Staying Connected When You’re Offline

Last week I went on my first vacation since December. Woof. Definitely well needed and in my mind, well deserved.

I have a plan to visit as many, if not every, baseball stadium in the county. With that in mind, I headed off to Chicago with my Dad in tow. There were plenty of other items on the agenda (eating deep dish pizza, visiting the Bean, heading to the top of Sears Tower) but our trip was planned around Wrigley Field and the Cubs’ home schedule.

Thursday morning I caught up on emails and social media before heading out for a day of sightseeing and tourist attractions. I saw that a key influencer in the communications industry was in Chi-Town for a business meeting and a speech. He asked if anyone was interested in grabbing coffee before he headed back to LGA.

Most of the time, I’m convinced my parents have absolutely no idea what I do for a living. My dad asked if I was posting pictures to Twitter of our carrot cake Wednesday night. He got an A for effort. The only reason he cares about Facebook is because they are now a publicly traded company and he owns shares of Zuck’s stock.

So when I asked if he was cool with me meeting an older guy from the interwebs for some coffee, I was expecting a pretty chilly reaction. Much to my surprise, he asked if this was important to me. It was. Off we went.

I’d like to thank Peter Shankman for sitting down to talk PR (and life) with me. There is nothing comparable to meeting someone you respect and admire for their success, especially when your passions align. I even had the chance to pitch a client’s new product. Now I get to leave the Windy City with great Instagram photos, a stomach full of Chicago hot dogs, and a new connection under my belt to bring back to my office. I’d consider that a successful four-day trip.

What did I learn about this when situation? Maybe it’s not that important to be entirely offline. Disconnecting is always healthy and a way to stay refreshed, but you never want to be so isolated that you miss opportunities that can happen outside of a cubicle. Another important lesson for professionals my age: there are people out there willing to chat with a newly minted graduate. Grow a pair. Put down the cell phone. Nothing beats face to face networking.

The Job Search Tips No One is Telling You

I don’t think I’m alone in saying one of the most frustrating moments/processes of senior year of college is applying for a job. What frustrated me the most was the lack of information provided by the people who were supposed to be helping me along in this process. The days have changed from when our advisors and parents highlighted openings in the classifieds and faxed their resumes places. Hopefully some of the things I learned while applying for jobs (twice since graduating in May 2011) will make your search a little less stressful. Happy hunting!

  • Indeed is one of the best job search websites because it compiles listings from the entire internet. You’ve probably already used it. But what makes it special is the ability to set up job alerts when new relevant postings are made. If you are searching for an entry-level public relations job, set up an alert for “account coordinator” (“assistant account executive” and “junior account executive” work too). You will now have the latest postings emailed to you daily or weekly. They do the heavy searching for you.
  • Facebook is for stalking ex-friends, Twitter is for stalking celebrities and LinkedIn is for stalking companies. With the follow tab, you can follow any relevant companies (and their job postings) and learn more about them. I would recommend going a step further – search within the companies for an employee who went to Penn State (or your respective school) and follow them. Leave a brief message in the message box and follow up with an email. Real life connections trump deep, dark resume abysses every day of the week.
  • Size doesn’t always matter.  There are an unbelievable amount of PR agencies within big cities. Just like picking a college, it is important to decide whether you want to work for a large or small firm. Each have their pros and cons but the small agencies (known as “boutique” firms) are a great starting point for a recent grad. I started at a small firm and can attest that you are given an amazing amount of responsibility. I was able to get clients placed in huge outlets (The Washington Post and Real Simple, for example), write social media proposals and sit in on brainstorm sessions with our CEO. Working at a big firm, you don’t get that kind of experience until your third year – if even then. You will rarely even see your CEO. You can’t beat the hands-on experience of a small firm. The things you learn in just a few months will make you more competitive down the line when looking for a new job. FYI: Craiglist is a great resource for finding openings at boutique agencies. 

  • And with that, I segway into: Consider taking an internship. There is no rule that says you need to have a full-time job immediately after moving that tassel. Sometimes you just need more experience. Companies know that. I took an offer for an internship after graduation, which lead to a full time offer. After six months, I had learned enough to move on to a different job (at another small agency) that better-suited my personality. The additional money helped too. Internships help you narrow down what you do, and more importantly, don’t like about the real world. You have three or six months to decide if this place is right for you. Think about is a long-term interview with the opportunity to boost your resume and portfolio, while making connections and gaining valuable hands-on responsibility.

If your parents freak out at this option, refer them to my blog. Less than a year out of college, I have already had an internship, a job offer and switched to a second job. With placements in top tier media outlets. Now exhale. You’ll be fine.

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Job searching isn’t meant to be an easy process. I am not going to sugar coat that. You are going to have mini-breakdowns, you are going to cry and you are going to yell at your inbox for not having any messages but a stock email that says “thank you for submitting your resume.” Just remember you WILL find a job. It will not include wearing a uniform made of primary colors and asking if people would like fries with that.

And please, please, please dear friends who are communications majors: Stop comparing yourselves to the accounting and engineering kids who have had offers since Labor Day. This field does not work that way. You are not a failure by any means.