30 tips for getting a job & making your mark

Drawing on lessons learned and advice given over my career, 30 tips for getting a job and marking your mark that I shared with students in Mohawk College’s postgrad public relations certificate program…

  1. Aim for one 20-minute informational interview per week with someone who’s doing what you hope to do after graduation.
  2. Informational interviews build your network / fan club of people who can hire you or recommend you to others.
  3. Questions to ask in your informational interviews: what’s your day like, what do you enjoy most, what’s the greatest challenge, what’s changed in the industry, what advice would you give a freshly minted grad.
  4. Never ask for a job or give your resume at the end of an informational interview.
  5. Always send a thank-you note after your informational interview.
  6. No one owes you a job, no matter how much student debt you may have or how many degrees, diplomas and certificates to your name.
  7. When applying for a job, it’s all about what you can do for the employer and not why the employer should hire you.
  8. Most employers will be more interested in your portfolio than your transcripts. Talk about what you did while at school.
  9. Show initiative by doing your homework before your interview – read annual reports & media coverage. Be prepared.
  10. Above all else, employers are hiring for fit and attitude. Technical skills can be learned on the job. Can they see themselves spending eight hours a day with you?
  11. Hiring is a time-intensive, high-stakes proposition. Your boss is judged by her boss on whether she makes smart or poor hiring choices.
  12. First impressions count in your job interview and within the first minute, an employer may well have decided if you’re a hit or a miss, in or out.
  13. It’s okay to be nervous during your interview. Bored, distracted and entitled are deadly. And if you seem unenthusiastic during the interview, what will you be like three months into the job?
  14. Yes, employers will be checking out your Facebook page and Twitter feed. Sexybeast.gmail.com won’t help your chances.
  15. Don’t overreach and exaggerate your experience and qualifications. Hiring committees have finely tuned BS detectors.
  16.  Ask questions during your job interview. Make it a conversation rather than a monologue. A good question to ask – what do you need me to do within my first three months on the job.
  17. On the question of salary expectations, it’s not what you want to get paid. It’s what the employer can afford and what they already pay others.
  18. Always send a thank-you note after your interview.
  19. Be a low maintenance, drama-free hire.
  20. Don’t expect ribbons or gold stars. A paycheque is your reward.
  21. Never confuse your boss with your mom or dad.
  22. Your boss is not, and does not want to be, your best friend.
  23. Executive assistants can make your job so much easier or so much harder. Always treat them with courtesy and respect. They’re gatekeepers.
  24. Play to your strengths. Invest your time building on what you do best rather than shoring up  your weaknesses and where you don’t have passion.
  25. Be great at one thing and do it better than the rest.
  26. Be curious. Working in PR is an all-access, backstage VIP pass to your organization. Talk with anyone. Everyone has a story.
  27. Aim to hit one home run every year at work or in the community. Do something you’d be proud to tell your kids and future employer.
  28. Underpromise and overdeliver.
  29. Writing quick, clean and compelling copy is a core skill. Be a better writer by being a voracious reader.
  30. You don’t have to sell your soul to work in PR. You’ll find an organization, cause and leader who share your values and principles. Work there.