Eight Tips for Landing That Next Job

September 16, 2010

By Chris Gent

Finding work is work. And finding work during a bad economy is even more work. Many of our fellow public relations professionals have lost their jobs due to layoffs or corporate downsizing and once again find themselves in the hunt for a job. During this time of economic uncertainty, I believe it’s a good idea for all of us to polish up our résumés and sharpen our job seeking skills.

In hiring PR professionals at my company, I could tell you applicant stories that would make you laugh and your jaw drop at the same time. I’ve seen it all – candidates who fluff their résumés, fail to do any advance research on our company, never showed up for an interview or failed to follow up an interview with a simple thank you note.

Here are eight suggestions for preparing yourself for the job market:

1.  Work Your Network – The importance of career networking shouldn’t be discounted when you are in the midst of a job search. In fact, networking should become a part of your daily work and career-related endeavors. Research shows that for every person you build a relationship with, that person has relationships with 20 other potential job connections, and each of those another 20, and so on… Networking does not always provide immediate gratification or results, but it does build long-term relationships and connections that may potentially help you find a job. If the old adage “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is true, then the more people you know, the better.

2.  Craft an Informative, Accurate Résumé – When preparing your résumé tell a prospective employer what you’ve accomplished, not what you did. Don’t waste your time detailing all the little projects you were involved in. Instead, tell them how your work helped move the business forward. Tie what you did to how it impacted the business. Provide numbers that demonstrate your accomplishments. Keep the information on your résumé accurate – a representation of fact instead of a work of fiction.

3.  Manage Your Online Reputation – The Internet has made information instantly accessible. You can find an employer quicker than ever before. The flipside is that an employer is only a few clicks away from finding your entire social life online, for better or worse. Before beginning a job search spend some time cleaning up your online presence. Google your name to see what a prospective employer might see. Delete any embarrassing photos, comments, links from your online profiles and blogs. Tone down your screen names. Don’t use “cute” e-mail addresses, Twitter handles, etc.

I’ve actually received résumé cover letters asking me to contact the applicant at email addresses like hotlipsxxoo@aol.com or studlyman@gmail.com. You might have a nice set of lips or be the studliest man around, but let your significant other be the judge of that – not your prospective employer!

Not enough to convince you? A recent CareerBuilder survey showed that 43 percent of employers found content on social networking sites that caused them not to hire the candidate. Don’t be a statistic… clean it up!

4. Tap Into Social Media – Social media sites have proven themselves as important vehicles for making connections and demonstrating your personal passions and interests. It’s also a great way to connect with a prospective employer. Participation in social media communities like Facebook or LinkedIn can make you visible to a large number of people within a particular company or industry. Twitter has become the ultimate utility to connect directly with recruiters and employees at companies you might want to work for. The best part of Twitter is that it allows you to connect with people you don’t know, based on common interests.  By conducting searches, you can learn a lot about a company and opportunities that might exist.

Research shows that a majority of job openings are never advertised through traditional means, i.e. advertising, websites. It’s the people who are well connected who learn first about available jobs.

5.  Follow Instructions – If the company asks you to follow a certain procedure or process when applying, testing or interviewing for a job — do it! You might not like or agree with how it’s being done, but it’s not your process, it’s theirs.

I once had a candidate who left our testing room during a timed test and walked outside to take a personal call on her cell phone. When I passed through our lobby and noticed the candidate sitting outside I went up to her and inquired if she had completed the test. She said she would once she finalized her weekend plans. That action and response spoke volumes about the type of employee she would be if hired. Next candidate, please.

6.  Do Your Homework – You’d be amazed how many people never research a company before submitting an application. Even worse is showing up for an interview without any knowledge of the company’s mission, goals or future plans. The Internet is a tremendous tool that makes research easy and convenient. Spend some time reviewing a company’s website before applying. Read its most recent annual report and news releases. Google the company name to find recent announcements, acquisitions or challenges. This information will expand your knowledge and enable you to ask educated questions during the interview.

Each time I hire an employee, I administer a short quiz about our company. I want to know how much the applicant knows about our company. Of all the candidates who have taken it through the years, less than 10 percent passed the test. I even had an applicant emerge from the testing room completely unaware that they had applied at an electric utility!

7.  Remember to Say Thank You – It’s important to remember to offer a thank you note or follow up e-mail with a potential employer, recruiter or interviewer. This simple gesture shows that you appreciated their time and are interested in the position, and it could be the tipping point that pushes you into the job candidate finalist category. I believe the thank you note remains one of the most overlooked marketing tools of the job search. Don’t forget to use it.

Of the 250 applicants who applied for my most recent job opening, only 15 followed up with a phone call or email. Of the 10 candidates who were called in for a personal interview, only four sent follow up thank you notes. If I’m looking for an employee who is detailed oriented then those four who sent thank you notes just moved to the top of my list.

8.  Smile, Stay Positive – When you are job hunting you will be turned down, often many times. It’s just a fact. Remember there are probably hundreds of people out there searching for the same position. An important thing to remember is staying positive and projecting a positive image and attitude. A good way to do this is to surround yourself with positive people – people who will motivate and encourage you to push on. Having a positive attitude makes a big difference. Remember to smile during an interview. Yes, it can be difficult to smile when you’re on the hot seat — but a smile during an interview shows enthusiasm for the position and the company.

I’ve interviewed several applicants who came into an interview with a chip on their shoulder. No matter how smart or talented you might be, a bad attitude is a deal breaker.

Whether or not you’re currently on the hunt for a new job, keeping your résumé up-to-date and sharpening your skills is important. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! It’s 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed, according to Dr. Seuss. Kid, you’ll move mountains!

Chris Gent, APR is vice president of corporate communications at Kissimmee Utility Authority, Florida’s sixth largest municipally-owned electric utility. He is a past president of FPRA’s Orlando Area Chapter and this year’s Central Florida PR Professional of the Year.

Intern Pursuit Tuesday October 26

September 16, 2010

Join us and find a new intern for fall semester!

When: 7:00 p.m.
Where: FAIRWINDS Alumni Center
At: University of Central Florida

Email Ryan Sheehy for details on parking, employer set-up, to RSVP and more.

Google to Keynote Oct. 28 Professional Development Event

September 16, 2010

Save the Date!

Our annual Professional Development Workshop will take place at Rollins College on Thursday, October 28 at 8 a.m. We hope you will join us for a social media panel and discussions that include Internet law, branding, brand monitoring, employee rejuvenation and financial literacy. The event will be followed by a luncheon with a keynote speaker from Google.

How to Reach Audiences Via Mobile Devices

September 16, 2010

featuring Jeremy Hilton of MindComet

Thursday, September 23
8:00 a.m. – Registration
8:30 a.m. – Breakfast/Presentation

University Club
150 E. Central Blvd., Orlando

Analysts predict a dramatic shift toward mobile web use in the coming year. Including devices such as the Kindle, the iPhone and other smartphones, web-enabled tablets, GPS systems, video games and wireless home appliances, the growth of the mobile web has been exponential — and we’re still just at the beginning of this cycle. In fact, the mobile web is expected to be bigger than desktop Internet use by 2015.

How are you using mobile web to reach your customers or clients? Jeremy Hilton, vice president of media and technology for MindComet, will provide best practices and tips on leveraging mobile media technologies to reach your target audiences. Learn emerging trends in consumer behavior specifically within the mobile space, and explanations on why consumers feel this way. He’ll also discuss the growth of the smartphone, optimizing your site for the mobile browser, the mobile application market, location-based services, social media and community involvement, and driving offline to online through QR codes and UPC scanning.

About Jeremy
As MindComet’s vice president of media and technology, Jeremy Hilton oversees the agency’s digital strategy, design and development capabilities, and ensures the firm’s position on the progressive edge of the interactive marketing industry. During his tenure, he has applied his expertise in emerging technologies, platforms, communities and trends to solve business challenges for a broad range of clients, including SPEED Channel, NCsoft, Charity Cars, and Hilton Grand Vacations Club. Prior to his current role, Jeremy served as MindComet’s director of information services, responsible for creating the communications backbone for many of the agency’s high-visibility, award-winning campaigns. Jeremy joined MindComet in 2004 after serving as a systems administrator and software developer for HostCentric, a web hosting provider located in Orlando. In collaboration with other leading Central Florida social media advocates, Jeremy recently launched the Orlando chapter of Social Media Club, a non-profit new media advocacy and educational group.

Members – $15
Non-members – $25
Students – $10

Click here to register now!

Doreen Overstreet Receives Chapter Member of the Year Award

September 16, 2010

Doreen Overstreet, senior account executive at Costa DeVault, was awarded this year’s Chapter Member of the Year Award.

The annual award honors outstanding leadership, demonstrated enthusiasm, extraordinary involvement and loyal support. A member since 2002, Doreen has been a part of FPRA’s professional development initiatives, serving on the committee from 2004 to 2008 and as co-chair in 2005.

This past year, she served as the event chair on the 2009-2010 board of directors. In this position, she successfully planned the Professional Development Workshop that included eight speakers on a variety of topics. She continues to offer assistance and valuable experience to the co-chairs of this year’s event.

Her involvement with FPRA encouraged her to enhance her career by pursuing her APR. Balancing classes, studying, her career and motherhood, Doreen received her accreditation in 2008.

Afterwards, she went on to teach APR courses and was part of the candidate evaluation panel. She also participated in several of FPRA’s community service projects, including the recent Coalition of the Homeless event.

Doreen is the recipient of more than ten FPRA Image and Golden Image Awards at the local and state level and has served in multiple position on our board of directors. Congratulations Doreen!

Rachael Gmerek Receives Bob Davis Award

September 16, 2010

Rachael Gmerek, communications specialist at Kissimmee Utility Authority, on Aug. 26 was awarded the FPRA Orlando Area Chapter’s 2010 Bob Davis Award.

The annual award honors unrecognized contributions an individual FPRA member has made to the chapter. In essence, it is an “unsung hero” award intended to reward a member for his/her behind-the-scenes work and volunteer efforts that go unnoticed by chapter members and are not recognized by other awards programs.

The award was established in 2002 to honor the achievements and contributions of Bob Davis, Ph.D., ABC, APR, CPRC, a retired University of Central Florida professor who gave tirelessly to the chapter and the public relations profession for nearly three decades.

Gmerek has been a member of FPRA since 2005. She has served two years on the chapter’s board of directors and will serve as assistant treasurer in 2010-2011.

Gmerek holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising/public relations from the University of Central Florida.

Names of previous Bob Davis Award recipients can be found on the chapter’s website, http://www.fpra-orlando.org/awards.

Free APR Workshops Now in Session

September 16, 2010

APR is a mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice. Candidates earn accreditation based on broad knowledge, strategic perspective and sound professional judgment. Earning your accreditation is a great way to stand out from your peers.

The Orlando Chapters of FPRA and PRSA team up each fall and spring to host a series of workshops for those interested in becoming accredited. Workshops will be held each Monday from September 20 through November 15. If you are interested in attending, or would like more information about accreditation, please contact FPRA Orlando Area Chapter VP of Accreditation Stefanie Macfarlane, APR at smacfarlane@cfl.rr.com or 321.578.1722.

Members of FPRA are eligible for up to $150 in rebates after completing the workshops and passing the computer-based exam within 30 days after the workshops end.

Learn more about the accreditation process by visiting the official website of the Universal Accreditation Board at www.praccreditation.org.

Anson Stoner Acquires Fareed Zapala Koepke

September 16, 2010

The ink is now dry: Anson-Stoner officially acquired Fareed Zapala Koepke (FZK), a marketing consultancy that boasts an international reputation as a leader in hospitality marketing.

With this move, the agency gained a strong foothold in the hospitality, tourism and travel sectors. Clients include Peter Island Resort & Spa, The Fairmont Southampton, Skytop Lodge, Fernandez Bay Village, and The Reef.

In addition, Anson-Stoner welcomed four new members to its growing staff:

• John Fareed, managing partner of FZK, joins Anson-Stoner as executive vice president

• Nina Zapala takes on the role of director of public relations

• Brent Koepke becomes associate creative director

  • Amy Mierzwinski serves as account executive