I had the first Bud Fox moment of my career. Life all came down to a few moments. This was going to be one of them.
Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, make eye contact and begin…
I was giving a presentation about my social media plans to Antonio Gutterres – better known as the man who used to run Portugal.
He now runs the Refugee Agency at the United Nations. The presentation was the culmination of months of schedule co-ordination and persuading of key staff. It was the most terrifying moment of my fledgling career.
I am the Social Media/Online Community Manager at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. It’s a £48k per year job that over 200 people applied for. I was the youngest. You can get really amazing jobs in marketing and PR, very quickly after graduating, if you’re willing to go further than your fellow students are.
Here’s my advice for fellow graduates:
1) Become an expert and build your brand
First find a niche that’s yours, learn everything you can about it then give advice to those that know less than you. I specialize in online communities. I read up on sociology, psychology and anthropology then use those insights to help organizations build online communities. I publish much of my advice on my blog, www.feverbee.com. That’s my thing; you need your own.
Say you’re interested in celebrities (and many PR students seem to be), then bring something to the table. Become the expert on celebrities using new technology to promote themselves. Think about celebrity from a sociological perspective. Become an expert on PR for micro-celebrities in niche fields.
Pick your niche, learn everything about it, then publish yourself. You can start a blog or a mailing list. You can write white papers on what you know or aim for guest spots in relevant media. Become known for being an expert on what you do; that way, jobs will come to you.
2) Network like crazy
Networking is possibly the best use of your spare time. Yet very few students can afford to attend conferences let alone be sober and interesting.
Instead, set aside 20 minutes a day to network. During those 20 minutes, write to someone you admire and ask them if they would be willing to give you some advice. People generally like the flattery of giving advice. If you like a short-cut, ask to interview them for your blog/mailing list/white paper and simply stay in touch.
Next time they hear of a job opening, they will think of you. It won’t pay off in the first month, but if you’re not getting some great job offers as a result of your networking within a year – then you need to try harder.
3) Take a different path
Consider this. When you graduate you’re thousands of pounds in debt (now at super low-interest rates) that you don’t have to pay back until you earn over £15k. This is a long way round of saying you have nothing to lose. You try any of your crazy career ideas without worrying about dependants and mortgages. If it goes wrong, you can move back in with your parents. It’s a great life.
You can’t get an amazing job by following the same career path as everybody else. If you’re planning to apply for entry level/grad jobs after university then I wish you good luck. You’re going to have a job very similar to thousands of other graduates.
I went freelance after graduating. I didn’t earn much (at all) but it freed me up for the big opportunities – like working with marketing genius Seth Godin in New York for three months, launching my online community consulting business, moving to Lithuania and, finally, taking this job in Geneva. I couldn’t have had any of these things if I had accepted a job offer from Amazon last year.
Here are two more things to note:
You’re going to make mistakes. I’ve been called the biggest fuck-up in Tech PR. I’ve never worked in Tech PR, but it still hurts. Make sure you never make the same mistake twice.
Think internationally. If you’re born in Britain, you won the geographic lottery. Your passport can get you into 27 European countries.
Consider working in some of them. I live in France and work in Switzerland.