By Kate Miller
The purpose of an informational interview is to talk with a professional who is working for a company or in an industry that you are interested in working in. This interview takes place either in-person or virtually. It may seem daunting or weird, but I can tell you from my experience that informational interviews have been the most important thing I have done throughout my internship and job search.
Informational interviews have been valuable because they have required me to get all of my ducks in a row, find some courage, be as professional as possible and ask a stranger for career advice. While the wording of an introductory informational interview email request may differ from person to person, most professionals and students know the parameters. You are simply trying to learn about what the professional does for a living. I promise, informational interviews become easier once you get the first one over with.
The first step to landing an informational interview is to reach out. As a student at the University of Oregon you have so many connections at your fingertips and alumni want to talk to you. So have courage, be professional and reach out. Be aware that professionals are busy so be considerate and grateful for their time and expertise. In my experience, professionals love sharing about their job and you being interested in what they do is exciting for them.
The first professional I reached out to was a woman at Edelman in New York. Edelman is a place I hope to work for one day and speaking with an alumnus about her experience helped me understand what it took to get there and provided me with a connection at Edelman when I was applying for their internship program. Networking has been most helpful while pursuing an internship and a strategy I will continue to use to one day find a job. In my opinion, PR is about three things: connecting, storytelling and strategy. The more connections you have the better.
Do Your Research
As a young professional, you need to show the person you are speaking with that you have done your research. You want to know what they have done in their career, how they got there and have some quality questions to ask. They are taking time that could be spent working to speak with you, so be prepared. The questions you ask should show that you are intentional and curious.
Send a Thank You Card
This is key. After the vast amount of knowledge, you have obtained from this professional, send a thank you card. It makes all the difference. It makes people happy to receive a handwritten thank you card and shows the professional that you appreciate the specific things you discussed with them and how much it has helped you.
Networking is essential and after your first informational interview, it will be way less scary. I personally love the insight and connections informational interviews provide me with professionals and I encourage you to take every opportunity that you can. It has led me to internship opportunities and has given me insight on where I would like to potentially work in the future.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org!
During spring agency tours on Friday, May 3, the University of Oregon PRSSA chapter had the pleasure of sitting down with Bob Frause, CEO and founder of Frause in Seattle, Washington. In addition to his prominent role within the public relations industry, Frause is extensively involved with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) as a member of the National Board of Directors and Past Chairman of the PRSA College of Fellows. He also sits on the PRSA Board of Ethics and Professional Standards. Frause’s substantial experience in the industry has allowed him the opportunity to develop several important tactics to help young professionals in the PR job search.
1) Remember that every interview is a real interview. In the process of looking for a job, informational interviews have become a popular tool for networking with professionals. However, just because you are not actively applying for an open position does not mean you should take it any less seriously. When you set up an informational interview, prepare for it in the same way you would for an interview for an open position. Make sure to research both your interviewer and the company. Be ready to ask he or she specific questions that show you have done your homework. By the end of the interview, you should make the professional wish he had on open position or room in his budget to hire you. You never know when this could lead to a job offer.
2) Put interests at the bottom of your resume or in your cover letter. Recently, many students have been advised not to include interests unrelated to public relations on their resume. Though according to Frause, curiosity outside the industry is something he looks for in a potential hire. If you are interested in travel or cooking, find a way to integrate these interests into how you present yourself because this will suggest that you are a more rounded and experienced individual. You also never know when these outside interests will coincide with client work making you an ideal person for the team.
3) Ask for a job and don’t take the first “no.” During an interview it is important to remember your self worth and prove that to your interviewer. If you don’t think you are the best person for the job there is no reason the person or people interviewing you will either. In Frause’s opinion, at some point during the interview, it is important to ask for the job. Though many times you will be told no, you can then spend the rest of the interview proving why you should be hired for that job. This tactic also shows self-confidence and your ability to be a leader. Frause admits this might not be a good tactic for all interviews, but suggests that you should be able to establish if this will work during initial research for the interview.
4) Get at least two professional contacts before you leave. At the end of an interview, make sure to thank them and ask to be put on the list for future open positions. This shows that you would like to continue a relationship with that person and the company. After thanking her, ask for any contacts they might have that you could use to expand your network. Frause’s advice is to leave with at least two new contacts that might be beneficial to you.
5) Create a graphic biography of yourself. One tool that Frause suggests is something he calls a graphic biography of yourself. This should be a roadmap of who you are as a person and a professional. You could use this in your portfolio or in an interview to help you stay focused on what you want to convey about yourself. This can also be useful to have in front of you during a telephone or Skype interview to help you steer the conversation and prevent you from forgetting something you wish to share about yourself.
6) Avoid misusing pronouns. Though sometimes this aspect of writing and speaking can be forgotten, Frause says that this is one of his main pet peeves and a mistake he encounters frequently. All grammar is important and proper use of pronouns contributes to your overall image as an educated individual.
Making the right impression during an interview – whether it is formal or simply an informational one – can make the difference in getting a job offer. Frause advises young professionals to be proactive, confident and unafraid to ask the hard questions during the job search. What do you think of Frause’s professional advice?