It’s a tale as old as time: students graduate and spend months looking for a job. It doesn’t feel great, especially when you’re submitting tons of applications and not getting any calls for interviews.
It’s tough to swallow but the truth is that when you’re an entry-level professional the only thing you’re selling is potential. The experience just isn’t on your resume yet. But there is a way to keep yourself from going stir crazy at home and make you feel like you’re moving in the right direction.
Read on for the five ways to strengthen yourself as a candidate and fill in the gaps where you lack work experience.
1. Get certified
Experience with platforms such as Hootsuite and Google Adwords are increasingly expected of communications and marketing professionals. If you’ve never used a particular platform before, you can get around that lack of experience by obtaining certification.
It kind of works like an online class. You’re provided with study materials, then you fill out a test and if you receive a passing grade, you gain certification. Certain certifications will even connect to your LinkedIn page to show that you passed. Keep aware that some of these will be free and others can cost quite a pretty penny.
Even if you never end up using Adwords in your profession, it certainly doesn’t hurt to learn about how it works and understand conversations around digital media when they come up at work.
Here are some certifications you can get right now:
- Google Analytics
- Hootsuite Social Marketing
- Facebook Blueprint
- Youtube Certified
- Hubspot Content Marketing
2. Create content
Your professor probably already told you to start a blog but I’m just here to remind you. Start a blog!
But if blogging isn’t for you, then figure out what you do like doing. Love Instagram? Start an Instagram account dedicated to an interest of yours or show off your amateur photography. With one Instagram account, you can demonstrate to an employer how well you curate visual content, write copy and build an account from the ground up.
Or maybe you love those personal essays on Medium. Write one! You know how everyone has a podcast these days? You can too. Or start a YouTube channel to show off your toy collection.
Your content doesn’t need to go viral. Your Instagram account doesn’t need to have 15,000 followers. What matters more is that you created something all on your own. If you’re applying for a job that requires managing Instagram accounts, which you’ve never done professionally, then at least show that you can do it. Because having tangible proof is a lot better than just saying you can.
3. Volunteer for a good cause
There are so many great charities in Canada that could use an extra hand and you can pick up all kinds of skills as a volunteer, which adds more dimension to your resume. There are even volunteer opportunities that allow you to work from home, managing a Facebook page for example. Most of the time, you can also choose your availability because working for free full-time is certainly not within everyone’s means.
Being a volunteer shows employers three important things:
- You care about your community
- You have connections to community leaders
- You are passionate about an important cause
Nowadays, many companies invest in philanthropic endeavours, from doing pro-bono work to encouraging their employees to spend a day building houses with Habitat for Humanity. They will be encouraged to see that you’re somebody who cares about making a difference too.
Or you may end up finding a paying job at the charity you’ve volunteered for! They’re more likely to promote someone they know who has already put in hours with the organization.
4. Build an online presence
None of us are anonymous anymore, especially in this industry. Is there someone you admire or a company you want to work for? Follow that person or company on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram and engage with their content. I’m not saying anyone is going to offer you a job because you liked fifty of their tweets in a row (in fact, they may block you instead so take it easy).
But who knows? Maybe they will start engaging back, follow you and suddenly you have a brand new connection that you didn’t have before. Someone you can reach out to inquire about opportunities or career advice. You wouldn’t be the first to make a friend on the internet.
Making connections also increases your follower count, which makes you seem like a way savvier PR professional than you might actually be. And you can use social media for more than just finding the latest and greatest memes. Use it to show that you care about your industry and its thought leaders, that you’re informed about the day’s trending news stories and that you’ve got a wicked sense of humour.
Nowadays, companies are increasingly checking out your social media footprint, and having 300 followers who engage with your thoughtful analysis of the latest PR trends is not a bad look.
And while you’re at it, join the Generation PR LinkedIn group to connect with other Canadian professionals!
5. Find work where you can
What is your best skill? What are you passionate about? If you’re a writer who loves movies, then go write about movies. Small, independent online publishers won’t be unable to pay you very much (or at all) but they will put your work on their site and amplify it on social media. Your work will find an audience and you’ll be spending time honing the most important skill in our industry: writing. And you’ve got portfolio pieces now too.
Some agencies, and companies like Mosaic, offer you the opportunity to work seasonally on events and brand activations as a coordinator or ambassador. These gigs may not last more than a week, or even a night, but suddenly you have the experience you didn’t have before and may have made connections with people in your industry as well.
You may even find opportunities within your part-time job but you have to ask for them. When I was working as a guest services representative at a mall, the head of my department was a marketing manager. I told her that I was studying public relations and offered to help her with marketing for the mall. She started assigning me tasks that later became crucial portfolio pieces that I used to show employers when I graduated and started job hunting.
Have I made my point? Sitting around for months and waiting for a phone call is a waste of time. You need to spend your unemployed time doing something that will make you employed in the future, beyond just sending out resumes. You may be some company’s dream employee, but how are they supposed to know that? Show them what you can do by literally doing it.