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 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.
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?
“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.
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.
Any student in the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communications (UO SOJC) has heard the word “portfolio” a million times. Let’s face it… we all know how important a strong portfolio is to post-grad career success. But building a portfolio from the ground up can be overwhelming. Before you get started, here are a few ways create a solid foundation for your portfolio:
These are just a few of the many ways to jump into building a portfolio. Find a subject you’re interested in and let it inspire your portfolio content. But remember: a portfolio isn’t static. Plan to revisit your portfolio often to add new material and refine old content, since staying up to date in this fast paced market is key!
Post by Samantha Hanlin, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Samantha through our blog editor: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Over the years many students have raised questions about the true benefits of becoming a PRSSA member. This question arises because students can still participate in PRSSA activities and events, even if they aren’t due-paying members. However, there are a multitude of benefits from becoming members that can help students with professional development. According to PRSSA National there are three major benefits for becoming members:
Changes we are making this year:
There are certain changes that we are making this year that give PRSSA members more benefits. We are planning on taking agency tours to Portland and possibly Seattle this year and we are only allowing members to take these trips. Agency tours are a great way for members to see the professional environment, network and talk to professionals in our industry.
There are numerous benefits that come from becoming PRSSA members. It not only gives students more opportunities for professional growth and development within public relations, but also gives them the opportunity to gain more professional experience.
Helping students receive jobs:
Many professionals say that nowadays having the words “PRSSA membership” on a resume makes a big difference. It shows that students can commit to a club that is related to their industry. It also shows that students are making a greater effort outside of internship opportunities and classes to gain more professional experience and network.
In every class we are in, it seems we are always hearing about how awful the job market is and how bad the economy is. While this is certainly the case, there are a lot of jobs out there and if you are prepared and motivated, you can and will get a job.
8 Best practices for getting a job in today’s market:
1. Be proactive – Put yourself out there online and elsewhere that you are job hunting and make a plan for how you are going to search for a job, where you are going to search for a job and how long you should spend searching for jobs. Tweet companies, visit their Facebook pages, stalk their website and know all about the companies you are looking at.
2. Do informational interviews – As you call companies and research companies, set up informational interviews with companies and firms. This will show you are proactive, you are interested and you are invested. Before the interview, make sure you have questions prepared that are not necessarily covered on the website, but ask them about their schedule, about their clients and more.
3. Do your research – Before you ever set up an interview, pick up a phone, send an email, etc., make sure you do your research on the company. You never want to be unprepared for a question about the company or their clients you should be able to answer, but are not able to answer because you did not look beforehand.
4. Monitor and clean up your online sites – I think this is one of the most important. We are constantly told to clean up our Twitter, Facebook, blog and more…. and we absolutely should. All it could take is one bad tweet, one bad photo or any little thing for a company to toss your resume and for the opportunity you could have had to slip away. Clean it up!
5. Be open – When you start the job hunt, you might have a specific job or ideal placement in mind, but things do not always work like that. You have to have an open mind when searching for a job. Be open to a new city or a new responsibility and it could really help you.
6. Use your connections – While you have been networking online and conferences [or you should have been], make sure you use those contacts you made. Reach out to them for job leads and for possible recommendations. Knowing someone can take you a long way. My professor told me that 60-80% of available jobs are not actually posted online. This means those available jobs are going to people the company knows or they are going to someone people in the company know.
7. Do not give up – While job hunting can seem like a job itself, do not give up and do not settle. While a $70,000/year job may seem very enticing, make sure it is really want you want to do for at least 1-3 years before you accept it just because of the money. Even if you do not get a lead for a few weeks or a few months, do not give up! Keep looking. If you do not find a job, try doing another internship if you can. Internships can often lead to jobs later.
8. Put your materials online – While you are job searching, put some of your materials from your portfolio online. Build your online resume and portfolio so when people and companies search for you, they find what you can do and what you could be capable of.
I wish everyone the best of luck with your job hunt as we go into the spring semester! Please feel free to contact me if you have any job hunt questions or general PRSSA questions.
Lauren K. Gray currently serves as the PRSSA 2011-2012 Vice President of Public Relations and is an active Chapter member after serving as Chapter President for almost two years. Tweet her @laurenkgray and visit her website laurenkgray.com for more information and blog posts.