Interview with Lauren Fernandez: Tips for Job Seeking Students

Lauren Fernandez, American Mensa
Lauren Fernandez, American Mensa

Lauren Fernandez, American Mensa, is an enthusiastic PR Professional, who is always willing to help out students looking to become PR professionals.  Lauren was kind enough to provide some great advice for you through my blog, enjoy!

1) How should students approach their established connections to ask for job opportunities? When is the best time to start asking?

Once you start interning and gaining PR experience, you should treat every opportunity as a future job. You never know, because 5 years down the road that contact could be your next boss. When I was just beginning to intern, I would collect cards, and if I felt that I could learn from the person as a mentor, I would constantly email them with questions, advice and meet with them for coffee and/or lunch. I would also write a hand written thank you card every once in awhile. I don’t think it’s valuable to come right out and ask for a job – but by building a relationship and showing interest, you are saying “Hey, look at me – I am valuable and could be in the future.”

2) What are the best methods students can use to create connections with professionals?

I am a big fan of Twitter – this is an easy way to get a hold of me, and also to start establishing a contact. Once we have that, we can move to email, phone and networking. I love meeting students at events, and coming home and already having an email thanking me for my time. The email that contains questions about the field and about what I do, how I got into PR, etc. will always gain a lot of mileage when creating a connection. Also, make sure to keep up the connection – don’t drop off the face of the planet. PR pros talk daily, and we share stories. The PR world is very small, even in big cities such as the DFW area where I work.

3) To what extent are students expected to censor their online profiles? How can they do this while keeping to the values of transparency in social media?

Frankly, I don’t want to see parts of your body you wouldn’t show at work, or you chugging beer in the conga line. That is all fun in college, but this is the professional world, and you have to think of it from the standpoint of: What would your co-worker say if they were standing next to you in these pictures? Would your boss like to know that your interests include whiskey and chasing the opposite sex? Probably not. Your social media profiles and presence should only add to your character and exemplify it, not take away from it. There are privacy settings if you need to keep that one picture on there, but once you graduate, it really is time to grow up.

4) What was one thing that you wish you did differently, or that you wish you were aware of when searching for your first full time job?

I wish I knew the value of patience, and the fact that you don’t have to accept the first job that is offered to you. I know in this economy it can be a tough pill to swallow, but my dad gave me great advice when that first job I took went really sour and I quit: “Lauren, was that a job that you would be happy with if for the next 5 years you weren’t paid for it?” I didn’t have passion for that job, and that is something you should always have. You are a rockstar, and you have to believe in it. The job will come – and one that you love.

5) What are some things that students can do to stand out from the crowd, differentiating themselves from other job candidates? What are specific things that you look for?

I look for dedication, hard work, and response time. I am a very busy professional, but I can always stop to help someone if they are dedicated to this field. I only want those that can accelerate and benefit the field I love to enter it – and those are the ones I help. I don’t like arrogance (trust me, you aren’t a PR God come to save the field), and I love simple thank yous. If a student can respond to me in 24 hours or less, or at least tell me they received my message, then that will gain a lot of respect for me. If a student asks me to lunch, they stand out, because they aren’t afraid to be in a setting that is outside the professional workplace. If a student sends a hand-written note, that gets a lot of bonus points as well.


You can find Arik Hanson’s answers to these questions here.  Thanks for your time and thoughts Lauren!

Advice for PR and Marketing Grads

m00by
Photo cred: m00by

This is a collaboratively reworked version of Lauren Fernandez‘s post “Let’s Be Frank: Some Advice for PR Graduates” that I thought was SO great, I needed to make it available to my readers with a few additional insights of my own. I also spoke with Lauren after her post to find answers to some additional questions I had which will also be included here. Here we go…

  1. Build experience and set goals. Participate in internships, take offices, join clubs and do community service.  Find jobs that you are interested in and work to become qualified.
  2. Be realistic. Many companies have become big by retaining their employees and job openings are limited, especially in today’s economy.  You shouldn’t always shoot for the big name companies.  You will find that smaller – medium sized companies are the ones looking for bright new entry-level people to join them as they grow.  At these small agencies, you can gain a lot of experience because you really get to see the ins and outs of an agency.
  3. Don’t rush to grad school. Focus on building some experience first.  PR students should always have some experience before going to grad school. Really, a masters in PR is geared toward if you want to go into teaching. However, you can always go for Emerging Media, Public Affairs, Communications, etc. In many situations, only YOU would know what’s the right approach when considering going to grad school. In general, I would recommend having at least 2 years of professional experience first.
  4. You are not too good for ANY offer. As long as an organization has a good reputation, there is no reason to not give it a shot. You might find it’s a great fit, and you will definitely learn from it – good or bad. Also, you might hear of a development coordinator job opening – this is geared toward fund-raising and developing the brand. This is great for a young PR pro because you can really fine-tune your pitching and customer service skills.
  5. Stay open to doing internships after you graduate. Not everyone coming out of school will get a job right off the bat.  If you are set on the big agency, be prepared to take a paid internship for a couple of months before being offered an entry type position. Don’t look at this as a disadvantage!  Since you have a degree, you will be given more responsibility and greater consideration for full-time opportunities. You will take away great experience, contacts and if you do your job well, a recommendation.
  6. Set up interviews around graduation time Sure, your finance and business major friend already landed a job back in December but guess what? This is PR and marketing. The job offers WILL come.  Those hiring, unless stated differently, usually want someone to start within a month of the interview process. This is a field that is constantly on the go and constantly changing.
  7. Network until you graduate! The key is to establish a connection with professionals and stay involved until interview season. Three quick networking tips:
    1. Use social media to it’s fullest! Tools like linkedin, twitter, and professionals networks have made it easier than ever to meet professionals in your field. If you feel comfortable enough, have a lot to say and can say it well, start a blog!  Make sure to be respectful and professional in your online presence. Word gets around in these fields and you don’t want to tarnish your reputation.
    2. Go to networking events! There are always events going on in major cities.  They are a great way to make some real connections with experienced professionals who will only be impressed that you are networking before you graduate.
    3. If you’ve made a contact, communicate with them once a week – either by email, phone or even meeting for coffee. It’s the simple things that keep a relationship alive, and that drive to connect with PR pros is going to get you very far. Face-to-face communication is ALWAYS the best route to create meaningful relationships, especially for those that haven’t jumped into social media yet.
  8. You can focus your job search on social media. As many have argued, social media doesn’t exactly fall under marketing or PR but more of a mixture, and there isn’t an accepted method to approach social media. If you’re set on working in social media, consider an association/non-profit job. Contrary to popular belief, this is where a lot of job opportunities will be coming from. They all need in-house PR, and they also have a great need for the 20-something who is great at social media. In non-profits/association, you truly know the ins and outs of your client, because you ARE the client. In these settings, you also gain a ton of experience because you get to do a lot more, and are trusted a lot more, than in the agency atmosphere.

What did we leave out? What advice would you give to PR and marketing grads?