How I Broke into the Public Relations Industry
By Lauren Weitlauf
When I was 18, I moved from my hometown in Kentucky to the “big” city of Louisville to pursue my undergraduate education. The city was simultaneously captivating and overwhelming- with the TARC’s popping exhaust, the bustle of downtown, and the myriad of roads I could somehow never navigate, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
In one fell swoop, I pursued a public relations career and embraced life in the city; however, I was unaware that I was still in a small market for PR and that openings were both limited and wildly competitive. Over time, with perseverance, the help of superior mentors, and the below steps, I was given the opportunity to begin my career as a PR professional.
Research, Research, Research
I hate to break it to any recent graduates, but doing your homework never goes out of style.
I jumped headfirst into what the Louisville PR industry had to offer. I became familiar with the firms in the area and which corporations had in-house PR teams or representatives. I scoured LinkedIn and reviewed the experience these individuals had completed early in their careers, and brainstormed ways I could get similar experience.
Make Connections Early
It’s never too early or too late to network, and as I get older, I’ve learned it is not only what you know, but who you know. Research local organizations in your area to join such as YPAL (Young Professionals Association of Louisville). This organization gives you the opportunity to meet professionals in your field and hear about different opportunities in your line of work. Reach out to the principals at local firms, or PR professionals in your area, and ask for the opportunity to shadow or for an informational interview. This is a memorable way to make connections, convey your interest, and learn more about the company. The executives will remember your initiative, which could work favorably when a position becomes available.
Leave an Impression
In areas with smaller industries, it’s important to set yourself apart from your competition. Sometimes this can seem daunting, especially if this is a first job and you know you’re interviewing against bigger players with much more experience. An article from Glassdoor encourages potential candidates to highlight what makes them a unique but competent contender for the job. Without losing altruism, it’s key to find your signature when interviewing. When I would send my interviewers follow-up emails (which you should always do), I would include a link from an article that tied into a conversation we had during our discussion. This showed my ability to listen and that I was attentive to detail.
These steps helped me land a role in the Louisville PR scene. Coincidently, it also put me in the position to share this advice with young professionals who may be experiencing the same dilemma, regardless of your background or geographic location. Best of luck with your endeavors!