Career Guide

Résumés and Relationships: Advice for New Graduates Hoping to Enter Public Relations

Even in the best of times, young people graduating from college might struggle to distinguish themselves from the competition and land coveted jobs in public relations. Now, as the coronavirus shutdown pummels the job market, barriers to employment seem higher than ever.

But recent grads can still get noticed and hired, said a panel of Southern California-based PR professionals during the May 20 webinar, “Get Your Foot in the Door and Stand Out,” hosted by PRSSA and the Glen M. Broom Center for Professional Development in Public Relations at San Diego State University.

“We want to provide real-world information and counsel for you,” said Scott Pansky, co-founder of the Allison + Partners PR firm in Los Angeles, and the event’s moderator.

As the panelists answered questions submitted by students and new pros eager to join the communications profession, some recurring themes emerged: Yes, you need a strong résumé, but relationships might be more important.

“I would take a hard worker with zero experience over someone who has coasted but has lots of experience,” said panelist Matt Prince, senior manager of public relations and brand experience for Taco Bell in Orange County, Calif. Tailor your résumé to the job you’re applying for, and tie keywords from the post to your own experience, “even if it was waiting tables,” he said.

Despite a limited work history, you might have more experience than you realize, said Anaik von der Weid, head of Google Assistant communications in Los Angeles. “What is it that makes you feel good about yourself? Find examples of those qualities within you” and build “your personal narrative.”

Moreover, “Don’t scare yourself into not applying for something because some parts of it are not a perfect fit for you,” said Nicole Duong, specialist of awards strategy and talent relations at Netflix.           

“Grit, determination, perseverance and passion” are qualities that panelist Chris Bess, executive director of global communications for Disney in Los Angeles, looks for in job candidates. On résumés, he wants to see a “willingness to roll up your sleeves and do whatever it takes to be successful.”

Pansky advised emphasizing three main points on your résumé: Where you’ve worked or interned, who your clients were and the results that you achieved.

On your résumé, articulate examples of “how you’ve collaborated with people in any shape or form,” said panelist Deanne Yamamoto, managing director of Golin’s Los Angeles office. Résumés with typos go in the trash, she said, adding that “It’s something we’ve seen a lot lately.”

But many jobs are filled through personal contacts. “At Google, almost half the people we hire come through referrals,” von der Weid said.

“Relationships and networking are the key,” Bess said. “Mine LinkedIn and all the social media networks. Reach out for virtual coffee meets. Leverage your connections. Start conversations. Find advocates for your personal brand.”

Said Yamamoto, “You’d be surprised how many people are willing to help.”


Greg Beaubien is a frequent contributor to PRSA publications.

Photo credit: shutterstock

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