Guest post by David G. Heiser, college senior and intern.
Sponsored: Online college degrees can make candidates out of the previous unemployable
It’s strange to think about it because it’s only October, but for seniors like me, entry into the real world is quickly approaching. We may not want to accept that our final summer break just ended, but we have to start ramping up our preparations for life after graduation.
Note from Dan Schawbel: Employers plan to hire just 1.3% more graduates in 2009 than they hired this year, according to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. That’s the weakest outlook in six years and reflects a sharp recent downturn.
After changing majors a few times, I settled on public relations at the start of my junior year. Once I made that choice, I realized that I needed to establish an area of expertise, something that would set my personal brand apart from the thousands of other freshly minted public relations grads. For me, this was pretty easy; I wanted to focus on food and restaurants. The focus of your personal brand must be something you are going to enthusiastically look forward to learning and talking about every day.
Since I set my target, I’ve begun taking steps to make my goal a reality. I still have a long way to go, but the following are some of the things that have at least improved my chances:
I drastically increased my consumption of media related to my brand.
E-mail companies that you’re interested in working for after you graduate and ask them what qualities they look for in a junior hire. A common theme in the responses I received was being very familiar with the major industry publications. I immediately subscribed to three magazines, made sure I’m reading everything about restaurants in my local newspapers, and started a crusade to expand my culinary vocabulary by reading books by popular food writers.
I researched and aggressively pursued the most relevant internships in my area.
Look for the companies in your town that are most similar to those at which you’d eventually like to work. I ended up securing internships with my city’s food and wine festival and a local PR agency that has several restaurants as clients.
I sought out opportunities to get advice from successful PR professionals through my school.
It’s easy. Arrange lunch with a professor who worked in your chosen industry. Ask and respond to questions when guest speakers come to your campus. Get involved with any campus program that may afford you networking opportunities.
I got my byline in a printed publication.
Whether it’s a campus newspaper, community magazine, or company newsletter, employers love to see that someone else thought your work was worth publishing. My reviews in our campus newspaper reach 3,000 readers weekly. As a bonus, the general manager of one of the restaurants I reviewed enjoyed my writing style so much he recruited me to help write its newsletter.
I claimed my brand and started networking
Claiming your brand on social networking sites insures that you have control over your reputation, but also provides motivation to, you know, actually network, which may lead to otherwise unavailable opportunities. I have profiles on a variety of social networks and have used them to make contacts which I will call on during my job search.
I started producing relevant content.
Showcase your unique voice with consistently updated content that will help position you as an thought/opinion leader in your field. My reviews frequently appear in the first few Google results for popular Charleston restaurants. I also recently purchased www.DavidGHeiser.com and am making efforts to move up in the results for my name.
I take advantage of every opportunity to increase the visibility of my personal brand.
Jump on any chance to get your name in front of an audience that it normally wouldn’t be exposed to. In addition to writing this post, I also worked to get my restaurant reviews syndicated on a local community news website.
David G. Heiser is an intern at Leapfrog PR, a public relations agency specializing in restaurant and other “lifestyle” clients. He’s also a senior at the College of Charleston and a double major in sociology and communication studies. He is the resident food and film critic for the College of Charleston’s student newspaper, the George Street Observer, which has a circulation of 3,000 weekly. After he graduates, he plans on pursuing a career in public relations with a focus on the culinary industry.