My personal philosophy is that you can get can get your foot in any door anywhere and get them to open it, if you properly harness your training, skills and experiences in PR, marketing and sales.
In fact, a position in sales can be a great training ground for future PR professionals. Don’t believe me? Think about it like this. When you work in PR, besides the general public, you deal with a lot of other types of customers, whether they’re co-workers, clients or journalists. Instead of trying to sell them a product or service, you’re trying to sell them a story or idea. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lobby poster, a media pitch, a client proposal or a news release, you’re essentially using the same sales skills you currently use every day.
Whether you’re in college studying PR or communications or you’ve graduated and just not yet found that “perfect” first PR job, you might as well make the most of your retail or food service job, right? (And I don’t just mean using your employee discount.) Here’s how you can turn experience in sales into a solid foundation for your future PR career:
- Work smarter, not harder – using your communications skills. You already work for a great company, or at least I hope you do! Use the knowledge you’ve gleaned from your college courses to understand how to connect with your sales customers. Since you’ve paid big bucks for your schooling, you may as well use your new knowledge to your advantage!
- Build rapport. Establishing and building mutually beneficial relationships is what PR is all about! If your sales role includes working with repeat customers (no, not, “would you like fries with that today” customers), make sure you call them by name, if appropriate, and let them know you appreciate their business. Staying connected with previous supervisors and co-workers is a must, too; you will thank yourself later.
- Sharpen your study habits – Do your research. Try to understand how your current company communicates with its publics (you are, after all, one of them). Visit your company’s news or media webpages to understand its communications structure, the names of the people in key communications positions and the types of subjects or messages that they use in their communications channels – news releases, blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts. Bonus: you can use these strategically with your customers, too! Double bonus: many companies look within their organization when hiring; try to casually run into these communicators to strike up a conversation about your schooling and your interest in what they do (you might get promoted).
Just before it is “Intern Season,” reach out to the communications team members you’ve been following to let them know of your interest and to make them aware of your knowledge and work experience with the company. After all, if you’ve been following my suggestions for success, you should now know more about the company, its communications department, and its most important group, its customers, than any other candidate!
Go get ‘em!