The holidays are approaching, which means my inbox is even more full than usual. And not just with Black Friday promotions. The fall semester is winding down and many college seniors are searching for spring internships and job opportunities.
During my decade in the PR industry—five years of which I’ve spent as the PR hiring manager at Planit, one of Baltimore’s most exclusive advertising agencies—I’ve filtered through hundreds, maybe even thousands, of emails from entry-level job applicants. Here are four tips to help you avoid some common entry-level application pitfalls:
Don’t expect a full-time salaried gig right out of college. An experienced full-time intern could potentially offer an employer the same value as an entry-level employee at half the price. Consider this as you walk into your interview or send your résumé. Stay grounded and be open to alternatives such as networking opportunities or internships. The vast majority of Planit’s entry-level employees came through our intern program. Plus, an internship gives you an opportunity to decide if that career path is the right one for you.Reach out to potential employers with a customized email, your résumé, and an open mind. Spend time researching the company and deliver a thoughtful, customized email that proves you know what you’re walking into. A generic introduction email like this goes straight to my trash folder: “To Whom it May Concern, I’m going to be graduating this spring from XYZ College and I am interested in your company. Can you tell me about open positions?” However, if your email shows me you’ve done your homework on the company and indicates you can provide value to a specific department, I’ll file for it for later if we don’t have a position available. It’s quite possible that weeks later we may start a new project that would benefit from your experience.If you are considering a career in communications, show that you know how to communicate professionally. Use spell check. Write in complete sentences. Have your friends proof your email. Respond in a timely fashion when you hear back from a potential employer.When you hear back from a hiring manager, read the entire email. In many instances, a “decline’ isn’t really a “decline.” If an entry-level position isn’t available, there might be an opportunity for an amazing internship or shadow experience with a professional for the day. I often take time to respond to candidates to let them know that while we are not hiring for entry-level positions, they should send their résumés for internship consideration. More often than not I receive an email that goes something like this: “An internship sounds great, but I am looking for something full time. Please keep me in mind if something opens up!” And no résumé. Which brings me back to tip #1.
Whether you’re a soon-to-be grad or seasoned pro looking for a career change, first impressions matter. Pay close attention to your introductory communication—it can make or break your chances at the opportunity of a lifetime.