Finding a Public Relations Job in 2012

Image courtesy of Stuart MilesI just completed a five month job search. Although this is not a normal topic of this blog, I wanted to share what I did and what I learned in case it can help you in your search.

My Parameters

First, some context. I have a degree in communications and all of my jobs have been in communication and PR. Except my last job. I was COO at a web development company. I decided to try something new, and for five years I learned new things every day.

One of the things I learned is that, as organized as I am, my passion is for communications work rather than operations work. So, at the end of June I left my job in search of a position in PR.

What I Did

  1. Took time to reflect. I spent time thinking about what I really wanted in my next job. This is so basic but really important. YOU need to know what you want. Otherwise, no one will be able to help you. I thought I had this one nailed, but for the first month of my search after people would ask what I was looking for and I gave my answer, almost universally I got the response, “Well, let me know when you have a better idea what you are looking for.” I spent more time defining what I wanted, and it was well worth the effort.
  2. Wrote a pitch. I defined what I wanted in a short written “pitch.” This gave me a mental script for talking with people, text for posts on job seeker boards, content for emails to contacts, material for cover letters and more.
  3. Kept a log. I documented what I did for my search each day. I wrote down items to follow-up on, jobs applied for and the sources, and takeaways from conversations.
  4. Tapped my network. I worked to build my professional connections on LinkedIn and then used the email function there to send messages about my job search. I created a “job search” category within my connections to track the people who I thought could help with my search. I only sent connections a few messages, each time when I thought I had something concrete to ask for.

    I was not able to predict who would help, but many people did. I think the key is really giving your contacts something to grab onto. Ask them for something specific, such as passing along relevant job posts or endorsing your skills or writing a recommendation on LinkedIn. I found that many people were willing to help as long as I let them know specifically what to do.

  5. Got out there. I joined several online and local networking groups and attended their events. (Since I was not working I also saved costs in some cases by volunteering at the events.) I networked with fellow professionals as well as with people from industries where I hoped to work.  I was active on all my social sites sharing professional news and information. I did not have a job, but I stayed invested in the profession.
  6. Worked with a career coach. One of the big changes from my last job search was the proliferation of career coaches. I was not interested in online services to review my resume or provide canned interview tips. But, I decided that some one-on-one time with a coach could help me make sure that my job search efforts were up to date with the expectations and needs of today’s hiring manager. This proved to be very helpful, validating some of my approaches and giving me new ideas.

Five Months, New Job

In early November I found the job I was looking for. (More on that once I start that position.) Based on my assessment of the current communications job marketplace in the DC area, I would say that a 6-month search is typical.

If it is affordable, leaving your current job so you can focus on your search can be  very helpful. This frees you up to do the deep thinking on what you want as well as to attend networking events.

It is important to leave any job well. While I did not find that employers were put off by lack of a current job, everyone asked about why I left. When I was able to say that the owner of the company I left was a reference, it always had a positive impact on the conversation.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net