How to Use Your Personal Experiences in Interviews
By: Katherine Feuerman
We are in an era where experience is everything, it is how you get your foot in the door, your resume to the top of the pile, and stand a chance at securing an internship. As young PR professionals, we spend hours upon hours in the classroom learning about the theoretical aspects of public relations, but when it comes to getting experience, we are on our own. While you will constantly be told to get experience and apply to jobs, how do you get that experience when every role requires previous experience to even be considered?
- Use Your Personal Social Media
PR, especially social media, has become a numbers game; it is about engagement, analytics, and mentions. One of the best ways to make yourself stand out is to understand what these numbers mean and how to use them to your advantage. In a time when nearly 1.39 billion people have an Instagram account, why not use yours to your advantage? Your social media is a way to get analytics experience and make you stand out. By looking at your insights you can better understand the things that PR professionals look at daily and stand out among those who will not learn about analytics until later in their careers. With that, make sure you have an understanding of every platform you can. Having a LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok gives you an understanding of how these platforms work and how to use them professionally. While your only experience will be for personal use, it is better to say you have a strong understanding of TikTok than to say you have never even downloaded the app.
2. When All Else Fails to Remember Your Classes
Interviewers are constantly asking about work experience, leadership, and moments of conflict. So, what do you do when you don’t have formal experience? My rule of thumb: when all else fails remember your classes. I usually think of a large group project, specifically in a public relations class, and use it to my advantage. Do I have experience with communication plans? Writing press releases? Dealt with conflict? I may not have the formal expertise, but I have experience with all of these from my classes, so why not use it? I created an in-depth communication plan in my CM 215 class, wrote press releases in my CM 331 class, and dealt with conflict during my group project in CM321. Showing you have even the most minor form of experience can help you in the long run, employers want interns that can help them and the more you prove you know the less they have to take time and effort to teach you.
3. Research, Research, Research!
I’ve given examples of how to understand what a PR professional does, but look at the news coming straight from PR professionals. Look at social media accounts, read press releases, and research examples of PR professionals’ work. In almost every interview I’ve had, I have been asked about an account that I think is run well or is an example of what I believe is good PR. Looking at the social accounts of businesses allows you to understand how PR should be done and give you a better understanding of what interviewers are looking for beyond just that specific question.
4. Start Small and Look at What You are Already Doing
No matter how small, every opportunity is something. Whether joining a club or an unpaid internship, starting small is a great way to start taking steps into the PR profession. Every club has a social media page and needs people to run it; that is a great way to gain experience. Turning your interests into experience is one of the best ways to set yourself up for a first internship. The best way to do this is to take the interest you are already involved in and find a way to make them into a position.
5. Once you get experience, milk it for all you can
With these mentioned opportunities to experience, the next part is what you do once you get some. The best way to put it: milk if for all it’s worth. Experience is a great way to learn but also make sure you showcase those learning opportunities as much as possible in interviews. When a question warrants it, refer to your experience, roles, and classes as an example of your previous work in PR. The more you can show you know about the field the more it shows an interviewer that you would thrive in the field.