Q: How does one break into the industry, especially a mature worker who recently finished a bachelor's degree in communications?
- Angela Grondin
San Francisco, Calif.
A: When looking for a job, age is only a barrier if you let it be. The best way to approach a job search is like an entrepreneur starting a new venture. Just like a company is trying to sell their products, you are trying to sell your skills.
Before you get started on the job search, make sure you ask yourself the same questions an entrepreneur would: How can I offer differentiation? Where are the voids in my industry, and how can I fill them? What do I add that makes me irreplaceable? Once you begin answering these questions, you start to create a brand and carve out a niche for yourself.
As for the actual job hunt, before diving in, consider these things:
In PR, knowing what is going on in the world is very important. If you lack basic pop culture knowledge, this is one of the easiest ways to date yourself. I am not saying you need to be an encyclopedia, but you should know enough to hold a conversation. Things to pay attention to include latest celebrity news, viral videos and stories on emerging brands.
Understand social media.
Here is where age could play a role. One of the biggest disadvantages to a mature worker is when he or she doesn't understand social media. Just because Facebook wasn't around when you were a teenager, doesn't mean you shouldn't embrace technology.
I am 25, and I have never used Pinterest or Tumblr and started using Twitter only two months ago. Yet, I am familiar with each outlet and its advantages and disadvantages.
When making your way into the world of PR, you don't need to be a social media genius. But you should have an idea of what each platform offers.
Ditch the 9-to-5 mentality.
One of the biggest things that sets apart younger generations from older ones is their definition of workplace. Employers nowadays are not always looking to hire in the traditional sense. If you have your heart set on a 9-to-5 schedule, you might never get your foot in the door, especially in PR.
We all have our insecurities, but you don't want your potential employer to know about them right off the bat. As a defense mechanism, you might make a joke about your age or justify why they need to look past it. Try to avoid doing that, because you don't want to bring attention to your weaknesses.
Define what you bring to the table.
Pick one or two things you are really good at, and make sure potential employer knows your strengths. Like any entrepreneur would do, you have to define your niche. It is more important to truly succeed at a few skills rather than try to be good at everything.
Looking for a job and starting your own business are not all that different. Being flexible is one of the most important characteristics of an entrepreneur and this trait can also come in handy as you look for a job.
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