PR Through The Eyes Of A Young Professional

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It’s NOT a Hobby, It’s Freelance!

In Freelance, Jobs, Lessons Learned, Public Relations on August 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

 

In my previous posting I discussed how freelance work contributes to your ability to strengthen your skills and credibility while on the job hunt. Now the question becomes, “How do I put this on a resume?” This issue can be overwhelming for applicants. While you don’t want it to seem like the job you are applying for isn’t your main focus, you also don’t want to underestimate your experience in your field. From my experience it is important to let employers know that you are driven and dedicated to your field. Many employers will be impressed by your proactive approach to stay connected to the field. Here are a few tips on how to list your experience.

List infrequent projects cautiously

If you pick up freelance projects infrequently and do not intend to make freelancing a full time career, omit them from your resume. The only time you would list occasional freelance work is if it allows you to fill any gaps in your professional experience.

If you freelance regularly, have worked as a contractor for a period longer than three months, or have ever owned your own business, indicate that experience on your resume. Highlight those attributes of the job experience that qualify you as a perfect candidate for the job that you are seeking.

List your job responsibilities in the same way that you would for any other full-time job you’ve held; focus on those responsibilities which best meet your career objective and quantify your achievements when possible. Exemplify your self-starter attitude under the Qualifications section of your resume. Make sure to list any employable skills you have acquired or strengthened while you were self employed.

Be prepared for the following questions

Even after you have listed the details of your employment on your resume, you may still get several questions from your potential employer about them. Questions may be along the following lines:

  • Were you self-employed because you were in between jobs, or because you wanted to start your own business?
  • Are you still working on your own, as a freelancer or a consultant? If so, do you intent to continue this work in addition to your full time job?
  • Is your self-employment presenting a conflict of interest for the company?
  • Are you working as a freelancer or a contractor on part-time basis, and never intend to have this replace full-time employment?
  • Does your long-term career goal include owning your own business?

You can see that all of these questions are valid from your potential employer’s point of view. Companies don’t want to spend the time and resources to hire you, train you and provide you with benefits only to have you quit after a year to start your own business.

Show your commitment to the job

As a final indication of your commitment to the job you are seeking. Make sure that your cover letter or email addresses anticipated concerns of your potential employer. Make references to anything on your resume that may raise questions. If you still own your own business, but are looking for full-time work, for example, make sure to let your employer know what your long-term professional goals are and how you intend to balance your roles at both businesses.

Avoid apologizing for how you make an income. Your resume and cover letter should present you as a credible and passionate professional. Focus on the positive experiences and skills you have acquired as a freelancer, and make sure to let the employer know how these will benefit the company if you are their chosen candidate.

 

Creating Job Experience For The Resume…Without a Job!

In Freelance, Jobs, Lessons Learned, Public Relations, Social Media, Young Professionals on August 5, 2011 at 1:34 am

You have the degree or degrees, but you are still unable to find a job. It’s like a Catch 22: “ How do I get the job experience, if I can’t get the job?” These few tips will help you stay connected to your field even though you aren’t currently working in your field.

Accepting a job outside the field

No matter what type of degree you have you, can pretty much apply it to any industry and it will get you a job. Since we are not in a perfect world, you must be willing to accept a job outside your field, temporarily of course, if you want to sustain your lifestyle.  Employers are looking for actual work experience in addition to education, so if you cannot get it in your desired career field then it is time to get some experience, somewhere. To avoid going too far off base, limit the jobs you’re applying to so that they still meet job duties that are applicable to your career choice. In the communications field you have to know how to adapt and recognize how job descriptions often overlap. Most times, accepting a job anywhere in the field of communications can be used to your advantage when revising your resume to the jobs that are relevant to your career. Whatever you do, do not lose the steam to keep applying or you WILL stay at that job and will never make advances in your passion of choice.

Freelance work

If you say you have a passion  now is the time to show and prove!  There are a lot of up and coming businesses that may or may not have the budget and are unaware of their need for Public Relations or Marketing or Social Media. Go out and make them aware! It is ok to accept a lower pay because at this point your main objective is to continue to stay active in your field so that you can continue to fuel your passion and show those jobs your tenacity and experience.

Social Media

Social Network relationships don’t cultivate themselves. It takes some work on your part, as would any other relationship. Continue to use social networking sites to reach out to potential employers; but don’t forget the most important thing of all…NETWORK!!! Do not network with the  intention of simply  getting a job, but rather, build meaningful relationships with the intentions to connect and offer  information. Posting relevant information about your field or engaging in discussion about topics related to your field can accomplish this.

Reading Materials

So you have you Bachelors and maybe even you Masters. Does that mean you can get away from educational reading? NEVER! Not if you want to be successful. Things are always changing so it is in your best interest to keep abreast with everything that is going on in your field.  Since you aren’t learning these things in the workplace, and you don’t plan on continuing your education in the classroom, then you need to make sure you are being proactive in your attempts to staying to date with information.

So take a moment to ask yourself — Are you being proactive or reactive in pursuing your career? What other tips have you tried to build your work experience and credibility in your field? Do you have any tips for ways to expand the tips that were given? Please share below.

To Accept or Not to Accept?

In Lessons Learned, Social Media, Young Professionals on July 27, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I think it’s safe to say, we live in a very social society – social networking that is.

No matter who you meet, whether it is at the grocery store or your kids little league game, everybody and their momma (literally – AARP reported seniors are one of the fastest growing users of social media) are networking,  online.

But social networking can be exhausting: friends, followers, connections, +’s, the list goes on; but as a professional how are you managing to keep everyone in their respective categories?? Read the rest of this entry »

Picking A Username: A Guide For The Indecisive

In Lessons Learned, Social Media, Young Professionals on April 29, 2011 at 12:34 am

As somebody who regularly has to deal with a multitude of Twitter accounts, both personal and client-based, I often come across confusion when it comes to the thorny issue of naming your @account.But once you’ve picked the name you want, what else do you need to bear in mind? Here are some tips that people often forget:

Tell People!

This is the most common one I see – change your username and then don’t tell anybody that you’ve done it. I guess it comes about from an (incorrect) assumption that everybody is using a Twitter platform like you do, and that they’ll just be replying to something you’ve tweeted.

But if they sometimes use text messages to tweet, or simply feel like reaching out to you unprompted, not knowing that you’ve changed your @username will most likely result in a big misunderstanding. Save everyone the embarrassment, by telling people. And not just once either, remind them for a few days. The average tweet has a lifespan of 15 minutes, please don’t  assume your followers hang on your every word…

Keep your old username

Once you have your new username, set up a spare account and grab your old username. Then you can put up a tweet saying you’ve moved, maybe even set up an auto-tweet to let people who tweet you know that you have a new home. Simple and pain-free, and saves so much embarrassment if you forget.

Track mentions of the old name

Hopefully you’ll already have saved-searches or more sophisticated tools in use that keep track of mentions of your brand or name. If so, add your now-defunct username to these tools too, so you can make sure you’re not missing out on any messages that might be important.

Get it right the first time

Twitter supports are a lovely bunch, but getting changes made can be a tricky process at times. Try to avoid annoying them by making sure you get things right the first time.

So there you go, three easy tips, some probably fairly obvious, but all should help you make this process as pain-free as possible – not just for you, but for the people following you too!

Social Media PR Strategies

In Corporate Social Responsibility, Education, Lessons Learned, Public Relations, Social Media, Uncategorized on April 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I’d like to explore a brief outline of how you can effectively use social media to accomplish your PR objectives. The social web is as flexible as you want it to be, and there is no single “right answer”. The following short outline will guide you for how to approach a social media PR strategy.

 

Developing your Platform

Social media is more than just Twitter

Everyone is buzzing about Twitter and it is without question one of the most influential networks among PR and marketing professionals. And while we’re fond of Twitter as well, (follow us @HowardSmithPR ) social media is far more than just Twitter. If Twitter is the extent of your participation you’re missing out. To truly be effective at using social media for PR, treat Twitter as a feeder to something larger – as one piece to a much larger and elegant puzzle.

Making the connection

Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket or network, focus on owning your niche across web platforms. There is little value in being a brand or person who is popular in network X or Y. There is far more value in being thought of as a leader of a niche. In other words:  your positioning should make you known as the definitive source for an industry. Putting a focus on a larger strategy that has nothing to do with any single web platform in particular is how you can accomplish this.

Be ready for a long term commitment

Tactics = fast, strategy = slow

If you’re able to execute on something that resonates, engaging in the social web with the goal of generating PR can see results fast. But don’t make the mistake of thinking a single tactical success is all it takes to see sustainable growth. You need to engage in continued tactics over a long period of time – and the truth is as many of them will fail as will succeed. But if your strategy is sound, in time, it will pay off and provide increasing returns.

Become referential

A social media PR strategy needs to be designed to position the company a referential brand. When the brand or company identity becomes referential, your work  will get easier.  As you contribute more, people will start to notice and your content will spawn discussions. Find a way to become referential and your efforts will multiply themselves.

How are you activating social media for PR objectives?

Reaching Your Professional Greatness

In Education, Internship, Lessons Learned, Public Relations, Young Professionals on April 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm

The journey to becoming a certified, verified, and vetted public relations professional is a very intricate and arduous process. MY ultimate goal as a professional is to be seen both within and outside my field as a valuable thought-leader on issues that matter to the advancement of the PR practice and it’s practitioners.

What are your goals as a professional? How are you moving toward achieving your ultimate goals?

The journey of a young pro always begins with finding that first job -and being taken seriously as a professional would be nice too, but that usually comes a little later.  The first few years are about you earning your stripes by spending long nights at the office, doing less than appealing client work, and conducting tasks that may make you ask: Am I still an intern? Or where is the intern?

Despite the struggles of being a new PR pro, establishing or at least thinking about your professional legacy is a must.  Therefore I offer the following tips to help you ascend to professional greatness.

Will they work? Hell,I don’t know.

Nevertheless these are the strategies I’m following, so you are more than welcome to apply them to your own goals wherever you see fit. Plus I would never steer myself wrong!

My Steps Toward Professional Greatness (in no particular order):

1. Define your professional legacy early – it’s never too early to think about the mark you want to leave on your field. Be passionate and proactive.

2. Establish your professional philosophies as soon as possible– as a young PR pro you probably haven’t even considered what your professional philosophies are; but after a few years in the field you should have a firm grasp on what you can offer different than anybody else. Don’t be another cookie cutter pro!

3. Connect with the YOU 10 years from now– having a mentor is still the best resource for any professional- no matter the field. Find a pro that embodies everything you want to be when you reach their years in the field. Know their path and take what you need to make your own.

4. Contribute to the conversation– one of the most valuable tips my mother has ever given me is to always have something to say. As a child/teen I never quite understood what she meant, but now as an adult, I know exactly what she means. Always be able to add value to a topic of conversation. Whether it be as small as asking a question in a meeting, commenting on or penning a blog…or as impactful as joining a board or teaching a class…never be a wall flower.

There are several other tips I could offer but I think that’s enough for now. I want to hear your tips. What steps are you taking to reach your professional greatness?

Please share!

Video: Social Media Revolution

In Lessons Learned, Social Media, Uncategorized on March 11, 2011 at 10:06 pm

If you haven’t seen this video, now is the time! What do you think of these stats? Is Social Media a fad? Yeah Right!!!

Or what about Social Media ROI? How do YOU measure the success of your social media campaigns?

The Professionals Guide to Twitter

In Lessons Learned, Social Media, Young Professionals on February 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm

 

Twitter is addictive, but it also has lots of traps that can lure you into looking unprofessional and lazy. The following guidelines will enable you to be personable and professional.

Cut the Shortcuts

 

Being that it only allow you to express yourself 140 characters at a time , there are appropriate shortcuts for Twitter, but don’t go overboard. Otherwise, no one will be able to understand you, and they may think you’re lazy. Be sure to remember to be clear and concise. You’re not receiving an official grade from your postings, but you are being judged on your grammar mistakes so don’t forget to edit your work. Take a few seconds to review your messages so that you can correct any mistakes.

Pay Attention To Your Brand

Social media is about being honest, not tricking people. On Twitter you maybe able to get away with using a unique username but be sure to put real information on your biography section. In an effort to be even more transparent, be sure to use a real photo of yourself to help others understand who they’re connecting with.

One of the easiest ways for people to decide whether or not they want to follow you is to check your follow ratio. Try to keep it balanced so that you don’t look desperate or like a snob. Also, since you never know who’s watching you on be sure to always promote your absolute best work, not your mediocre stuff. However, when tweeting  your work, do not be so self involved that you forget to share other people’s work. For every tweet you make about yourself, make two or three tweets about someone else’s work or a third party article.

Be assertive but not pushy

While it may be tempting to add your friend’s entire friends list, when circumstances allow, always make sure you are asking friends for introductions. While situations may not always allow you this luxury, in the cases that you share a friend in common take advantage of the opportunity.  You’ll avoid freaking people out if you ask a friend to make an introduction rather than friending people you’ve randomly spotted online.

Please keep in mind that while responding to messages on tweets and DM’s  is common courtesy; you cannot demand a response from anyone. Especially people you don’t know well and you hope to do business with. If you’re never getting any responses back or retweets and still continue to ask, then you’re cyber-stalking . Stop. If your tweet is good enough to share, your followers will retweet it without a desperate plea.

I’m sure most of you PRofessionals are familiar with these guidelines but sometimes its easy to get comfortable and slip into bad habits. Remember these are social netWORKs and  your always on the job. Being professional is a must so remember to continue putting fourth effort in everything that you do.

 

 

 

The Young Professionals Guide To Social Networks

In Lessons Learned, Social Media, Young Professionals on February 8, 2011 at 11:33 pm

People use social networks impulsively. It becomes an outlet for many things, whether it is to network, keep in touch, find out more information, or just to vent! What young professionals should keep in mind at all times is the overall impact information released on these sites can have on their lives – personally and professionally. Here are some general guidelines to adhere to that will help maintain a healthy social network image.

When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong

Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to being a professional, it is ok to be yourself on social networks. No one expects you to be a professional 24 hours a week 365 days a year. It is expected that on the other side of that blackberry, android, or computer is a human being and not every day is going to be a good day. Those you connect with on social networks will appreciate this and may also be able to connect with you on those feelings. However it is important to be conscious of how much of ‘you’ should be revealed. Just because you’re having a bad day does not mean that you should use offensive language or offer uncomfortable details of your experiences. The best rule of thumb is if you would not use derogatory language in a professional setting, it probably should not be posted on social networks either. PERIOD. Remember that you’re always ‘on’ in social media realm, and somebody is ALWAYS watching. Don’t give them a show, you might regret in the future.

Be A Friendly Follower

One golden rule that we should all be very familiar with by now; “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” By doing this on social networks you’ll develop a reputation for being a worthy friend and follow who other users will want to pass along to their network. Keep in mind that both good news and bad news travels fast, so always be prepared to make a good impression. You wouldn’t make a nasty comment to a person you just met at work or school would you? In fact I bet you’d probably go above and beyond to seem friendly and helpful. Apply that same attitude to your social media activity. Keep in mind that once you’ve established a relationship with an online contact, you can ask for advice or help, but be prepared to reciprocate these efforts. But don’t abuse those privileges by logging on just to ask people to do something for you.

Quality Over Quantity

You can earn respect on social media sites by offering quality, accessible information in a friendly way. Share relevant links, commentary and helpful advice. However, if you’re on social media sites constantly, you’ll burn yourself out and possibly annoy other people. Find a balance so that you’re making quality contributions to the discussion, not dominating it. As we know “your network is you net worth”. You’ll never broaden your network if you don’t connect with people outside of your circle and comfort zone. Be willing to open yourself up to all types of followers and friends. But keep in mind you can’t be friends with everyone online – keep it professional; trying to do so will make you crazy and it will give your timeline sensory overload! Make educated, intentional and meaningful connections.

These guidelines will help maintain your social media image. The reality is it matters more how people truly view  or perceive you then how you THINK they view you. Those that befriend you on social networks are not privy to knowing everything about you so you must be mindful of what they do see and conduct yourself in a personal yet professional manner. If you have not done this prior to now, do not be discouraged, it is never too late to develop good habits. In the words of Maya Angelou “When you know better, you do better”

Be sure to look for my next post entitled “Breaking Down The Networks” for guidelines on Twitter and Facebook specific rules!

Young PRos and Freelance: 5 Tips Before You Take The Leap

In Freelance, Jobs, Lessons Learned, Public Relations, Young Professionals on February 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Chances are if you’re a young professional ( 1-3 yrs exp.) working in marketing, public relations,  advertising, or any other communications discipline, you haven’t done much in the world of freelance. Freelance/Contract work is traditionally a niche community made up of  professionals who have been practicing in the field for some time and are looking to have more creative control over their work. Some freelance work also may be done in order to earn extra income . Whatever the case , the freelance world is generally not the place where you will find many young professionals.

However due to the economy, there are more qualified professionals than there are available jobs. Traditionally PR, for example, is a very transit field. However hiring freezes and low client budgets has brought everything to a screeching halt. Nevertheless in light of this reality, several young professionals such as my co-author , my Twitter Buddy Keeyana Hall and myself included, have taken that leap of faith into the world of freelance.

Having not been fortunate enough to secure FT employment right out of graduate school, I have remained resilient and dedicated to my craft by becoming a freelancer/contractor and using the skills I’ve acquired.

No use wasting all that education and training… LOL.

Deciding to become a freelancer, as a young professional, is not a step that should be taken lightly. I guarantee your novelty to the field will  be tested, therefore it is imperative that you be ADEQUATELY prepared. 

Here are 5 Tips (in no particular order) I think every young professional should remember before taking on any freelance assignments. I would also encourage them to continue to engage these tips throughout their career.

  1. 1. Know your strength: As a professional you MUST know in what areas your strength and weakness lie.  It is safe to say:  “You Don’t Know Everything!” ;and it is important that you don’t pretend to. However you should definitely be cognizant of what you do well. But more importantly you should know the basics. For example as a PR pro you should know how to write and format press releases and  how to clearly and definitely answer “What is PR exactly?” and “How can it help MY business?” when someone (and they will) asks.
  2. Be Confident:  The worst thing any pro can do is seem hesitant and unsure of their work. No one will know you only have two years experience working in the field (internship and PRSSA  experience mostly) unless you tell them.  Remain confident in yourself and it will show through your work. One of the greatest leaps of faith you will take as a practitioner is going out on your own, professionally, without supervision. Being your own boss is a very powerful feeling.
  3. Form an Advisory Committee: As I mentioned prior, no one is great at everything, especially a young pro. Therefore I recommend creating a small team of people who you can brainstorm with, help you edit materials, and even  pitch a reporter or two just to help. This team should  consist of  a professional mentor,   an educational colleague, and a more experienced professional in your field.  I guarantee these people will be essential to your success!!
  4. Stay Relevant: READ, READ ,READ!!! Every morning I wake up to  an email full of RSS feeds from some the industries most respected sources; (Ragan Communications, PRNewser, PRWeek, just to name a few). And I love it! While freelancing, it is your duty and professional obligation to your clients,  to stay current on all relevant issues of the industry. Although you may not be working FT at a firm or organization , you want make sure you know just as much if not more than your professional colleagues that do.

And last but certainly not least,

5. Know your professional worth: I can’t stress this  tip enough. Just because you haven’t been practicing for 10 + years doesn’t mean your work isn’t worthy of compensation. I can’t lie, in the beginning this concept was very difficult for me. All I wanted to do was practice my craft; money had no immediate importance.  I worked for free on several occasions and sometimes when I was lucky I got paid pennies (literally). When you meet with a potential client have your  range for compensation (less for NPO and more for Corporations) already in mind. Don’t be embarrassed, this is business.  Remember  you don’t have millions in the bank ( and if you do, can I have a dollar?).  If you are doing freelance work , while still looking for a fulltime job, chances are  money is essential to your lively hood. Do research on rates specific to your skill set, experience, and geographic location.  Your advisory committee will be extremely useful at this point.

I hope these tips help.  And if you have other tips that you think young pros should know before jumping into the world of freelance please share!

Reminder: Your greatest professional recommendations will undoubtedly come from your clients that you’ve worked so hard for.