Exploring the post-grad bucket list

February 15, 2010 at 7:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Posted by: Rebecca

After living with me for six months, my roommates Shantae and Mary Jo can attest to the fact that I hardly ever watch TV.  However, while flipping through channels over winter break, I came across MTV’s The Buried Life, a series about a few guys on a mission to cross items off their bucket lists.

My epic television discovery sparked a conversation with Shantae, and we started to wonder: What do we want to achieve after we graduate from college?

Here are a few serious and not-so-serious things I’d like to purchase/accomplish when I have a steady income and post-graduation free time:

  • Buy a Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel couch.

“Normal” grads dream of buying a fancy new car or an expensive electronic when they get their first big check.  My dream purchase?  A Pottery Barn couch! I could spend hours (and I have) browsing through furniture catalogs and perusing through interior design stores.  I’ve had my eyes on an overpriced, plush couch for quite some time now, and I’m ready to make the big purchase.

  • Add a furry friend to my family.

DogMy parents have never been animal lovers; therefore, my brother and I led a childhood sans pets (tragic, I know.)  I begged for a kitten from the time I knew what a kitten was, and my parents finally caved in on my 13th birthday.  After my beloved cat died in a car-related accident, I decided I didn’t want another pet until I graduated from college.  I’m looking forward to purchasing a furry friend to keep me company.

  • Teach the kiddos.

I taught Sunday school during my freshman and sophomore years of college, but I resigned to become more involved with PRSSA and focus on my studies.  Teaching 3rd-5th grade students was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I’d love to become involved in children’s church again.

  • Find a new hobby… or rediscover an old one.

I was a competitive dancer for 14 years, and I coached cheerleading and taught hip-hop and acrobatics classes during my high school and early college years.  Shantae and I took a hip-hop class several weeks ago, and it reminded me how much I miss dancing.  I’d love to rediscover this hobby or find a new one to enjoy.  Who knows… maybe I’ll be kickboxing or cake decorating around this time next year!

  • Mentor public relations students.

From resume advice to assistance in establishing new contacts, I am consistently amazed by the relationships I’ve developed with public relations professionals.  I am thankful for my college mentors, and I hope to serve as a resource to students, too.  I want to work for an organization that embraces professional organizations (such as AMA, PRSSA and IABC) and encourages me to share my knowledge.

Now it’s your turn!  Soon-to-be-grads: What are your post-grad goals?

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Shooting in the dark: Applying to confidential job postings

February 10, 2010 at 6:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Posted by: Rebecca

Rebecca’s job search lesson #173: Spending my free time networking and making new connections will prove to be far more valuable than spending hours glued to job boards.

Although the sales-related postings and shady offers (you know what I’m talking about: the ones that say you’ll make $80,000 in one year while working from home) plaguing job boards can be annoying, I don’t think it hurts to browse these job sites.  I found my first non-retail job at a mental health office through a confidential classified ad, and I absolutely loved it.

Since I had a positive experience with my last response to a confidential company job posting, I was excited when I found a confidential public relations posting on Monster.com that fit my career goals and skills set.

However, applying for this job quickly turned into a stressful experience.  Here’s why:

  • To Whom It May Concern…?

My public relations professors drilled it in my head: It’s unacceptable to be lazy when searching for a job.  If you’re sending a cover letter, you should always do your research and find out who you’re sending the resume and cover letter to.  But if I don’t even know the name of the company, how can I direct the cover letter to a specific person?

  • I can do something for your company… if I knew what you did

The online job posting gave a solid list of skills needed for the position.  I knew I had the skills, but how can I tell a company I’m a perfect fit if I don’t even know what it does?  If I knew the company’s specialty, I may be able to make a stronger case for why I’d be an asset.  I also like to check out a company’s Web site to see if the organization seems to fit my personal goals and ethics, which is impossible to research when the company is confidential.

  • Creating an online presence… for a ghost

The job was primarily social media based.   Again, it’s difficult to gauge an organization’s current social media presence if it won’t reveal its identity on a job board.  How can I tell you how I’ll increase your Web presence if you won’t even tell me your name?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure this company does amazing work, and it seems like an excellent position.  I just never realized how difficult (and aggravating) it is to write a cover letter and sell your soul to an organization that won’t even reveal its name.

Students and entry-level pros: Have you ever applied to a confidential job posting?  If so, what are your experiences?  If you represent a company that lists confidential postings, what advice can you share with applicants?

Internships after graduation: The road to employment

February 2, 2010 at 7:15 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Posted by Shantae

When I think about where I’ll be six months from now, I imagine myself in client meetings, pitching the media and networking with both seasoned and young public relations professionals. 

The PR program at Kent State continues to challenge me – pushing me to be better than I was last semester and last year.  As part of our curriculum, we’re required to complete a 300-hour internship at an approved company or organization.  It’s a long road, but in the end we hope to emerge as prepared, well-rounded professionals.  It’s a natural progression. 

However, tough economic times are making it increasingly more difficult for college grads to land an entry-level position.  I spoke with two PR Kent graduates who turned their internships into full-time positions.

Getting your foot in the door

Katelyn Luysterborg, a PR Kent graduate, turned her internship into a job at Cleveland advertising and PR firm, Marcus Thomas LLC.  She is an Assistant Account Executive.

Me:  What were your hopes immediately following graduation?

Katelyn:  Like all new grads, I wanted a full-time job. I worked hard during college and felt that I deserved the job of my dreams. But that didn’t come right away. I finished my internship for credit during the summer and stayed on for several months after until I was offered a full-time position.

Me:  How did you turn your internship into a career?

Katelyn:  Honestly, I think I proved to be an asset to company. I started out doing intern work and slowly earned more responsibilities. It didn’t come right away, but I never felt like I was doing something beneath me. Even the little, menial projects are important to making sure things run smoothly. I treated my internship like an extended job interview, which is what internships are.

The biggest thing is to show your boss that you’re willing to do anything to get the job done. For instance, staying late to finish a project or taking the extra step to make sure everything is perfect. Things like that don’t go unnoticed, even if someone doesn’t say something right away.

Me:  What advice do you have to offer soon-to-be grads who want a job, not an internship after graduation?

Katelyn:  My advice would be to not to discount internships. While you should absolutely apply for every entry-level position out there, apply for the internships as well. You never know what could happen, and it’s still a learning experience. Future employers want to see that you’re still active and willing to do what it takes, even if you don’t have your dream job.

Kendra Wheeler, another PR Kent grad, officially graduated in December 2009.  She completed her internship for credit at Liggett Stashower, an advertising and public relations agency in Cleveland, and was hired on as a Brand Specialist.

Me:  What is the greatest benefit(s) of interning after graduation?

Kendra:  I can think of a few benefits to interning after graduation:

1. It gives you a chance to enhance your skill set and resume. Interning after graduation will give you the opportunity to put ALL your skills from college to use. By this time, At this point, you have learned all there is to learn from the classroom and you have a better chance of standing out than another intern who may be in their junior or senior year of coursework.

2. It puts you in a better position to turn the internship into full-time work. Your employer knows that you are a recent graduate and looking for employment and if a position opens up, you will be a great candidate for employment (if you were an awesome intern). 

3. Taking an internship after graduation, allows you to explore different industries. Internships are a test-drive for your career path. You can try out a variety of professional industries to see if it is a good fit for you. Interning doesn’t carry the heavy commitment that employment does. Therefore, you can have internship after internship. This won’t be the case, once you start your career.

Me:  How did you turn your internship into a full-time position?

Kendra:  I turned my internship into a career by being the best worker I knew how to be. I took each task, no matter how tedious, and completed it fast and efficient. I was only an intern, but I wanted the staff at the agency to trust in me, my work and my abilities.

I was constantly trying to improve, so I would ask for feedback on my work. When someone asked me to complete a task, I wouldn’t just turn it in when I was finished. I would ask for feedback on the assignment. If there was something I could do better, I did it.

And of course, I did the things that every intern should do. I was on time for work, I stayed late to finish time-sensitive projects. Finally, I kept the agency staff updated on the progress of my various projects. 

I worked hard to be a “super intern” and when a position was open at the agency, I confidently went after it.

Me:  What advice do you have to offer soon-to-be grads who want a job, not an internship after graduation?

Kendra:  Soon-to-be graduates should take their internships seriously. You want your past employers to consider you for full-time employment. They should also remember to network. They should tell others that they are in the market for full-time employment.

Finally, soon-to-be grads should practice good interviewing skills and have their resumes professionally critiqued.

Make it work

Katelyn and Kendra didn’t aspire to be interns after working hard in school for four years, but they found the best in the situation and made their internship experiences work for them.  According to a recent post on Student Branding Blog:

“An internship, volunteer work, or part-time employment at a company of interest is a great way to get your foot in the door. Don’t settle for something that is going to make you miserable. Instead, think about the little steps you can take to push yourself in the right career direction.”

Recent graduates:  If you found yourself as an intern after graduation, how did you transition to a full-time position?  How did you stand out as intern?

 

Relient K, uncertainty and knowing everything will be just fine

February 1, 2010 at 5:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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Hi, my name is Rebecca.  And I am addicted to planning.

PlannerI’ve been a planner for as long as I can remember.  I’m the girl who picked out her college major during sophomore year of high school… and stuck with it.  I’m the girl who plans her finances dollar-for-dollar so she can afford that one special “item” (for me, it’s usually a pair of shoes I’ve been drooling over) months from now.  I’m the girl who starts writing her two-page assignment weeks before it’s due.

As a planning addict, it scares me that I have absolutely no clue what life will bring after I graduate on May 15.  I had a small “wow, I’m graduating and have no clue where I’ll be in a few months” moment while discussing the job search, moving and taking an internship vs. holding out for an entry-level position with my mom this past weekend.

Although I don’t know what the future holds, I do know one thing: It’s going to be great.

Relient K is one of those bands that “speaks” to me.  I’m pretty sure the group follows my life on Facebook and Twitter and writes a song for every situation I’m facing.  When I went through my iTunes library this weekend, I found these Relient K lyrics were a reflection of this “season” in my life:

A year’s passed since I wrote this song. A lot’s gone right; a lot’s gone wrong. But I know that Jesus has been there right by my side. And I see the sun still shines. It shines outside and in my life, and I know that everything is gonna be just fine.

So to all you graduating seniors out there: We have a bumpy road ahead of us.  However, PR’s 2010 outlook is optimistic, and I am confident that we’ll be rockin’ the PR world in no time.  Just know that in the end, everything will be just fine.  🙂

Mastering LinkedIn

January 26, 2010 at 6:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Posted by: Rebecca

Let’s face it: Staying on the social media bandwagon can be downright overwhelming.

Between keeping track of Twitter trends, posting relevant tweets, participating in Twitter chats, maintaining Facebook relationships, bookmarking helpful links, blogging and commenting on blog posts, social media can consume a hefty chunk of your day.

I love learning and contributing, and I wish I had heaps of spare time to devote to social media.  However, this future PR pro loves her sleep far too much to comment on blogs at 4 a.m., so I had to choose to devote time to social media tools that will aid my job search.

As an avid Twitter and Facebook user, I was initially hesitant to add another social media network to my full plate.  However, I finally broke down and created a LinkedIn profile for several reasons:

  1. Several public relations and marketing professionals (Chuck Hemann was a persuasive proponent) in my network preached about its ability to connect young college grads to professionals.
  2. Google indexes my LinkedIn profile in the top four search results for “Rebecca Odell.”   That’s SEO at its finest!  A LinkedIn profile is a prime opportunity for human resource managers to stumble across my job experiences during a simple Google search.
  3. I saw LinkedIn as an opportunity to share an expanded resume with potential employers.  I’m trying to keep my traditional paper resume on one page, so a LinkedIn profile can contain the nitty, gritty details I can’t fit on my tangible resume.

LinkedInGoogle

According to Gaj-It’s LinkedIn post, my LinkedIn profile is in good shape thanks to public privacy settings, work-related status updates and group memberships.  However, I still have several questions about my profile:

  1. Are recommendations a “make or break” point for potential employers?  What do you do if your past work/internship supervisors do not have LinkedIn profiles?
  2. Should my LinkedIn profile serve as an extension of my resume, or should LinkedIn summarize my resume?

Soon-to-be graduates, entry-level pros and managers: What are your opinions/experiences with LinkedIn?  How important is LinkedIn to find jobs/recruit potential employees?  Are recommendations really that important?

Rebecca's LinkedIn Profile


Resume Revamp

January 22, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Posted by: Shantae

I want to start by thanks to everyone who commented on our post about when to begin the job search.  Since there’s no time like the present, I kicked it into gear this week and started applying for entry-level positions around the country.

The process of searching for a job got me thinking about how we present ourselves as competent candidates.  Essentially we’re salespeople and the product we’re pushing is ourselves.  There’s something fun about developing cover letters that highlight what you bring to the table.  I like to think of it as an introduction – an attention-grabbing pitch about how awesome you are and why you’re the ideal fit for an organization’s incomplete puzzle.

But where I’m a little stuck is the resume part.  Everyone has differing opinions about how long a resume should be.  Don’t believe me?  Check out Rich Dematteo’s post.  The resume is the meat and potatoes, but you must admit it lacks a little spice.

There’s nothing super-sassy about resumes. What if you’re the involved volunteer, president of three organizations, with five internships under your belt kind of student?  How are you supposed to shine in one page?

You’re not one-dimensional. Why should your resume be?

On Jan. 17, my partner in crime tweeted asked her tweeps for the best Web sites to create interactive resumes.

Here’s what she came up with:

  • VisualCV:  It is one of the best platforms for creating multi-media portfolios.  This site allows you to upload documents, photos, audio, video and link to your social media accounts.  The site also includes job postings.
  • Vision-Resume:  This site allows you to upload documents, audio, images and different versions of your portfolio customized to a specific employer. Vision-Resume also features an e-interview section where you can write answers to 20 open-ended interview questions, giving potential employers a glimpse into who you are.
  • Zooloo:  This site has more of a fun feel to it.  It allows you to showcase your work and connect with potential employers.  Check out Mary Jo’s site.

If an employer is planning to Google me anyway, shouldn’t I make it easier for them to find my work?  Rebecca and I are on board.  What’s not to love?

Perhaps there’s a downside I’m missing here.   Is there such a thing as over-branding yourself?  Dan Schawbel, a well-known personal branding expert, has invested a lot of time into finding the best way to build a personal brand image.  It isn’t black and white.  You need both a traditional and non-traditional approach to get noticed in this economy.

HR and PR pros, is an online resume the best route to go, or is it too over the top? With so many options, which one grabs your attention most? Let’s discuss it.

Job hunting: How soon is too soon to start?

January 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments
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Posted by: Rebecca

After spilling our hearts and posting our thoughts on where we’d like to head after graduation, Shantae and I began to wonder: Who’s hiring, anyway?

To answer the mind-boggling question, my sassy roommate and I visited several Web sites to gain insight on which companies posted entry-level job openings for public relations grads within the past month.

Surprise! We found several public relations agencies and corporations in our target cities that are currently hiring, and many of these available positions fit our educational backgrounds and skills sets.  Image courtesy of www.websitesandsoundbites.com

In this economy, it’s promising to see available positions for recent grads.  However, Shantae and I are stumped, and we have several questions about the job-search process.

PR pros and HR extraordinaires: We know it’s important to network, but how soon is too soon to start the job hunt?  What is the average time span between submitting an application, interviewing and starting the job?   If a company posts a job opening in January, is it foolish to submit an application if we’re not graduating until May?

Feel free to weigh in with your own experiences!

Shantae’s Perspective: Where in the world am I going?

January 14, 2010 at 8:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Over the weekend, I chatted with my mom about all the states I’ve had the opportunity to visit.  I’ve vacationed in Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Jersey, Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and California.  I danced in Oklahoma, took a random road trip to Massachusetts, shopped in New York and completed my freshman year of college in West Virginia after making the mistake of following a boy there.  Each visit was a unique experience – a getaway from the usual.   Now that the countdown to graduation has begun, and the lease on the trailer expires in mid-August, I need to figure out where I plan to reside. 

 If you haven’t read the about me section (this would be an awesome time to check it out), you may not know that I’m the sassy half of this blog.  Anyone who has had the opportunity to meet Rebecca knows she is a sweet, intelligent girl.  She is also a rational thinker and a realist.  A trait I admire.  I prefer to dream the impossible, so it’s no surprise that I buy into the hype of living in a big city after graduation day. 

 According to a May 2009 CNN article, the following cities are ideal locations for college grads:

 1. Indianapolis
Average rent:* $625
Popular entry-level categories:** sales, customer service, health care

2. Philadelphia
Average rent: $1,034
Popular entry-level categories: sales, customer service, management

3. Baltimore
Average rent: $1,130
Popular entry-level categories: sales, customer service, health care

4. Cincinnati
Average rent: $691
Popular entry-level categories: sales, customer service, health care

5. Cleveland
Average rent: $686
Popular entry-level categories: sales, marketing, customer service

6. New York
Average rent: $1,548
Popular entry-level categories: sales, customer service, admin-clerical

7. Phoenix
Average rent: $747
Popular entry-level categories: sales, customer service, marketing

8. Denver
Average rent: $877
Popular entry-level categories: sales, customer service, health care

9. Chicago
Average rent: $1,133
Popular entry-level categories: sales, marketing, customer service

10. San Antonio
Average rent: $696
Popular entry-level categories: sales, customer service, management

Let’s dissect this recommended list, shall we?  Some places like Philly, The Big Apple and Chi Town are expected because they offer a unique, fast-paced environment; however, a couple cities on the list took me by surprise.  Please note that Cincinnati and Cleveland made it in the top five.  Perhaps because monthly rent less than $700 is a bit more appealing than paying $1, 548 in New York.  I may be a dreamer, but I’m no fool.  I’m certain my entry-level salary won’t pay the rent in the city that never sleeps. 

I’m going to go out on a limb here and go the unrealistic route. 

Ideally, being somewhere within a reasonable distance from home, affordable cost of living and fun, exciting things to do would be the best scenario, but if I have the opportunity to relocate somewhere that doesn’t fit into that criteria, I’ll still go.  The way I see it, there’s no better time than your early 20s to take a chance and risk failing.  If Kent’s PR program has taught me nothing else, it’s taught me to adapt.

PR pros and soon-to-be-grads, what do you think?  Where is the balance between your dreams and reality?  What is life without some calculated risks?

Rebecca’s Perspective: Where in the world am I going?

January 12, 2010 at 10:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 28 Comments
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In 2009, I escaped Ohio’s grey skies three times and experienced several climates and cultures the great U.S.A. offers.

In July, I enjoyed the hustle, bustle and deep-dish pizza of Chicago.  Toward the end of summer break, I headed down the East Coast to enjoy Virginia Beach’s sandy, relaxed atmosphere.  I traveled to San Diego in November, and the city’s abundant sunshine made me realize I could live in a box along the bay and be completely content with my life.

After visiting these cities, reality struck.

I’m four months away from my college graduation, and unless I’d like to live in my humble Kent abode until the end of time, I need to get serious about where I’d like to live.

So here’s the deal: My spontaneous side thinks it’s a fabulous idea to pack up my small-town Midwestern life on a whim and head to the West Coast.  However, my sensible side reminds me an average one-bedroom apartment price of $2,273 per month in San Francisco is not realistic for an unmarried, entry-level pro with college debt and a car payment.  It didn’t take me long to realize I’m going to have to make a compromise.

I found a plethora of lists comprising the best cities for fresh college grads, including these lists by Gradspot.com and The Wall Street Journal.  As I searched list after list, I noticed a trend among large cities like Boston, Washington, D.C., NYC, Chicago and Atlanta.

These cities are great, but I’m not sure if they’re a realistic match for my needs as a 21-year-old newbie.  I’m a public relations major- not an accounting or engineering major- and my first paycheck will reflect that.  I’d love to work in one of these cities at some point in my career, but I’d like to have solid work experience in my public relations tool belt before I pack up and head to the land of ridiculously priced studio apartments and budget-busting grocery bills.

So which growing city can I relocate to that boasts a reasonable driving distance back home, a vibrant social scene and opportunities to grow as a public relations professional?

Columbus, Ohio!

OSU football game

Looking at a sea of scarlet at my first OSU game. Love at first sight.

What’s not to love about Columbus?  The 15th largest city in the U.S. has everything I’m looking for (okay, minus the perfect weather): cute communities/suburbs like German Village and Worthington, delicious restaurants, entertainment, dainty coffee shops, affordable rent and fabulous career opportunities in health care, corporate and agency PR.  Did I mention OSU football, too?

Please note: I’m not eliminating job opportunities that may pop up throughout the country or in Northeast Ohio.  I’m impressed by the amazing PR/marketing professionals I’ve met in the Akron/Cleveland/Canton network, and I’d be honored to start my career here.  However, I’ve lived in “the 330” my entire life, and a part of me yearns to see what other areas of the state have to offer.

I’ve picked my city. Did you pick yours?

Soon to be grads: Where would you like to relocate and why?  New pros: Did you have to relocate?  If so, how did you choose to make your new home?

Ch-ch-ch Changes: Shantae’s Perspective

January 5, 2010 at 9:30 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Senior night with the rents!

It’s funny how things change so quickly.  I remember being an energetic 18-year-old high school senior who danced, cheered and rocked knee highs with my plaid skirt at the Catholic high school I attended.  I remember sitting around with my three best friends talking about our plans after graduation day. We were unsure about where to go to college and which major to pursue.  Overall, life was simple and carefree with few commitments and all the time in the world to think about what came next.  I was really on top of my game! 

Fast forward four years:  I’m 22 years old, I pull all-nighters more than I sleep, my coffee addiction could send me to rehab but I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I love a challenge and cannot wait to put my PR skills to the test.  But I still worry.  I spend a lot of time talking with my roommates, Mary Jo and Rebecca, about where we will be in a year.  Will we be able to find  jobs that give us the opportunity to learn and grow as PR professionals?  Will our ethics be tested?  Will we be able to pay the rent? 

It’s strange to think I’ll be an adult who is responsible for more than a paper in my Tactics class or exam in a history course.  I’ll be the person steering my career in the direction of failure or success, but no pressure. 

Rebecca and I came up with the brilliant idea, over coffee I think, to begin a blog to explore our expectations and fears about becoming PR pros.  We hope to discuss issues like making a good impression in an interview, building networks in other states and even negotiating wages for an entry-level position.  I’m not afraid of a little criticism and welcome your advice. 

Rebecca and I are as different as night and day, but we both want successful careers and believe this blog will be a tool to get us there.  Here’s to the unknown!

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