Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mom Applies PR to Job Hunt

I am originally from Brazil and moved to Michigan in 1999. Upon my arrival I held a temporary job as an internet researcher for 6 months. In the fall of 2000, I started attending a four-year university in Michigan and, by choice, decided to concentrate only on school and did not hold any jobs from 2000-2003. From the fall of 2003 to spring 2004, I held a part-time job at the Study Abroad office at the university and from January 2004 to April 2004, I was an intern at a non-profit foundation.

I graduated college with a BA in Advertising/PR in April 2004 and moved to Hawaii right away, where I held a position as an Administrative Assistant for 7 months. I gave birth to my daughter in November 2004 and decided to take some time off to raise her. I returned to the workforce in December 2005 and worked at a local payday loan company in Hawaii for 3 months. However, in March of 2006, my husband got a job offer he could not refuse in Santa Barbara and I could not stay in Hawaii by myself and could not come to Santa Barbara with him right away. So I temporarily moved to Florida, where my mom lives, until my husband could get things set up here in California for my daughter and I to join him. So in August of 2006 I took a job at a credit union in Florida and worked there on a temp basis until we could move here, which happened in February 2007. I desperately need help!!!

I have been looking to get into the job market here. I have a resume but I have not been having any luck. Besides, even though I had a degree in Advertising/PR, I do not have much experience in the area. I need to know how to address these problems in my resume and cover letter so I can land interviews, especially in the advertising field. Any tips you can give me will be greatly appreciated!

by Wendy Gelberg, Career Coach and Resume Writer

Your situation poses an interesting challenge but not at all an insurmountable one. In fact, with your background in advertising and PR, you have exactly the skills you need to be successful.

You have the perfect opportunity to showcase your skills by creating an advertising/PR campaign that promotes “you” as the product. I apologize for a phrase that sounds dehumanizing – you’re much more than a product, of course – but from the employer’s perspective, the hiring process is roughly analogous to the buying process. The employer will “buy” the services of someone who can meet certain needs, just as a shopper will buy a product that meets certain needs.

To convince employers that you can meet their needs, reframe what you refer to as “these problems” in your background – use your PR skills to turn what at first glance may seem like a liability into a strong positive. Rather than focusing on your lack of specific job experience in your field of study or your sporadic and short-term job history, focus on all that you’ve learned in the three years since you graduated and how that adds to your potential value to the employer.

For example, in the last eight years, you’ve lived in Michigan, Hawaii, Florida, and California – from those experiences, perhaps you can speak of being more attuned to the markets in those areas. Maybe in relocating frequently, you’ve done some research about those locations, and you can promote your research skills. Or as a new mother, you now understand the needs of that segment of the population. The insights you’ve gained into the needs of various markets will enable you to help an employer communicate more effectively with them.

The message here is that, like a new graduate, most of what you are offering is your potential; but unlike a new graduate, you’ve had several years of world/life experience that gives you added perspective, which makes you an even more attractive candidate. I’m sure as you apply your PR training to your own experiences, you’ll find other aspects that you can emphasize in terms of how those experiences will benefit an employer. This can be part of your cover letter – just make sure you don’t sound apologetic or defensive about the twists and turns in your life, but simply approach it from the perspective that a series of life and family circumstances delayed the start of your career but will actually serve to make you more effective than had you started it immediately after university.

Second, I would encourage you not to focus all of your energies just on the resume and cover letter but rather to think in broad terms about how you can reach your target audience and what needs that audience has that you can address. How else might you reach your audience other than with a traditional resume/cover letter? What kind of an ad campaign could you create to promote yourself to different kinds of companies? Would a video resume be effective? A web portfolio? A print campaign? A multi-pronged effort? In the field of advertising, you have the latitude to be really creative.

Following a more conventional job search strategy, a few additional steps that I would recommend you take include:

1. Check with your school to find out if there have been any important changes in the theory, practice, or technology associated with advertising/PR in the few years since you graduated. Most likely there haven’t been significant changes, but it’s important to find out. Additionally, contacting people at your school will reopen lines of communication and networking channels with people who may be able to provide job leads or other contacts for you. Networking is the single most effective strategy for finding jobs!

2. Join a professional association for people in advertising/PR and attend local meetings, if possible. Again, this creates networking opportunities and keeps you abreast of new trends in your field.

3. Consider volunteering for some organization whose cause you support, offering to help with their advertising/PR activities. Alternatively, look for small businesses that may not have much of an advertising/PR budget but that need help with those activities. You can begin to develop a portfolio that will illustrate the kinds of things you can do for an employer, as well as a track record of results achieved.

Finally, if you are applying to a position that requires a conventional resume, approach it as though you were a recent graduate, whose background includes a smattering of unrelated jobs that you needed to take to pay the bills, as many college students take jobs such as sales associate or waiter/waitress. Emphasize your degree, honors or recognition, special projects in your field, and coursework – and highlight the match between what the employer is looking for in the job posting and specific examples from your background. Minimize dates by placing them immediately after the city/state of your place of work, not out in the margin where they would really stand out.

If you apply your advertising/PR skills and creativity to your job search efforts, and combine that with lots of networking to identify opportunities, I am confident that you will be successful landing those interviews!

I wish you the best of luck.

Wendy Gelberg, M.Ed., helps job seekers communicate effectively and confidently, in speech and in writing, to get unstuck in their job search.

No comments: