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.
By Talia Smith
If you follow me on Spotify, you might assume an eight-year-old stole my account password and has been streaming children’s music for the past year. I’m here to say it’s actually me who listens to artists such as Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could, the Okee Dokee Brothers, Recess Monkey, Frances England and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. While I do thoroughly enjoy their music, these artists are our five Grammy-nominated clients at Sugar Mountain PR.
Sugar Mountain PR (SMPR) is a Portland-based agency that promotes children’s entertainment. I have been doing freelance work for SMPR owner, Beth Blenz-Clucas, for more than a year now and am fortunate enough to be joining her PR team at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in L.A. this weekend.
This all transpired in a sort of serendipitous way and I thought I’d share what I have learned so far in the lead-up to this event.
Don’t Underestimate Your Network
I was introduced to SMPR in Portland through two connections from my hometown in New Jersey: my mom and Brady Rymer from Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could. My mom discovered SMPR when she was trying to book Brady for an event a few years back.
I didn’t know Brady as the children’s musician; I knew him as the bassist for the band, From Good Homes. They have a large following on the East Coast and I grew up listening to their music. Without my mom or Brady, I wouldn’t have known to reach out to Beth at SMPR.
The lesson I learned from this is that sometimes the most rewarding connections are not obvious ones. I would have never thought that I would find PR work through my mom, who did not have a PR background or my favorite local band. Sometimes you have to dive deep into your third, fourth, maybe even 17th level networks.
Sugar Mountain was not seeking a freelance intern when I applied. I got the job because I asked. I was not originally invited to assist at the Grammys. I’m going because I asked. I learned you sometimes have to take it upon yourself to reach out and offer your services. I think of how many opportunities I might have passed up just because I didn’t ask. As Christopher McCandless said, “If you want something in life, just reach out and grab it.”
Go Along for the Experience and Leave Room to Be Pleasantly Surprised
When at first I asked Beth if I could assist her team at the Grammys, she said yes but made it clear that she couldn’t promise I would have a press pass to get on the red carpet. I was still eager to go because they needed someone to sell merchandise at the pre-Grammy concert featuring all five nominated children’s musicians. I also have family in the L.A. area who I could visit and stay with.
I knew there was a chance that I would not be involved in any of the red carpet Grammy events, but I still wanted to go along for the ride. I would either have the chance to visit my family and work a cool concert or I would get to visit my family, work a cool concert AND work the red carpet and media room at the Grammys on Sunday. I couldn’t go wrong with either outcome. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from the Recording Academy to learn my press pass was approved. Then I was able to wholeheartedly freak out and go shopping for a dress.
I’m telling my story to show that it snowballed from a humble start. I think a lot of opportunities have extraordinary potential when you learn to, “Just Say Hi,” as Brady Rymer would say.
By Erica Freeze
Broadening your professional network is essential for a smooth transition into the professional world. Your time in college is crucial for connecting with professionals and exploring possible career paths. So how do you meet potential employers? Here are four ways to get your foot in the door:
Join a career building group on-campus:
Student organizations across the country provide students with a variety of ways to network and meet new people. There are several on-campus clubs that can help broaden your professional network which includes: The International Business and Economics Club, Independent Society of Campus Journalists, UO Toastmasters, the American Institute of Architecture Students, and PRSSA. Many of these clubs bring in professionals to their meetings who give advice on how to succeed in a specific career path. The UO PRSSA chapter invites PR professionals bi-weekly to present at chapter meetings. These meetings can help you network and discover potential firms you might be interested in applying to after graduation.
Utilize the Career Center through the Professional Network:
As an enrolled student, you have access to a professional network through the Career Center. To gain access, you must complete an online networking workshop and quiz, and the login to your Duck Connect account. The Professional Network consists of UO alumni, parents, and friends committed to supporting you in exploring different career paths and preparing you for the working world. Browse various profiles and reach out to those who have a career that interests you in the professional network. If you gain a contact, ask if you can receive an onsite tour or set up a job shadow. This network is a great resource for engagement because all professionals in the network have agreed to share their time and professional expertise with UO students.
Connect with your instructor:
Many of your instructors have great connections in a variety of industries. Your instructors want to get to know you and help you succeed. Get to know your professors and see what realm of public relations each one specializes in. If they have similar interests to yours, don’t be afraid to ask for advice. They also still keep in touch with past students who have entered the public relations industry and can connect you with them. Instructors will often invite professionals into the classroom as well, so feel free to ask questions in class!
Set up an informational interview:
Before reaching out to a professional, look into a company you are interested in and research who they are, what they do and what they support. Once you have some knowledge about the company, ask the professional if they are willing to speak with you. Schedule a time that works for both of you, and be prepared to ask questions about their daily life at the company, any projects they are working on and the office environment. Remember that informational interviews are different from job interviews and that they do not guarantee a job.
Connect with professionals on LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is a wonderful resource for connecting with employers. If you don’t have a LinkedIn it is definitely time for you to set one up! Take the time to tailor your profile to show potential employers who you are. Many companies are on LinkedIn and you can narrow your searches by location, industry or job openings. LinkedIn is a great way to follow the employees at the companies you are interested in. You can message professionals on the platform and inquire about informational interviews or ask simple questions.
These are just a few ways to broaden your network. What are your tips and tricks for meeting potential employers?
Attention junior and senior students: it’s time to start networking! “Building a network” may sound like an overwhelmingly large task, but we promise it’s easy as 1, 2, 3. Follow the three steps below to start creating a custom network that will serve as your most useful (and powerful) professional tool.
Do some digging.
Building your network is an exciting process that requires you to connect with many different peers and professionals. But how do you know whom to get in contact with? Start by doing some digging. Reach out to professors, current and past employers and even your parents. Have them suggest friends or colleagues for you to get in touch with. They could even send a friendly email that puts your name on their radar, which really increases the likelihood you’ll get a response.
Once you’ve put together a solid contact list to work with, it’s time to start connecting with folks. Send out e-mails asking for informational interviews about their business, or even to just meet over coffee. Make sure to do your research first. Collect as much information as possible about what this person does for a living before chatting with them. This will show them that you’re serious about starting a professional relationship – they will respect you for it. And don’t forget to make a connection on LinkedIn too.
After making initial contact with a person, do not forget to follow up. Follow-up e-mails and phone calls will instill a lasting impression on your new acquaintances. Ask about what’s going on in their industry, ask for suggestions on other resources…be creative about how you foster this new relationship.
Remember that you, too, should contribute to professional relationships. Offer knowledge on current industry news, connect your peers with professionals in need of new employees, and generally build trust that will carry your relationship far into the future. Your network will be your new BFF. Treat these relationships with respect, stay in touch, and keep them in the loop with any major (professional) events in your life. The possibilities of where your network can take you are endless – so start building!
What are some ways you’ve already started building your professional network?
Anna Williams, external relations committee member, is a senior studying Family & Human Services. She’s obsessed with craft beer, avocados and everything about Seattle, and is pursuing a career in Food + Bev PR. Follow her on Twitter @annaleighwill.
It’s that time of year! We college seniors are scrambling to submit resumes, obsessing over networking with professionals, and praying we magically land the ultimate “big girl/boy” job that fits our career wish list. And pays $1,000 an hour…in our dreams.
Those of us with internship positions are obviously highlighting that experience on our resumes and counting on supervisors to act as references. But what if the perfect job opportunity is closer than we think? Wouldn’t it be nice to transition into being a paid professional without even having to leave Eugene? Read the 5 tips below on how to turn your internship into a real, paying job.
Interview your supervisor.
Your supervisor and you probably engage in light conversation during downtime on the job. But to be seriously considered as a potential new hire, dig deeper! Set aside one hour to have a conversation with your supervisor that will strengthen your professional relationship and prove you care about a career at this agency. You could ask:
Establish new connections.
Take it upon yourself to network with professionals at other agencies in the area. Paid staff at your internship site probably have these relationships already, which is exactly why you have to show them that you are also capable of establishing a presence in the local PR community. Call around, send e-mails, and set up informational interviews. This will give you a competitive edge against other potential new hires.
Take on a solo project.
Your supervisor needs to know exactly what her intern can accomplish as a member of the team. Start by considering your skill set: What do you bring to the agency that sets you apart from veteran employees? Next, sit down with your supervisor to discuss agency needs. Maybe the company’s presence on a new social media platform needs to be developed, a brochure needs to be designed, or a whole new event planned. Utilize your skills to meet the agency’s needs and…ta-da! You’ll stand out as an essential member of the team.
Immerse yourself in the agency culture.
Make friends with coworkers and take up activities that seem popular around the office. In conversation, bring up topics of interest to those around you. This agency needs to know that you can groove with the overall office vibe.
This might seem obvious, but just ask for a job! Let your supervisor know how interested in you are in starting your career with this agency. She will greatly appreciate your passion for the work this agency does. The worst-case scenario is that you are turned down, and then it’s back to the resume submissions and networking frenzy!
Have any other tips on turning an internship into a job? Share them below!
Anna Williams, external relations committee member, is a senior studying Family & Human Services. She’s obsessed with craft beer, avocados and everything about Seattle, and is pursuing a career in Food + Bev PR. Follow her on Twitter @annaleighwill.
Networking seems to have a bad rap these days. It can be seen as a stiff and uncomfortable situation. However, networking is much more than that. Every day, you can be networking with your fellow students and professors. Here are some tips for networking within our current home, the School of Journalism and Communication.
Network with professors
There is no doubt that we have some of the best professors at the SOJC. They all come from different backgrounds and have different expertise. If you know you are interested in a certain realm of public relations, seek out a professor who has a similar specialty. If not, ask to speak with your current professor or faculty advisor. As instructors, they are here to help you find your way. They also have large networks of their past students who have entered the public relations industry and can connect you with them. It is important that you thank them for their time and advice. Nobody likes to feel used!
Join clubs and organizations
A great way to quickly grow your network is by joining clubs and student organizations. Attend a meeting and introduce yourself to some unfamiliar faces. Keep in mind that networking isn’t just with someone who is older or more experienced with you. Networking with your peers can be just as valuable as networking with a professional. In addition, if you are a passionate member of a student organization, apply for a leadership position when they come available. By being a leader, you are able to work on many projects with a variety of different people. (Currently, PRSSA is hiring a Public Relations Director!)
Participate in the PRSSA mentorship programs
If you are looking for a one-on-one experience, think about joining the UO PRSSA peer mentorship program or professional mentorship program. In the peer mentorship program, you can build a relationship with another SOJC student. Our professional mentorship program, which will launch again in Fall 2015, allows dues-paying members to be matched with a public relations professional. Through this program, PRSSA members are able to broaden their network to reach outside the walls of the SOJC.
Hallie White is the UO PRSSA Vice President managing chapter membership and mentorship programs. Connect with her on Twitter at @halliecwhite.
Didn’t make it to our last meeting? We heard from marketing professor Jessyca Lewis on marketing yourself on Twitter.
Here are some helpful tips to consider when creating your personal brand:
Use a Professional Name for Your Twitter Handle. We know that first impressions are important, and on Twitter, your name and handle are two of the first things people will look at. You want to make sure that they convey the same kind of professionalism that you would have when meeting a potential employer in person. Also, using your real name – or as close to it as you can get – makes it much easier for people to search for you.
Provide a Professional Photo. As with your Twitter handle, the photo you use for your profile is most likely the first photo people on Twitter will see of you. Make sure it represents you in a way you are proud of and communicates professionalism.
Write a Succinct and Appropriate Bio. Your bio can include your professional and personal interests as well as a link to a blog or website if you have one.
Don’t Tweet Excessively, But Do Keep It Consistent. Posting too many tweets in a short period of time can create a negative impression, but you do want to stay consistent and current on Twitter. Jessyca Lewis suggested making a personal social media calendar so you have a schedule of what and when you will tweet.
Who to Follow: To get the most out of Twitter, follow a lot of people and a variety of people. This can include companies you’re interested in working for, UO professors, fellow students, industry experts, brands you like or organizations you’re involved in. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people on Twitter; the worst that can happen is that they don’t reply.
What Makes a Good Tweet? Tweet what you know and tweet what you love. Tell people about what you’re interested in, share interesting articles you find and try to strike a balance between being personal and professional.
Do you have any tips on how to market yourself on Twitter?
Nicola Hyland, external relations committee member, is a junior pursuing a degree in public relations and a minor in business administration. Follow her on Twitter at @NicolaMorgan_.
Michael Nguyen is the Communications Coordinator at Susan G. Komen Oregon and SW Washington Affiliate. He earned his Design and Visual Communications degree from Western Oregon University. During his college career, he also participated in a study abroad program at the Florence University of Arts where he studied art history and photography.
Q: What are some of your responsibilities in the organization?
A: My responsibilities entail graphic design, web design, photography and social media. Essentially my role here is heavily visual communication design.
Q: What does an “average day in the office” look like for you?
A: An average day at the office has me checking my emails in the morning and responding to any questions or projects that I am currently working on. Various projects that I work on routinely would be maintaining care of the website, updating any information, managing what content goes on the front page and checking for trends through Google Analytics which show me statistics of all traffic coming to our site. Likewise, I go through our social media accounts as well to check on any messages or comments as well as to periodically post content and information about upcoming events and activities. Bigger projects that I work on depend on the time of the year. Currently we are going through our Year End Appeal. I have designed and sent out over 9,000 letters to our constituents as well as to our email database and I’m posting social ads through media outlets for maximum exposure.
Q: How did you land your position at Susan G. Komen?
A: I began as a graphic design intern working for Komen under the Director of Marketing, creating visual content for use on web, social and email. After several months I was then brought on part time as the Communications Coordinator eventually working with the Director of Development and Communications where I was then brought up to a full-time position.
Have confidence, be assertive, and make sure that if you make a mistake own up to it.
Q: What tips do you have for students coming into the professional world of public relations and communications?
A: Education is the foundation from which you start your journey. However, experience is ultimately what is required to push you forward not only in your career, but also in your skills. If you can start early and become involved in any organization, internship, company, or opportunity that allows you to practice real life applications while you are still in school, then you will have an edge over other candidates your age looking for similar jobs. That experience early on will easily translate over to similar encounters in your future career.
Additionally, work on your people skills! Practice mock interviews, if you find yourself stumbling on words or having a hard time answering a question, then you know what you must focus on in improving. This can be crucial in future negotiations, job interviews (negotiating salary can cause people to stumble and become tongue-tied), or communicating confidently at work with your supervisors or clients. With that also is networking: no matter how skilled you are, knowing the right people can take you very far. They can provide opportunities and connect you with potential job prospects or clients. Final tips would be to have confidence, be assertive, and make sure that if you make a mistake own up to it.
Lastly, take a look at this Ted Talk on body language that Michael recommended!
Shelby Nelson, External Relations Committee, serves as a project manager for the PRSSA blog. She is a senior pursuing a Public Relations degree. Feel free to follow her on Twitter at @shelbybriann.
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
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.