To the Class of 2015: tell your stories and show your work

Budding communicators can get valuable experience simply by promoting their personal brands.
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My stepdaughter, Susanna, will graduate in May with a fine arts degree from Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

I could tell you about her graphic design talent. Better yet, I can provide you with this link to some of her work, showcased on the website she designed and built.

There’s some great stuff there (nice job, Susanna) that surely will help with her job search, but I cite it not to pat her on the back publicly. (Credit first goes to Tyler for requiring such a portfolio, recognizing that gainful employment is the ultimate prize.) Rather, I want to contrast it with some of the overtures I have received in recent months from young job-seekers.

My advice to all of them: do a better job of telling your stories and showing your work.

‘Hiring for anything?’

Granted, the emails submitted through my website represent a small sample size, and I’m not looking to hire anyone. But the inquiries consistently fail to capture my attention, the job candidates neither telling me anything compelling about themselves nor demonstrating any familiarity with Goulet Communications.

The most recent one, presented here in its entirety, came from a young woman:

“Are you hiring for anything?” she wrote. “I am a public relations graduate looking for a job that combines my passion for event planning and public relations. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Yet I don’t feel her passion. How does it manifest itself? Would I know any of her work? Why didn’t she elaborate?

Had she provided me with a link to her website or blog or to media coverage of one of her events, it would have helped to sell herself in a way that her curt message most definitely did not.

Meanwhile, I received this inquiry in January from a Lancaster native who said she was a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in business administration at a college in North Carolina.

“I am interested in any internship opportunities that you might have this summer. The work that you are doing sounds similar to what I hope to be doing in the future after graduation. If any opportunities are available, please let me know because I would be thrilled to apply. Thank you and I appreciate your consideration!”

I grew up in Maine and went to college in Rochester, N.Y., and Columbia, Mo., so I have a special place in my heart for people who travel a healthy distance for school. I’m curious how she ended up in North Carolina: Was it her major? Athletics? Weather?

That alone would tell me something about her that might stand out in my mind and could separate her from another job candidate. I know that college athletes tend to be driven, hard working and disciplined, for instance. They know something about teamwork, too.

She could have (and I’m guessing did) sent that same email to any number of employers. What work of ours was she referring to, and how does she want to put her degrees to work after graduation? I wonder.

Say something compelling

Just two weeks before, I received an email from a woman who said she was “in [her] fourth year in college studying graphic design. I am looking for more experience in the field.”

She provided her name and an email address, but she said nothing about where she was from and, more important, where she goes to school. Of course, everyone is looking for more experience, but what type? Does she have a passion for print or infographics or old-school offset printing?

I wrote back to her within 90 minutes of her email. I explained that I use freelancers for graphic design and that I didn’t anticipate offering an internship.

“I wish you the best of luck in your search,” I added. “I recommend that you tailor your inquiries to demonstrate some knowledge of each company. For instance, you might review the company’s website and comment about a graphic design project or a blog post that interests you. And you might want to say something compelling about yourself: an award you won, a special talent, a passion.”

She didn’t respond, which typically has been the case when I have taken the time to reply to job candidates. I wish I could provide them with something more than advice, because I know that doesn’t help to pay the bills or bolster a resume.

But I hope they find value in what I have to say and take it to heart. They should view themselves as brands and share their unique brand stories; it’s good practice for when they work on behalf of clients.

Consider Kristina Cummings of Hummelstown, who stopped by my office, coincidentally just as I was putting what I thought were the finishing touches on this post. She just graduated with a graphic design degree from the Art Institute of York.

She came prepared, having visited the Goulet Communications website beforehand. She also gave me her business card and resume, which she designed.

Each one includes the URL for her portfolio, a link to which I am pleased to share here.

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