Career advice from the New Pros panel at Xavier

By Victoria Sabato

Finding a full-time job is a full-time job in itself and upcoming grads shouldn’t be fooled thinking differently. Of my 67 applications came 12 interviews that turned into 7, second-round interviews that became 2, third-round interviews that turned into nothing.  

Victoria Sabato, a senior at Xavier University majoring in PR and advertising, is the outgoing president of Xavier's PRSSA chapter.

Victoria Sabato, a senior at Xavier University majoring in PR and advertising, is the outgoing president of Xavier's PRSSA chapter.

Like many seniors graduating in a little over a month, I’m still navigating the job search and looking to land my first job in PR. Despite my woes of no jobs offers to date, Cincinnati’s PRSA New Pros Panelists reassured me and others facing similar experiences that “we’ll get there.”

PRSA New Pros Panel at Xavier, held April 9,  gave students tips on starting a career in the communications industry. Five professionals shared their experiences: Shara Clark, APR, professor at Miami University and president of Cincinnati PRSA; Barbara Grimsley, APR, freelance writer & PR/marketing consultant; Stephanie Honan, APR, vice president & marketing manager at Fifth Third Bank; Bridget Sullivan, social media coordinator for 2060 Digital; and Christine Kappesser, assistant account executive with Wordsworth Communications. From their words of wisdom, we learned these key takeaways:

First things first: Get your house in order!

Before you put yourself out there, take a thorough look at your résumé, cover letter and portfolio.

  • A one-page, concise, and well organized résumé is all you need.
  • Everything is going digital these days, so have digital copies of everything. New pros can try wix.com or Wordpress to create an online portfolio.
  • Details count: Review and edit any errors; tailor your pieces to the job.

Students’ résumés should speak to the transferable skills important to the job through past leadership roles, club involvement, part-time jobs and major class projects. Show you’re a good fit for the job with keywords and action-oriented verbs.  

Honan said that although résumés and cover letters are typically standard, take the time to make them uniquely yours, show your creativity through your portfolio, and make sure they show who you are. Most importantly, “be better than your résumé,” said Sullivan. Your résumé should tell a story, it should highlight the all-star you are.

Navigating the job search

With your house in order, it’s time to tackle the job search. Clark told us to make the most of our resources and networks – whether these are our college sites, career websites, LinkedIn, networking, whatever it is, look there.

Don’t be discouraged if there are no job postings -- it can never hurt to reach out anyway, said Kappesser.

Panelists all agreed networking is essential and explained that people are pretty willing to help, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Try reaching out to professors, recent graduates, relatives, friends and others for introductions and advice. Put yourself out there, and be confident!

The interview

As panelists who have experience interviewing candidates or have been recently hired as new pros, their wise counsel reminded us to:

  • Research, research, research.
  • Make sure your character and personality show in an interview.
  • Be thoughtful in your responses.

Never go into an interview without knowing something about the company, advised Grimsley. Learn who the agency's latest client is, see where your interviewer has worked before, come up with some well thought-out questions and don’t be afraid to ask them.

For new pros, be prepared to answer questions about your hobbies and interests. Be ready and open to impromptu group interviews. Most of all, be yourself and confident in your abilities. Present yourself in an organized way and show you have clearly taken the time to research the company and position with thoughtful questions for the interviewer.

Real talk

Although called a “job” search, many of us look for something deeper - a chance at a career. We’ve only just begun; but as we progress, we also take with us these lasting words of advice:

“It’s not always going to be glamorous, so don’t expect it to be. You’re going to make mistakes, but be thankful for that because you can always learn from them.” – Barbara Grimsley, APR

“Say your goals and dreams out loud to yourself and to everyone, because someday someone is going to come along and say, ‘Hey, I can help make those goals and dreams happen for you.’” – Bridget Sullivan

"Have confidence that it is YOUR career to manage.” – Christine Kappesser