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Are You Doing Enough of Your Own Career PR?


6/28/2011 1:58:58 PM

By Vickie Elmer, Glassdoor.com

If you find it difficult to present your best talents, maybe you need professional help in promoting yourself.

Two public relations executives, Meryl Weinsaft Cooper and Jessica Kleiman, have written a new book that combines public relations and career advice. They believe today’s job seekers must “find ways to be creative and resourceful so that you rise to the top of anybody’s list,” said Kleiman. “They have to work a little harder to stand out.”

Called “Be Your Own Best Publicist”, the book draws on their 30 years experience: Kleiman is a top publicist at Hearst Magazines and Cooper who works for a New York PR firm, DeVries Public Relations, and once represented the Screen Actors Guild. “We took our PR expertise and are trying to help people apply them to their own careers,” said Kleiman, who also contributes to their blog.

Develop your pitch. It could be your 30-second elevator pitch, or it could be a thoughtful creative way to answer the sometimes-tough question ‘Tell me about yourself,’ said Kleiman. Either way, this succinct story about you and your talents must answer the question: “What do I bring to the table?” It also should highlight why you are unique and where you really excel. If you have trouble with this, ask your mother, your best friend and a professor for suggestions.

Keep it to three key points. Be clear about your main message. In an interview or conversation, it’s better to focus on two or three focused topics or selling points, and repeat them a couple of times so they stick. Write them down and make sure you have specific examples to back them up for the job interview.

Become the answer person. Position yourself as a resource and someone who will give good guidance and make connections. Or become the ultimate expert in one subject – and hope that subject is important to future employers. Serving as a connector or information source increases your value – and makes it more likely you’ll be clued in on something big as it’s developing.

Build a backup plan. Your dream job may not be within reach right now. Or your first choice for a best company may have just filled its only opening. “Have a contingency plan,” they say. Explore other companies or sectors; “you always want to be ready with another route to success.

Answer without answering. If you’re asked a difficult question, say something like “That’s a really good question, Bob, but what I think is more important today is ….” and go back to a topic or area that you feel shines a positive light on you and your talents. Or if you’re asked what you dislike about your current job or situation, you could reply by saying you’ve learned a lot there and worked on “a number of interesting projects.” That way you don’t insult anyone or anything in your response.

Learn to spin your experience. Whatever job you had taught you something that will be worthwhile to future employers. If you worked as a waitress when many other college graduates were toiling at summer internships, make the best of that. You learned to thrive in a fast-paced environment, to handle difficult people, good customer service skills and to be outgoing. Said Klaiman: “It’s not so much the job you’ve had, it’s about how you take that experience and skillet and spin it as a PR person would do.”

Show a little humility. Confidence is important, but too much and you end up sounding like someone who no one will want to work with. You don’t want to sound boastful or crass, even if you have had some great successes. Ask for help and admit you need some guidance. Allow yourself to make mistakes – and learn from them. In an interview, this means you wait until the second interview to ask about the career path and moving up “I haven’t even finished asking you questions about your resume and you’re asking how soon you can advance here,” said Kleiman.

Her final advice, also based on convincing journalists to cover stories or people she represents, is simple: “Don’t give up. Keep going on your pitch.” You will lose out on jobs, and you will be rejected. But you can learn from that and still end up with success if you keep working on your career goals.

About the Author

Vickie Elmer regularly contributes articles on careers and small business to the Washington Post. She has collected a slew of journalism awards, large and small. Her career and workplace articles also have appeared in Fortune, Parents, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Financial Times, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday and many more.

Check out the latest Career Insider eNewsletter - June 30, 2011.

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