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From Application to Offer: Tips on Landing a Job After Graduation

Published on April 30, 2024, 1:42 p.m. 
by CamiLee Downey.

Landing the first job after college graduation is a daunting task. The communication industry is broad with roles spanning sectors such as government, sports, fashion, news media, entertainment and health care.

With a growing industry on the horizon, communication graduates have to be knowledgeable about the industry and its trends to be successful in the hunt for their first jobs.

Know the lay of the land

Kennedy Studdard, a current programming director at The 4A’s Foundation and a former human resources manager for Ogilvy, describes the job landscape as “tricky.”

“The overall landscape of jobs is shifting,” said Studdard. “Companies and agencies are trying to be more intentional about who they are hiring and the skills they say they want for a specific position, and candidates are being more honest about a career and how they see themselves growing.”

Photo via Adobe Stock by golubovy

The job outlook for communication professionals seems stable with a projected average growth for media and communication occupations from 2022 to 2032. While this outlook is positive, there are important things to remember when trying to land your first job in the industry.

Set yourself apart

Angelique Crawford, program manager of the College of Communication & Information Sciences’ Career Center at The University of Alabama, stated that a big obstacle to landing a job is getting the first callback.

In 2023, communication graduates submitted 15% more job applications compared to the class of 2022. With the number of applications rising, future industry professionals must know how to set themselves apart from the competition.

“You need to be receptive and open and challenge the way you think by not having all of the answers,” said Studdard. “You have to be ready to learn all over again.” Adaptability is essential in every workspace, and with an ever-changing industry, employers seek to hire individuals who can adapt to these ongoing changes.

Future industry professionals must also know how to market themselves best for certain roles.

“The hardest part of searching for a job is understanding and having the ability to package yourself as the ideal candidate,” said Crawford. “Oftentimes I feel like students sleep on their potential as a communications graduate without understanding that every industry needs someone with communication skills.”

Photo via Adobe Stock by photobyphotoboy

In addition, the job applicant should tailor their résumé specifically to the company offering the position for which they are applying. “Résumés and cover letters should always show how you are adding value to a company,” said Studdard. This focus will help the company get a better understanding of who the candidate is and if they are the right fit for a role.

Avoid common pitfalls of job seekers

“Be realistic about what it is that you want and what you need,” said Studdard. There may be a job that looks like the perfect fit in the perfect city, but factors such as livability play a huge part in finding the right job.

It is also vital to understand what exactly job descriptions entail. A candidate must be able to differentiate between the title on a job posting and the roles and responsibilities listed. Studdard explained that decoding a job description is key to understanding the day-to-day responsibilities of a role.

Crawford stated that a big pitfall is not being aware of the applicant tracking system, which is a software that sorts through online résumés. “It is the sleeping obstacle that you may not realize is affecting your job search,” said Crawford. A candidate must critically read through job descriptions for keywords and phrases to tailor a résumé to a specific role.

Build valuable connections

No college student is a stranger to the concept of networking, but it should be done well. Networking should be genuine, and connections should come organically through common interests.

“Networking, in general, is a conversation where you build rapport with someone based on a commonality,” said Studdard. “It should not be so transactional.”

In looking for jobs in the communications field, sometimes it comes down to a genuine connection.

“Often you’ll hear the phrase ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know,’ but it’s actually a little bit of both,” said Crawford. “You have to have a college degree, but ‘who you know’ is where you’ll get more quality leads.”

Having someone who can vet you through the application process will help in getting through to an interview. It is important to have someone who can vouch for your past performance as well as future potential.

Do your homework

Of course, it is necessary to understand what questions will be asked in an interview, but it is also vital to understand what questions candidates should ask the interviewers. This part of the process can give the job candidate a look into the company’s culture, and the right question can reveal the company’s values to the candidate.

Photo via PRSA Jobcenter

There are various avenues to venture down when researching companies and searching for jobs. “National professional associations are a great place to start,” said Crawford. One example is the Public Relations Society of America’s Jobcenter webpage.

“Another great place to start is tapping into the alumni association network,” said Crawford. Alums take pride in their alma maters and are oftentimes willing to help recent graduates land their first jobs.

It is important to set aside time to be best prepared for the application process. A candidate who prepares well will be successful in their search.

Looking onward

With graduation around the corner, the next generation of communication professionals has a bright future ahead with a multitude of opportunities. Let’s see where they land.

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