A couple of months ago, I was part of the HAPPO kickoff team. If you’re new to the concept, HAPPO (Help A PR Pro Out) is “designed to help connect PR job seekers with employers looking for top talent.”

It started as a day, but now it’s much more than that; a hashtag, blog, chat… in short, it aims to be your one-stop shop if you’re a PR pro looking for a job, and an ever-growing community that tries to help you do that.

Image: Marco Vossen, Creative Commons

The second HAPPO day (and yes, you can pun away to your heart’s content, we’ve heard it all) is coming up on April 30, focusing on new and recent graduates. So watch this space on Friday for a guest post from a young lady I met recently at a Towson University career fair – she’s quite terrific.

Coincidentally, I came across Gawker’s post on the (potential) intern from Hell today. After I got up from ROFLMAO’ing, I couldn’t help but recall Bill Sledzik’s excellent post on millennials (and the comments are mind-blowing), as well as Todd Defren’s follow-up riff in his “open letter to millenials” (and there’s a follow-up to that as well here).

Millenials, I’m not here to beat up on you.

I know a ton of you and you are, by and large, absolutely terrific people. However, being at a disadvantage when it comes to the years you’ve spent job-hunting, I think it’s important to reinforce that there’s a lot more to the process than you might think. My friend Mary Barber, also a HAPPO “champion,” wrote a terrific post on this. In particular, she said:

“It is a little concerning to see comments from those wondering why this was just a one- day event, bothered that they didn’t get a job and especially that the champion in their area didn’t find them a job.”

Here’s a news flash: when someone’s taking time out of their day (read: paid work) to help you find a job, it is your responsibility to help them do you a favor. Which means you should be polite, make sure they have all the resources they need, and not expect anything in return.

This “not expecting thing” is particularly important, because it will influence how you interact with them (and possibly other people), which will in turn influence how they respond to you.

It will also save you huge disappointment down the road when things don’t turn out the way you’d like. If you start with no expectations, you have nowhere to go but up. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have hope; but “hope” and “expectations” are two different things.

The thing is, those of us who try to help out – and I don’t mean just the folks involved with HAPPO, but anyone, anywhere who’s offered to help you out at anytime with anything – really do try. But you’ve got to give us the tools to work with. And the right attitude is part and parcel of that.

Get HAPPO-ready

As you gear up for HAPPO Day on Friday, why not go through this checklist of dos and don’ts to make sure you’re positioning yourself as well as you can to get that great PR job?

1. Typo-proof your resumé. You’d be amazed at how many folks don’t do this… or, at least, do it well enough. And if you’re looking for a job in “public relations,” make sure you spell “public” with the “l.” That’s something Spell Check won’t fix for you.

2. Don’t attach your resumé to an introductory email. If someone’s nice enough to make an introduction for you, follow up politely with that new contact and ask them if they’d mind you sending them your resumé. Don’t assume they’ll want it right off the bat. You know what “assume” breaks down to, right? Right.

3. Manage yourself online. If you have online profiles, make sure they’re updated and contain a nice, professional-looking photograph. Clean up your Facebook profile and go through your privacy settings with a fine-tooth comb. And if you’re on Twitter, make sure your profile is unprotected, so that people can see your Twitterstream.

4. Use language, symbols and punctuation wisely. Yes, we use smiley faces (Image: Matthew Juzenas, Creative Commons), acronyms and exclamation points far more liberally than we have before; I do it all the time on Twitter, Facebook, etc. But I don’t use them half as liberally in professional communications; at least not until I’ve established a relationship with someone. When someone’s just getting to know you, a professional demeanor is the best one to project.

5. Don’t ask someone to “feel free” to… pass along your resumé, share jobs with you, or generally promote you until they’ve gotten to know you first. In fact, I’d suggest you drop “feel free” from your vocabulary altogether. It’s superfluous. If someone’s impressed by you, they won’t need the invitation. If they’re not, you’ll probably just irritate them.

6. Follow up, follow up, follow up. You can follow up on leads without being a pest. As Mary says in her post, it takes more than four hours to build a network and find a job (there’s that expectation thing again). But if you’re politely persistent, you’ll have a much better chance of securing informational interviews and, hopefully, a job you’ll look forward to waking up to every day.

Now let’s get ready for HAPPO, or, as Whoopi Goldberg might put it, O HAPPO Day.

What would you add to the checklist? How else can we help younger pros prepare for the workforce? I’m sure there are many more tips we can offer new entrants to our field, so please do share your knowledge.

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps purpose-driven brands bring big ideas to life. She teaches at The Johns Hopkins University, has gone back to school herself with the Harvard Business Analytics Program, and is creator/lead instructor at The Social PR Virtuoso® online training hub , where ambitious PR pros learn how to unleash their inner Social PR superheroes. Owned by Lola the Basset Hound, she's mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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