Timeless Advice to Land PR and Media Jobs in the Digital Age from CareerBuilder PR Exec

When I graduated from Cronkite with a public relations focus I was poised and ready to work, equipped with all the training and practical internship experience that comes with the school’s world class media programming and education. I was a PR intern at a global hotel chain headquartered in Phoenix and passionate about working for the tourism industry.

The problem: it was 2009 right after the housing market and the entire economy plummeted and I was newly responsible for my financial independence. Jobs, in general, were tough to find, let alone entry level PR gigs. Unfortunately for me and my classmates, companies often make the mistake of cutting PR and marketing departments first during times of crisis.

Today the industry is in much better shape and is expected to grow, especially in the STEM and healthcare fields according to Mike Erwin of CareerBuilder at the PR Now & Next Conference, presented by Ragan Communications in Chicago. If you’re a recent graduate or making a career change, Erwin offered some new and timeless advice for today’s PR and media pros from the view of hiring managers.


Erwin said that every job he’s had spanning his 25-year career in the PR and communications industry has come through a referral. Same with my career. Sometimes it takes a little patience, especially if you graduate during a recession, but be patient.

It took about six months, but if it was not for the support and recommendations by the PR director whom I worked with during my internship, I may not have landed my first PR job at a boutique agency in Phoenix. My next few gigs all stemmed from client connections who could earnestly speak to my work ethic and quality of work.

Never underestimate the power of relationships and this impact has on your image.

That brings me to social media.

Social Media:

Erwin suggests using social media to your advantage, not your detriment. For example, it’s OK to share your opinions with taste and professionalism, but ultimately remember your profile and posts are a direct extension of you and your personal brand. Your statements, images, and posts are all permanent once online. Erwin recommends using Twitter to show prospective employers that you’re informed and said knowing news from various local, national and global sources is paramount to being a successful PR pro.

“The first question I ask PR candidates in any interview is ‘How do you get your news?’”

Your resume and how to get it seen by the bots:

43% of hiring managers look at a resume for less than a minute, so how do you even get a human to read it?

Write each bullet as a headline and avoid jargon.Get rid of the objective. Erwin says it’s an old formatting tip that anyone applying to a job today should ditch.Use numbers to show proven, measurable successes to which you have contributed.Skip the GPA. Erwin says its self-serving and most employers won’t care what grades you got as long as you can perform the job.

Now, how do you get it through the machines or automated tracking systems (ATS)?

Use keywords that align with the job descriptions. An ATS can also read PDFs and scan them for keywords.Keep sentences under 30 words, to make them count.Always save your resume as a PDF with a catchy, intuitive file name similar to the keywords you’d have as a subhead on your resume. i.e. “Krista Hinz, Digital Marker, Writer, Passionate Storyteller” or “Krista Hinz, Digital Marketer and PR Pro.”

Negotiating Salary: 

While PR and communications roles are coming back steadily, the salary ranges across industries have been stagnant. The good news, according to Erwin:

66% of employers plan to increase salaries for current employees in the back-half of 2017  
53% of employers plan to increase initial salary offers for new employees in the back-half  of 2017

Salary discussions are never an easy conversation to have, but knowing your worth and the crucial role of PR and communications professionals play in the success of any company should give you a leg up.

Make the Most of your performance review.Come prepared to show an expanding skillset and value.Look at the big picture — and make the case for executives, too.

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