It’s that time of year again – the dreaded summer job search. I’m hoping most of you have mapped out your plans for the summer, but I know I’ve talked to a lot of people who are feeling frustrated with how difficult it is to find a summer job or internship in their field. And I’ll agree – it’s not easy, especially since it’s so hypercompetitive. I got really lucky last summer, and just sort of, unexpectedly fell into, my very first PR job at African Lion Safari. Since then, searching for PR employment has definitely gotten easier, so it just goes to show that all it takes is that one job.
But what happens when you’re struggling to even find that one?
You take matters into your own hands, duh! There are plenty of things you can do to gain related experience, and many employers see value in a person who tries to gain this experience elsewhere. So here’s how you start:
1. All It Takes is One: We all know PR is for people who enjoy leading a life that’s far from routine, and if you’re just entering the field, prepare for a job that is far different from all of your friends’ (boring) 9 – 5 office jobs. Last summer I worked every single weekend AND holiday, and it would certainly be a stretch to say I was happy about it. But one of my favourite quotes says “sacrifice today to position yourself for tomorrow”. So suck it up and work those extra hours – all it takes is one killer experience to make the rest of the ride easier.
2. Be Okay with Working for Free: As a student paying over $6,000 to merely go to school, I know this is a tough pill to swallow. But if you’re not finding entry level work, consider finding a volunteer position (bonus points if it helps you gain experience in your field). You never know who you might meet in one of these roles, but more importantly, it shows employers that you made the conscious effort to gain experience somewhere, and most of them can totally appreciate that you’ve put in your time for zero monetary compensation.
3. School is for More than Just Class: I know, I know. Some days you just can’t wait to leave that place to go home and sit in your bed (me – almost always). But while you’re spending all that money to be there in the first place, stick around a little longer! Join a club or society, chat with a prof, or find an on-campus event to attend. You might just find your new favourite extracurricular activity, or make a new connection. The moral of the story: sitting in your bed is really not productive, and the more you open yourself up to new experiences, the more opportunities will come knocking.
4. Blogging is Everything: I can’t speak for many other fields, but if you’re looking for a job in the PR/Communications field and honest to god cannot find a single opportunity to help you gain experience…. well, let me be the first to say you might not be looking hard enough. BUT, if you insist that you are, it’s time to take control and develop these skills yourself. Want to work on your writing? Start a blog. Want to work on your photography? Start a blog. Want to work on building a social media presence? Start a blog. Want people to start contacting YOU about jobs? Start a blog. (Bible, this happened to me not too long ago). Want to work on your video editing? Start a Vlog. (See what I did there). But in all seriousness, the internet is yours to utilize and build your portfolio. This doesn’t even have to be a website that you advertise and share with others, but remember, if you don’t have any other experience, this might be something you want to share with employers.
5. Network, Network, Network: I bet you’re all tired of having this word drilled into your head, am I right? I know how you feel, networking makes me nervous as heck and I feel like I’m back in my horrifying awkward stage all over again. But networking isn’t simply meeting someone at a networking event, adding them on LinkedIn, and hoping they’ll think of you the next time a job opens up in their department. Hell to the no. Make an impression, be memorable, and continue to build the relationship. I’m not saying this person needs to become your bestie, but all it takes is a quick email or phone call every month or two; and if you’re really feeling brave – the informational interview. You’ll be amazed at the impression you can make on someone if you show a genuine interest in maintaining your relationship with them.
And finally, the most important thing you can do is to never give up. I know its hard to be continuously shut down and rejected, but in the end the experiences will just make you stronger. In the meantime, use my tips to build a life that will help you reach your dream career – someday. But don’t forget to fall in love with the process!