#HAPPO and the Reality of Job Searching

#HAPPO - or help a PR pro out - has been going on today. I am on the list as a national resource, because I volunteered to be part of the event. Part of it is I am a big believer in giving back to the industry I care about, and work in.

I think what is being done is very important - helping out the community find jobs, and help point them in the right direction. But that is not enough - as it is only half the battle. I will help those I know with opportunities, but that means putting down my name as a reference, and that is my personal name on the line for people. I do that for friends, colleagues I believe in, and friend's of friends whose word I trust.

Throughout my career, almost all my jobs have come through referrals or recommendations from past interactions. That is how the world works, and you have to allow your work to speak for you, not your social media presence. Your social media presence, while important (especially for new college graduates) as it shows your understanding of how social media works, is not an end-all, be-all. It's interesting that the really big names in social media are not involved in #HAPPO, isn't it? It's likely because they don't care about anything but themselves, using social media as a tool in self promotion, and only self promotion. Well, you can probably scratch the likely.

So here's my advice on finding a job, and where to look, and what you need to do. And it's targeted to college students, as that is the next generation that we need to think about (and whom I work with the most, it seems).

You are only as good as your network. Go to mixers and events, and meet people. Go to the IABC or PRSA events - if you are not a member, they do have open events - and meet professionals. Go to social media events to learn, and meet people. Get out of the chair, though, and network. And network on Twitter with good conversations and astute points. It's how I met Sarah Lilly, and other students in the past, and how I know that they actually care about the industry. Sarah reached out to me, asked me questions, showed an interest that wasn't fake, sucking up, or flattery. It was sincere, and I'll keep an eye out for her when she graduates and refer her to people. If she chooses.

Join LinkedIn, and connect with people you have worked with in the past, and know your personal job history and work ethic. Not people you met in the industry, but people you know and worked with (agency or client, does not matter).

Find mentors, and choose them wisely. For the past 7 or 8 years (hey, I lose track of time), I have been mentoring college students, mainly through Robert French at Auburn, and now through Karen Russell at University of Georgia. I have also mentored students at Michigan State University, Pepperdine, Alabama and others.

By mentoring, I mean I am there to answer questions, help them out with situations, give advice and more. I'm basing those answers on 15 years of public relations experience, and about the same amount of time in social media or online PR or influencer relations (pretty much all the same). Those years give me insight and advice that is time tested.

Seeing people with less than one year in public relations and social media touting themselves as mentors is both scary and laughable. You should run away from those people, run away as fast as possible, as they bring you nothing but pain and trouble. Those people with no real experience that are mentoring are not mentoring to help you, but to make themselves feel important. No one that green has any business mentoring students, but should be listening and seeking out their own mentors. Instead, they're creating little social media ego monsters.

Why do I mentor? Because I like the industry I am in, I have had great mentors in the past that I still speak to on a regular basis, and I feel it is my duty to do the same. I still am in contact with most of my old interns, and mentored students ... because that's what you do if you really do care. And I learn from them as well, seeing how they are using technology, how they view certain things in social media, and how things are being discarded.

Now, what can you do on your own to find a job? There are plenty of job boards and places you should look, and professors you should keep in contact with on a regular basis. Join KITList and Young PR Pros, as both have PR opportunities.

Keep in contact with people you have worked with in the past, those you went to school with, and realize that finding a job is the hardest job you will ever have. One of the UGA students I've mentored, Erin Burry, gave up unemployment for Lent and is waking up at 6.00 AM every day to start her job search: that's dedication, and it will pay off for her as it shows the right drive and work ethic to get a job and do well. And, yes, I've referred people to her as well.

It's not enough to sit back, though, and expect these jobs to come through #HAPPO on Twitter. You have to have the drive to go out and meet, network, and more. The job market is not the best I've seen - especially for more seasoned professionals, it flat out sucks because of low-balling - but there are opportunities out there. Stay calm, stay cool and collected, and hope for the best.

But, those of us with jobs need to remember to pay it forward as it is a two-way street. #HAPPO will be successful only if PR pro's really help each other out. Otherwise, it will be like too many things in social media: too fleeting, people and companies taking part of it to feel good about themselves, but actually do nothing. Just because it was today, does not mean you should not continue to network and mentor others.

As this post was very focused on PR students, and graduates, here's a takeaway for senior PR people: the recession has impacted everyone, including those with college degrees and a number of years of experience. All this advice (still) applies as well: network, network, network. Look into freelancing to keep on top of trends, media, and more. Brush up on social media, such as Twitter, FourSquare, LinkedIn, Facebook and other forms.

The days of looking for a job in the newspaper are dead, and the online job board is suffering as well. You find any quality on HotJobs, Monster or Craigslist anymore, or is it through personal networks, and in a way, the LinkedIn job boards?

And, if you are employed remember this: you cannot afford the luxury of sitting back and being dickish to those people looking for work right now, as most of them are unemployed through no fault of their own, but due to the economy and mismanagement. None of us can rest on our laurels, because those are fleeting and all of us can be in the same boat at one time or another.

Plus, if you are a corporation or PR firm, think of this: I know that it's easier to hire those people that are employed, as they are "sexier" to you. The unemployed PR executives are likely just as qualified, if not more so. I look at people I know that are working and scratch my head as they are just good at politics, and not PR. And I look at those that are not employed that are great in PR, but just might be too blunt (like me) or choose not to play politics.

Remember, it's just today that is #HAPPO but it's networking for forever. Good luck in the job hunting, we've all be there.
  1. Great post. Agree wholeheartedly on the 'get out there and mingle' recommendation. Frustrating when people complain about not hearing back after submitting resumes but won't get off their butt and meet folks in the industry.

  2. Jeremy,

    All good advice. One thing I also recommend to PR people looking for a job is don't just go to PR events. Everyone else there is a PR person looking for a job.

    Find other local events and organizations where people from companies with your industry knowledge (or the industry you want to get into) hang out.

    If you work in technology PR, find start-up groups or user groups. If you work in healthcare PR, find healthcare forums.

  3. Thanks Jeremy,

    This post is full of great advice. It's 100% true that you do make an effort to mentor junior PR professionals / recent grads (speaking as your former intern). Many of the social media concepts that you taught during my first PR internship I've held onto.

  4. p.s. add UC Berkeley to the list of colleges!

  5. Great post!

    Only thing I'd add to the "get out and mingle" advice is this: You should give as good as you get. No job search is so desperate and all-consuming that you can ignore the referral needs of others in your network.

    Be the kind of person who consistently provides tips, referrals and advice, and it comes back to you -- because you've set it as the expectation.

  6. Jeremy:

    Well said and important to say! And it is important to do all those things you say. It is true that companies should look at unemployed executives. Sad truth is that they do not. HR types do the screening and eliminate the underemployed.

    So if you are in a position to look at the plethora of the unemployed talent out there, just do it!

    All the best,

    Gerry Corbett

  7. Hi Jeremy,
    Thanks for referencing me. Honestly, I never knew the power of networking before I graduated. Now I have been attending events, talking to friends and professionals like yourself, and that's the only way I have been getting interviews. It's beyond scary, but people are willing to help if you just put yourself out there.

    ... A much needed post for job seekers. Thanks!

  8. This post is so spot on! I nodded my from top to bottom.

    I just received an e-mail about writing for the Examiner, it would not take the place of a job, but it does offer some income, and it builds your credibility and keeps your writing and thinking skills fresh.

    I just joined PRSA today, and I am going to a meeting next week. I have been wanting to join since last June when I went to PRville, but this economy and realizing the need to network will give you that extra push.

  9. error on post above :-) my *head (forgot that part)

  10. Amazing, insightful post, Jeremy. As always, you cut right to the heart of things.

    Everything you are saying is spot on, and as someone who recently got a new job, I know from experience that you are right - EVERY interview I had resulted from a friend referring me to the job.

    Every single one.

    It is SO much easier to find a job when you have a strong network of people that care about you and want to support you in your search. You should all take Jeremy's advice, whether you're a recent college grad or a seasoned PR pro.

  11. Enjoyed your post, as always, Jeremy. Thank you for all you do.

    Picking the right mentors is very important. Using social networks (particularly those online) is good, but you're right ... point them to work you've done. Point them to examples of how you can help do PR.

    Jeremy, you may well be the most prolific and public mentor in PR. Heck, you may be the most public mentor of all. That deserves praise, thanks and due recognition. Thank you!

  12. Very much agree, Jeremy... "It's not enough to sit back, though, and expect these jobs to come through #HAPPO on Twitter. You have to have the drive to go out and meet, network, and more." I really hope that #HAPPO helped those seeking jobs in the PR industry to make some new connections. There has already been talk of tweetups in places such as Kansas City, to provide opportunities for #HAPPO participants to further develop connections made today. It is certainly a great transition from connection to trusted relationship. And real relationships are the goal. I hope that for some, #HAPPO served as a starting point.

  13. Suddenly understanding all the #happo related emails in my inbox - apparently people who are following your advice and networking! :)

    "Seeing people with less than one year in public relations and social media touting themselves as mentors is both scary and laughable. You should run away from those people, run away as fast as possible, as they bring you nothing but pain and trouble."

    Can I quote you on this? It drives me crazy to see the "mentoring" and teleseminars/ebooks/inner circles from people who really have no business doing it.

    It's baffling how many 'experts' there suddenly are in P.R. and Social Media who have no business working unsupervised let alone mentoring someone.

    Great post Jeremy.

  14. one more suggestion: often writers (aka various media types) often know brands, people, products that need pr people-- and good ones. I can't tell you how many times people have come to me and asked for recommendations. I have my list for both coasts and people in between-- those who I know can deliver fast, solid presentations for media use and know all the different ways to work it in traditional and new media.

    Ask any media types for referrals or direction. Because there are many established brands that are floundering and others that need help launching.

  15. Something interesting happened with #HAPPO over the past couple of weeks that really validates a lot of the points you make, Jeremy. While "HAPPO Live" was yesterday from 10-2, the HAPPO conversation started much earlier than that. People were giving advice, helping others pitch, stepping out of their comfort zones to try personal pitches (some on video) and asking others how to make them better.

    I saw people talking about landing interviews during HAPPO Live and I even got caught up in it. How many people can I help get a job between 10-2 today? :)

    But you and Valerie have really hit on the biggest benefit of HAPPO "the movement" -- it got people to network. It forced people to be creative and reach out to other PR Pros they had never met before. It asked people to accept being vulnerable so they could hear advice from their peers on how to better sell themselves.

    I've been working in PR for 10 years now and I have NEVER gotten a job or heard about a good opportunity via an online board. As you said, NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. Or as Erin said, "It's beyond scary, but people are willing to help if you just put yourself out there."

    Btw, I am incoming prez of IABC for KC next year and you are right -- both our org and PRSA offer monthly professional development events that non-members can attend. Great way to network (had to say that word one more time:)).

    Nice post,

  16. As one of your former mentors and now one of your biggest fans, I want to say that I agree with your wise counsel to job-seekers. I too have gotten most of my jobs (and most of my clients) through networking.

  17. Even the Wall Street Journal has called today's times as "the age of going solo."

    When you can't find the perfect position for whatever reason, consider going out on your own.

    When the economy tanked in 2001, that is what I did, and it has been among my best professional moves to date.

    I love running my own PR agency and DIY publicity tools and training company, and the lessons I have learned about networking certainly pay off in keeping it running and attracting the right clients.

    As for networking, remember this sage advice I learned from one of my mentors, Henry DeVries.

    He said, "Don't join a club that would typically have you as a member. You will be among the most popular people in the room."

  18. Thanks for the mention, Jeremy. You still speak to F-r-e-d "on a regular basis"? Now that's something I'd like to know more about.

    Good to see you're still writing the best PR blog out there.

  19. I agree wholeheartedly. I especially like the point about a job search being a job in itself.
    Thanks for the read.

  20. This post totally made me want to step my mentoring game up way beyond just staying in touch with former interns and trying to help them out.

  21. Great article. I cannot stress anymore than you have here the need to socialize and network the original way as your MAIN source, with social networking as your secondary.

  22. I really enjoyed your post Jeremy. As a college PR student, these tips for looking for a job were very helpful. You’re right when you say how important it is for you to network and make connections. Although I’m not in the PR field yet, through other jobs I have really discovered that it isn’t always what you know, but who you know! If you have strong referrals and recommendations then you are definitely more likely to get the job.

    I also agree with you on the fact that mentors are very important. PR or any other job you have is something where you should constantly be learning and growing and who could help you better than someone who has already been there and has a lot of experience. It would be good too for those professionals to learn from the younger generation of practitioners as well.

    Overall, this was a great post. I know that this information is helpful and as I start the job search in a year, I am simply going to have to work hard and look, look, look! Thanks for the encouragement!


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