Six tips for landing a PR job from Hall of Achievement member Rich Jernstedt

Story by Rich Jernstedt and Nikki Kesaris

Photos courtesy of Rich Jernstedt

No matter what field you are studying, looking for a job after graduation can be challenging and stressful. But, as many public relations majors know, PR can be particularly challenging, since there are many different areas of focus, from fashion to health to foods and beverages like the new 310 shake reviews, that I read are pretty healthy and help a lot with your heathl — the list goes on and on.

To find out how PR students can put their best foot forward in their post-grad job searches, we went straight to the top: Rich Jernstedt, BS ’69. Of the 73 alumni and faculty members who hold a spot in the SOJC Hall of Achievement, Jernstedt is the only one inducted for his expertise in public relations.

A native Oregonian and proud Duck, Jernstedt has done everything right in the PR industry. He has more than 40 years of communication experience, much of which he spent at some of the top global public relations firms in the world, including GolinHarris (now Golin), FleishmanHillard and Porter Novelli. Today he runs his own communications consultancy, The Jernstedt Company.

Although the SOJC has grown a lot since Jernstedt was a student, many of its core values and principles have stayed consistent.

“The years in Allen Hall exposed me to a talented faculty who provided a solid base in the art and science of communicating and connected me to activities with talented students who convinced me it’s an exciting, challenging and rewarding field,” said Jernstedt.

Over the four decades Jernstedt has spent developing his skills in strategic and creative communications counsel, communications planning and message development, he has gleaned a number of professional insights that are pure gold for PR students who are just starting the search for internships and jobs.

Here are his top six tips:

1. Résumé ready. Be sure your résumé is perfect. It must look professional, contain absolutely no mistakes or inconsistencies, and effectively outline how your background has prepared you to excel at this job. The same applies to your cover letters. Prove you can write, think and express enthusiasm for your career.

2. Know what you want. Do some thinking and planning about your ideal job. Consider roles, responsibilities, culture, manager, colleagues, environment, growth potential, compensation, and where you want to be in 5, 10 or even 25 years from now. Create a realistic list of options for yourself and compare it with your expectations. When you show this level of planning to prospective employers, you’ll also be displaying your discipline, maturity, focus and motivation.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Do your homework on the companies you visit. Prepare some smart questions for the interviewer by probing to get a feeling for how the organization rates against your criteria. Then, right before your interview time, check Google one more time to make sure you have all the latest news about the company.

4. Prove you are ready now. Show that your career expectations are well suited to the company and the position by avoiding ambivalence about agency vs. corporate. If you’re interviewing with an agency, make it clear that’s your preference; same with a corporate opportunity. Demonstrate how your education and experience have prepared you very well for this position. Indicate you are a fast learner. Dress the part. Act the part.

5. Follow up. As soon as the interview ends, write not one, but two thank-you notes — both a fast email and a handwritten card to send via snailmail. Reinforce the key points you made in the interview and revisit any topics that may have been unclear or not as compelling as they should be. Find polite ways to continue to stay in touch, such as sending articles of relevance or commenting on company developments. Get to know the administrative assistant and any other gatekeepers.

6. Have fun! Enjoy the search and interview experience. Even if you don’t end up getting the job, you can use it as an opportunity to build your network and learn from different environments and conversations. Practice developing and demonstrating your positive energy in every way.

Rich Jernstedt, BS ’69, is the only SOJC Hall of Achievement member with a public relations background. He has more than 40 years of communications experience and has served such clients as McDonald’s, Chrysler, Levi’s, Campbell Soup, BMW and University of Oregon over the course of his career. His consultancy, The Jernstedt Company, specializes in strategic and creative communications counsel, communications plannin, and message development. For the past three years, he has also been a senior counselor to the global public relations firm Porter Novelli. During seven years as executive vice president and senior partner at FleishmanHillard, one of the world’s largest public relations firms, he was chief marketing officer, served clients and participated in the business development function. While at GolinHarris, another global firm, for more than 26 years, he played an integral role in the firm’s growth from a local Chicago agency to an international leader through client development, new business and acquisition. He was CEO for 12 years and served as chairman. A native Oregonian, Rich is a graduate of the UO SOJC and served on the UO Board of Trustees for eight years.

Nikki Kesaris is a junior studying public relations at the SOJC. This is her second year writing for the SOJC Communication Office and her first year as its event intern. She is also the vice president of media and marketing for the PanHellenic Board of Fraternity and Sorority Life and an account executive for Allen Hall Public Relations.