide career experience, and teach valuable skills- all while working for a greater cause.
4. Schedule Informational Interviews
Informational interviews are a great way to learn applicable information firsthand within a specific field. You might also find out about career paths you were unaware of before, and it can provide great tips on how to fix up your résumé and land an interview.
5. Get an Internship
Last, but not least, having an internship over the summer can lead to exciting things. Not only do internships give you an edge in the PR job market, they also provide valuable experience, networking opportunities, and could potentially transition into a full time job.
These are just a few tips on how to have a productive summer as a PR major. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond this list! Try new things, learn something new about yourself, and most importantly This is an exciting time in our lives and the future holds many opportunities and possibilities, especially in the increasing prosperity of the public relations field. How are you planning to have a productive summer?
Post by Claire Ion, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Claire through our blog editor: email@example.com!
You know the “six degrees of separation” theory? In Eugene, I think everyone is three-degrees apart, at most. The connectedness of a small market has some advantages and some disadvantages, depending on how you look at it and what you’re looking for.
In the world of agency PR, a small market has some major pluses:
I can think of two drawbacks of working in Eugene. But with time and learning, I’ve overcome them, so that may null my findings:
I found a few organizations that offered professional and personal connections in my playing field – the Eugene Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Network and the Eugene Active 20-30 Club. The former hosts monthly networking events and the latter is a community service organization. By participating in both, I now have many new friends and see familiar faces at almost any community event.
I would imagine, however, that a larger city offers a more thriving young professional scene. Even co-workers could be of similar age and interests as recent grads.
But, in my opinion, here’s the catch: You might be working on accounts like Apple, Subway or L’Oreal, but you could be on the fifth or sixth rung of the ladder – a place where upper management may not remember your name and you’ll rarely get to talk with a client face to face.
My “Pros” and “Cons” list shows five-to-two. That’s a win for small markets.
From my perspective, starting your career in a small market is the perfect training ground to develop skills and experience you’ll need if and when you decide to launch into a larger market. But I’m biased because I haven’t experienced professional life elsewhere.
Eugene is indeed a small world after all. But it’s made a big impact on my personal and professional growth.
Kelli Matthews is a public relations instructor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC). She has been the faculty advisor for Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR) for eight years, and when she was a student at the SOJC, she was on the first AHPR team. With years of experience, Matthews knows a thing or two about success in the public relations industry.
Q: What is the most important advice you have for budding public relations professionals?
A: I think that my biggest piece of advice is to be curious. Be curious about everything. Like how the world works, how news gets made. Just being active in organizations like AHPR, PRSSA or Oregon News associations really stem for being curious and making that attempt to fill your knowledge gaps. Even as you get in your profession, that curiosity will carry you a long way.
If you continue to be curious, you will pay attention to how to advance in your industry and your job. Curiosity will keep you up to date and, because everything changes so frequently in public relations, you really need to keep searching for those answers.
Q: You briefly touched on opportunities like PRSSA and AHPR, do you have any specific advice about how to get involved and build up a résumé?
A: I think that you should keep your eyes and ears open all the time. Opportunities may not always come in the form of a formal interview. There are lots of ways to gain exposure and to learn about the (PR) industry to be exposed to the environment, jobs and structure outside of formal settings. The point is really to keep your eyes open for opportunities that may not be directly related to a job experience. It’s not just about getting three internships on your resume because that’s what supposedly gets you a job.
Get involved with what interests you even if it’s not directly related to public relations. Life isn’t just a big checklist. There are many opportunities that add to the richness of your life and to the richness of you as a person, and all of these aspects tie into becoming a better public relations professional. Students tend to look for certain job experience on their resume without looking at the bigger picture. Stay curious and interested, you’ll be surprised at what opportunities lay in front of you.
Q: Could you give me an example of these life experiences that have helped you in public relations?
A: Part of my core values is to be connected and involved in the community. My personal commitment is to the community not to public relations. I am very involved with Rotary International, and I am on the board of directors of United Way of Lane County. I make conscious commitment to spend time with organizations that relate to my core values. As an adult, I knew what I was giving up in order to do that and as a young professional these choices are harder.
But as a young professional, you need to keep yourself aware of your core values, it could be a number of things, like family commitment. For me, it was about figuring our how my time is best spent and this had to do with my core values. It’s about finding a fit with your personal values and where you spend your time.
Post by Kaitlyn Chock, PRSSA member and project manager for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Kaitlyn through our blog editor: firstname.lastname@example.org!
“In Alabama, you can’t be for both. You have to choose. It’s either Alabama or Auburn. And once you choose, you are branded for life.” – Unknown Auburn fan
“Personnel? That’s for assholes!” – Clint Eastwood as Inspector Harry Callahan
“I was in Personnel for 10 years.” – Bradford Dillman as Captain Jerome McKay
“Yeah.” – Harry Callahan
Recently, a fellow public relations graduate school classmate was excited about her prospects of landing a position with Intel Corporation. The only problem was the job was in Human Resources (with all due respect to those in HR).
I couldn’t help but immediately think about Dirty Harry’s reaction about being reassigned to “Personnel” in the 1976 feature film, “The Enforcer.” This point is amplified by his one-syllable response to Captain McKay informing him about his 10-year tenure in what we now label: Human Resources or HR.
My serious concern for my academic colleague had absolutely nothing to do with the largest semiconductor company in the world, Intel, but the position itself. Instinctively, I took into account that jobs are precious in this lethargic economy, even at a time in which we are celebrating the nation’s unemployment rate “declining” to 7.7 this past November as more-and-more job seekers give up the hunt.
In particular, I urged caution to her about inadvertently heading down the path to pigeonholing. She could record 10 years in human resources and suddenly come to the realization that she is permanently dropped into the lethal “HR” bucket. If she subsequently wanted to shift her career back to public relations, marketing, advertising etc. — what she actually studied as an undergraduate and in grad school — she may find the doors closed for her because she is now permanently branded as a “HR” professional, similar to “The Evil Director of Human Resources, ‘Catbert,’” in the Dilbert cartoons.
Another example is one of my students, who was saddened that he lost out for a retail management trainee job for Macy’s. This may have been a blessing in disguise unless he really wanted to spend his life in retail, which very well could have been the result if he was “successful” in attaining this particular job.
The point of this epistle is that we live in an increasingly demographic world and there is no going back. Think about how everyone is worshipping at the altar of Barack Obama political guru David Axelrod because his team correctly projected that 72 percent of the electorate would be composed of white voters…a number too low to elect Mitt Romney.
The exercise was to identify single women, African Americans, Hispanics and young voters and target the GOTV campaign (Get Out The Vote) to these demographic groups in their respective buckets. Some of this segmentation is obvious: Males and females; married or single: young or old. And someone is always dividing and subdividing each subgroup into tiny slivers to determine buying and behavior patterns for political or monetary gain.
From the Census to Facebook, we are compulsively segmenting people whether we like it or not (e.g., privacy advocates). From the Spartans to the Athenians, the Hatfields to the McCoys, the North and the South, Red States and Blue States, Israelis and Palestinians, we have a long history of putting people into groups. In Alabama, it is the red and white of the Crimson Tide or the blue, orange and white of the Auburn Tigers. There is no straddling the fence in ‘Bama.
To many Sean Connery will always be James Bond. Simon Cowell will be the absolutely brutal talent judge on American Idol. Simon Bond will always be the guy who wrote, 101 Uses for a Dead Cat. Reportedly, his subsequent books on any other subject were not accepted…he was always the “Dead Cat Guy.”
So does someone specifically trained in the verbal, written, digital media and communications choreography skills of public relations want to wake up one day and ask: ‘How did I become saddled in Human Resources?’ I am fearful that the lousy economy of today may result in some very painful and for the most part irreversible results a decade or more from now.
Should a graduate turn down a “position” in this crummy economy to avoid the dreaded pigeonhole? Or should that same graduate take a “job” to keep food on the table and gas in the tank, while continuing to search for the position that fits her or his career? This is a difficult predicament. And in many ways, it is an easy answer.
Choosing between Auburn and Alabama is tougher.
Say hello to a new “generation” of PRSSA leadership. The 2013 PRSSA National Assembly was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from April 4 to April 7. The event marks an important time for the organization, as delegates vote on bylaws and leadership for the coming school year. Current UO PRSSA chapter president Ellie Boggs was elected to serve as the National Vice President of Career Services for the 2013-2014 term. UO PRSSA is incredibly excited and proud for Boggs as she moves forward into her new role! Here is what she had to say about her new position and her thoughts on leadership:
Q: What inspired you to apply for a position with the National Committee?
A: I first started thinking about applying to the National Committee during the National Assembly last year where I was the UO PRSSA delegate. The National Committee is a group of students who are so passionate about the PRSSA organization and the overarching ideas and plans that make the society run; I wanted to be a part of implementing those big plans. Leadership is also something that I enjoy immensely, so the decision to take the next step and apply for a national leadership position was an easy one.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish as the vice president of career services?
A: My No. 1 goal is to increase the number of PRSSA students who are given the opportunity to complete an internship. Every student deserves the chance to practice and improve their learned skills through internships, and serving as vice president of career services puts me in the position to help more PRSSA students get that practical experience.
Q: What is your definition of a successful leader?
A: I think a good leader is someone who knows how to listen, as well as act. Balancing these two qualities is essential but quite difficult. If the team you’re leading knows that you will listen and care about their concerns, they are more likely to work hard on your behalf. On the other hand, a good leader also should know when to take action and get things done.
Q: How do you think this experience will shape your future as a professional?
A: This is a really exciting position, because I get to interact with chapters and students, as well as businesses and professionals. Essentially this position is all about making connections in order to expand the PRSSA Internship Center, so it will help me develop the skills to interact on a professional level, instead of just a student level.
Q: Why is it important for students to seek out and apply for leadership positions while in college?
A: Leadership pushed me outside my comfort zone, and I’d venture to say it does that for most students. Learning to lead effectively takes practice and hard work. In your professional career, you most likely won’t have the opportunity to lead and manage people for several years, so learning to lead while in college will put you a step ahead.
Q: What advice do you have for other PRSSA members who might be interested in applying for a similar leadership position?
A: Start leading on a small level. Like I said before, learning how to lead effectively takes time and practice; it doesn’t happen overnight. Try seeking out a leadership position in your university or local PRSSA chapter. Then, once you’ve taken on several smaller leadership roles, you can begin researching leadership positions that allow you to take on larger responsibilities, such as the PRSSA National Committee. Be sure to do thorough research when applying to these positions. I prepared my application for several months before submitting it, and the time spent preparing was definitely paid off.
Post by Samantha Hanlin, University of Oregon PRSSA Member.
While the Gateway to Media series attempts to equip journalism students with the basic skills they need, learning the in-depth function of computer programs like the Adobe Creative Suite are useful skills. Here is a list of some of the most important programs PR majors should add to their resumes:
As intimidating as this program may seem, you need to know the basics. For many internships and positions, this layout and design program is highly desired – if not required. Think of it as a sophisticated Microsoft Word document with 10 times the amount of opportunity. This program can transform a dreary poster into a professional and impressive advertisement.
Many people have dabbled in Photoshop. This program opens the door to flawless photos and sharp graphics . Photoshop plays into InDesign with any type of photo placement. Though sometimes an overwhelming program, Photoshop skills are incredibly useful to creating high quality images.
Public relations is all about communication. When communicating with a large group, as many will have to do, visuals are key; and sometimes you have to go beyond PowerPoints presentations. Instead of persuading more yawns, try adding interest and flair with Prezi, an online presentation builder. Completely free and easy to use, Prezi gives every presentation edge, movement and easy access to embedded videos or graphics.
4) Final Cut Pro
Even if you don’t think video editing is essential, Final Cut Pro offers some perspective to what goes into a production piece, which starts with patience. The Gateway to Media series focuses on this program because you can learn vital skills about interviewing, and the importance of good audio and footage. Beware perfectionists, you can easily get addicted!
Success in the public relations industry means being a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. Take the time to explore popular computer programs like Adobe Creative Suite. Visit your professor for a quick tutorial, pick up a book or Google tutorials to teach yourself the basics. Adding these basic skills to your resume will make for a much stronger resume.
Post by Audree Nethercott, University of Oregon PRSSA Member.
Congratulations to the students who recently (and successfully) made it through Gateway I and II. The UO SOJC Gateway to Media series can be a few of the most rewarding classes you will take in college or it can be the longest two terms of your life.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was staying up until 4 a.m. in Agate Hall editing the “ums” and “buts” out of my audio to meet the 90-second project requirement. For many students, the Gateway series consists of long, lonely nights in computer labs and shamelessly asking everyone you know to participate in multimedia projects. Need some help? Here are a few ways to avoid the Gateway gloom.
1. Go to every class
Sounds obvious, right? Some students think that the lectures can be skipped occasionally. Wrong. Every single class is extremely important to your success in the series. By skipping class, you risk missing a quiz or class project, which can both affect your final grade, as well as your development of essential skills.
2. Attend the workshops
The workshops are where you learn the basics of Final Cut X and InDesign step by step. In my opinion, these workshops are more valuable than any other aspect of the class. Your instructor will guide you through mini projects that teach you the details of each program, resulting in higher quality work.
3. Use the Gateway instructors as resources
The Gateway instructors are there to help you. If week three has rolled around and your interviewee hasn’t replied back to your email, it is probably an indicator to move on to something else; this is a great opportunity to use your instructors as resources for alternate options. Visit them in office hours. They will give you ideas for a new topic and refer you to interesting people in the area. As an added bonus, you will have a chance to hear their amazing experiences, such as Dan Morrison’s stories of being embedded in Afghanistan.
4. Have a backup audio recorder
Sometimes your technology fails during an interview. Most interview subjects are busy and won’t be able to reschedule to another time. To avoid this problem, always have a backup recording device. It can be an audio recorder from the J-Cage or your iPhone.
5. Do not procrastinate
This is an obvious one, but a few graduates have told me they graduated with two degrees; the first a Bachelors of Arts and the second a “Bachelors of Procrastination.” Creative work is not something that should be rushed through the night before a deadline. Pulling an all-nighter will negatively impact your work and your grade. Plus, your instructor can tell the difference between work that is well-done and work that is rushed through.
The Gateway to Media series is supposed to teach you what is expected in the world of journalism, not inhibit your excitement for the journalism industry. Follow these tips and stay organized. It might surprise you how fun the classes really are, if you take the time to do them right.
Post by Aimee Gregg, University of Oregon PRSSA member. Photo by Callie Gisler.
University of Oregon students have countless avenues to get involved on campus; unfortunately, there is no way to take advantage of every opportunity, which can make the decision of what organization to get involved in overwhelming. A good way to get the most out of your time is to find activities that allow you to combine your professional goals with your campus involvement. Here are five ways for public relations students to get involved on campus:
Though we are somewhat biased, the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) will provide you with the opportunity to network with fellow public relations students and professionals, and learn more about all facets of public relations through professional guest lecturers.
Allen Hall Public Relations (AHPR) is an entirely student-run professional public relations firm that takes on real clients. It helps public relations students network with each other, as well as with small businesses and nonprofits in the area. It also gives students valuable hands-on experience, while maintaining high professional standards. The work that students produce is the perfect addition to any portfolio.
3.) Marketing or advertising groups
Both marketing and advertising are closely related with public relations. Learning more about these professional areas is a great way to expand your skills set to become a more marketable professional. You might also uncover an entirely new interest or passion. Examples of marketing and advertising groups on the University of Oregon campus include American Marketing Association, Allen Hall Advertising, Ad Society and more.
4.) Campus publications
Many campus publications including Flux, The Daily Emerald and Ethos have public relations related positions that are fantastic practical experience. Attaining writing, marketing, multimedia and other journalism-related positions in these publications can be a great way to broaden your skills set and diversify your portfolio.
5.) Volunteer your public relations services
Sometimes the best way to get involved on campus is to find an activity that you are passionate about, even if it is unrelated to your professional objectives. You can obtain public relations experience by helping your club or activity gain exposure on campus. This is a mutually beneficial option. You develop your public relations skills, while serving the needs of other students on campus.
Campus involvement is key to getting the most out of your four years here. These are just a few options; however, there are more than 180 student programs at the University of Oregon. Browse through all the student groups at orgsync.uoregon.edu to find the perfect fit for your interests.
Post by Katie Keene, University of Oregon PRSSA member.
Can the content you post on social media affect your job and internship applications? Possibly. CareerBuilder surveyed 2,000 hiring managers and found that 2 in every 5 managers used social media to screen applicants. The managers searched profiles to determine whether candidates fit in with company culture and appeared professional.
Many students rely on privacy settings to keep certain content from potential employers but having a completely private profile can be a red flag. Employers are using social media to get an idea of who you are. Using your profile to make a brand for yourself is more beneficial than hiding inappropriate content.
In public relations, understanding your audience and effectively using social media is a key skill. As students, our audience includes potential employers. The content you post does not always need to be relevant to the field you wish to work in, but should remain appropriate at all times.
Using social media as a tool reflects who you are to employers and differentiates yourself from other job applicants. Including a statement about yourself on each of your profiles is also helpful. This statement should identify who you are and your unique characteristics and strengths.
As public relations students, we are expected to be familiar with the latest technology in social media. Knowledge of each platform can be shown through effective profiles. Posting content that conveys a strong understanding that anyone can view your content on social media is advantageous.