Job Interview Thank You Notes: Navigating the Etiquette

So, I graduated a few weeks ago. It was a fun, frightening, mostly exciting experience and I’m very lucky that I got to walk at commencement with a few of my best friends. Our commencement speaker was Katie Couric and she was awesome.

Two days after graduation, I got a job offer that I was thrilled to accept. I’ve officially moved to New York and starting working last week at my dream job with the agency I interned for last summer. While I was overwhelmingly sad to leave D.C. and my friends, I know that this job is the beginning of the career I’ve been preparing myself for over the past four years.

As I’ve spent a lot of time navigating the “hire me” process over the past few months, interview etiquette has been on my mind (although, it kind of always is…that’s why I write this blog). One thing that I find incredibly important that often goes unnoticed is the thank you note after an interview. Because there’s lots of conflicting information out there, I decided to break down my top tips for sending thank you notes after an internship interview or job interview.

TinyPrints thank you card

1. Handwritten vs. Email

A lot of people will tell you handwritten thank you cards are outdated, and a lot of people will tell you email thank you notes are impersonal and a product of our instant-gratification generation. In my opinion, both of these claims are false.

For a phone/skype interview: A thank you email is appropriate. A card in the mail will take too long (especially since it’s likely that a phone or skype interview is taking place with a company in another city). You want to send an email within 24 hours thanking the employer.

For an in-person interview: You have two options.

Option #1: Send a thank you email later that same day, and put a thank you card in the mail within a day or two.

Option #2 (my personal favorite option): Bring thank you cards to the interview. Afterwards, find a Starbucks and sit down and write them. Put them in a mailbox within a few blocks of the office to ensure same-day or next-day delivery!

2. The Physical Thank You Card

Do not buy a thank you card in the Greeting Cards aisle of Duane-Reade unless it is blank! Here are examples of cards that are designated as “Thank You Cards” but should not be given to a potential employer.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 10.00.24 AM

The reason these cards are inappropriate is because they’re too casual and also personal. Your thank you cards should either have a simple picture on the front with no words and a blank inside, or the words “Thank You”/”Thanks” on the front with a blank inside. I partnered with Tiny Prints again to design classic personalized thank you cards for use in professional situations. I love how they turned out!

1401025322.148436.IMG_4205

3. What to Write

Be genuine and genuinely grateful. Don’t sell yourself short – it IS a big deal that you got this interview, and this thank you card can help seal the deal. Here are my tips:

– Start by thanking them (duh) but that’s not the most important part, so keep it brief

– Include the job title and responsibilities – and remind them that you are excited about this, as well as prepared to do a great job

– Reference something – or several things – you discussed in the interview

– Keep it brief

Here’s a sample:

NAME,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview with you today for the Assistant Account Executive position. I really appreciate you taking the time to tell me about XYZ company and how the AAE role fits into the structure of your team. I was particularly excited to hear that the AAE has the opportunity to do pitching and gets to work across a variety of brands, because I’m very passionate about media relations and I believe my skills in this area can add value to your team.

I also loved hearing about your favorite client activation that you’ve worked on. The X event for CLIENT sounds like something I would love to be involved with. Thank you again for considering me for this position. I hope to have the opportunity to work with you in the near future.

All the best,

Stacey

I hope these tips help you in your job/internship interview process! If you have any other thank you card recommendations, leave them in the comments or tweet @staceyalevine!

“What Should I Include in a Writing Sample?” + Other Career Questions Answered

As some of you know, I intern for a global PR agency, and this week we had a fantastic opportunity: Debbie Wong, a leadership development expert, taught a career development workshop in which she answered our toughest questions about the job search, networking, resumes, cover letters, writing samples, interviews, negotiations, and pretty much everything in between.

Image

 image via

 All of us who attended the session are graduating in May from either undergrad or grad school, so the tips were particularly focused on the means to the end: securing a job. But for those of you applying/interviewing for internships, or simply maintaining a strong network, Debbie’s advice is definitely universal.

It’s no secret that I love this stuff, so I wanted to pass along my key takeaways from Debbie’s workshop.

What is a corporate university and why should I care? 

A corporate university is a training program that a company sets in place to encourage constant learning and development for its employees. Corporate universities show that a company values its employees and also prioritizes continuing education, which is vital to any changing field. Debbie advises to ask about a company’s corporate university in your interview to get a sense of their values as an organization.

I’ve been to some networking events. How can I stay in contact with the people I met? How do I turn those contacts into job prospects?

Immediately after the event, email the people you met or connect with them on LinkedIn to follow up. Remind them of what you discussed. Set up alerts in your calendar every 6 months or so to remind yourself to reach out to your contacts who you haven’t spoken with in a while. When you come across relevant article, send them their way with a brief note – “Saw this and thought of you!” Ask to hear more about their job and the career path they took to get there, otherwise known as an informational interview. Let them know you’re interested in the industry and are actively seeking jobs, but don’t take advantage of their mentorship.

Any tips for creating a great resume?

  • Begin your bullet points with strong active verbs in the past tense like “developed,” “managed,” “designed,” “created,” “initiated,” etc. Speaking of bullet points, use them – not paragraphs.
  • Debbie recommends including a brief summary/objective line at the top of your resume, below your header, such as, “Seeking work in agency PR in the consumer/lifestyle industry, with 4 years of relevant experience”
  • Never just put “intern” as your title! Your title should describe your job function: “Public Relations Intern” or “Graphic Design Intern”
  • The order goes title, company, date
  • Your resume should convey that you are strategic, critical, a self-starter, & can follow orders
  • Your skills section doesn’t only need to include technical skills (like InDesign), it can/should also include strategic skills (like Leadership)

Image

image via

What should I include in a writing sample?

When a company asks for a writing sample, include a variety of options that showcase the breadth and depth of your skill set. Anything that is visually appealing is a plus! A mix of academic + internship projects, press releases, pitch letters, flyer designs, etc. should serve you well.

How do I write a cover letter?

Don’t make it longer than a page. Write about your work experiences and how they translate to the job you’re applying for. Pick out key job responsibilities from the job listing and speak to them directly. End with a call to action – for example, “I would love the opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you. I can be reached at [xyz]. I look forward to hearing from you.”

What am I looking for in a job package besides salary?

A offer package consists of more than your salary (which is, of course, important). It also can include everything from benefits, to tuition reimbursements, to paid time off (PTO). And of course, it depends on what you value. Perhaps you’ll be willing to accept a salary that’s lower than your goal in exchange for tons of paid vacation days. Debbie noted that your priorities will change in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond, and what you negotiate for may change from job to job.

Image

 

image via

 How do I negotiate my salary?

I actually found a great article about this via Levo League about salary negotiations that I recommend checking out. Additional advice: try to avoid writing a salary amount in your cover letter/application. If the interviewer offers an amount, don’t just accept it – this lowers your value. People will not always give you more; you need to ask for it!

 

“Career variety helps you in your learning agility” – Debbie Wong

 

Do you have any pressing questions about career development? Leave them in the comments!

Finding Your Career Passion

My brother just put down his deposit at Ohio State University, with an intended major in business, and since I’m graduating in May, I’ve been thinking about my own freshman year. So I thought I’d write a post for some of the younger readers – high school, early college – about finding a major/career that you’re really passionate about.

Now, to be fair, I recently read a very thought-provoking article about the phrase “Do what you love, love what you do.” The piece discussed how this advice is only relevant to those with privilege, and diminishes the value and necessity of working-class jobs. So recognizing this important perspective, and understanding it’s significance, I’d like to still discuss the idea of finding happiness and passion in one’s career.

choosingthewrongcollegemajorjpgscaled600_1

My freshman year of college, I decided that since no major seemed to fit my interests perfectly, I was going to take advantage of American University’s offering and create my own interdisciplinary major, combining all my favorite areas of study. What would this major be? I looked at my interests and skills. I love to write, I’m a people person, I like social media, and events, and talking. I knew I wanted something creative, but not artistic (hey, gotta be realistic). I didn’t realize at the time that all of these interests were also relevant to branding, PR, marketing, advertising, and sales.

I had a bit of a head start because I did journalism in high school and loved it. As co-editor-in-chief of my high school’s newspaper, I discovered my love for writing, leadership, and beautifully packaged information.

So I pulled out the AU course book (yes, a physical book, with paper and everything) and looked for classes that fit my interests. In attempting to build my supermajor, I realized that what I wanted already existed under the name Public Communication. And, as they say, the rest is history.

My advice to students entering college or early in college trying to choose their major/career is this: Just because it’s your major, doesn’t mean you’re making a decision about the rest of your life. Unless you’re already positive about a very technical career like engineering or medicine, choose a college with options that you can explore. Take advantage of your general education requirements and learn about different fields. You may hate the historical aspects of your anthropology class but leave with the takeaway that you’re interested in human behavior, and boom! You’ve found your way to psychology or sociology. Each positive and negative academic experience can lead to others, and if you take a critical look at what you got out of each one, it can help you find your way.

On top of that, once you find your major and professional interests, classes are not enough. Internships and clubs on campus are what will help you gain a real understanding of the industry. It took me several internships doing in-house PR, agency PR, fashion, food & beverage, consumer goods, and B2B to finally understand what type of career I’m seeking, and what I’m really passionate about.

This was my experience, and I’m sure that others came to decisions about careers and majors in different ways. I’d love to hear how you came to find your career passions, or if you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Interview Outfits: Dress For the Job You Want…Within Reason

For my final college semester I’m taking a class called PR Portfolio, which is essentially a public relations capstone class where we work in teams to create a PR program for an actual client. The class is amazing and my professor is fantastic – it’s basically a culmination of everything I’ve learned in AU’s School of Communication over the past four years. Another great thing the class does is prepare us for the “real world” – whatever that means. Each week my prof hosts Career Corner, where she tackles another topic we’ll need for after graduation, such as negotiating a salary, turning an internship into a full time job, etc. It’s pretty fab. 1

image via

Last week, we discussed interview outfits. How do you dress to interview for a job in a field where each company’s dress code is vastly different? The professor showed us the following visual as a depiction of an appropriate PR interview outfit. 3

image via

A lot of the class, myself included, had some major problems with it. One classmate brought up the point that she would feel like a child dressing in her mother’s clothes in an outfit like this. Another mentioned that in an office where your interviewer might be rocking jeans and flip-flops, this seems off-message and inappropriately formal. I’ve interviewed and interned in many different office environments – I’ve worn outfits at different jobs that range from jeans and a t-shirt, to sky-high strappy heels, to corporate dresses. But at none of these jobs would a suit have been an appropriate interview outfit choice.

So stop rambling, Stacey, and tell us what we should wear, right? PR is a professional but creative field, and we need to represent our personal brand when interviewing. The outfit you choose is a huge part of that. Here’s how I feel about every interview (in the PR industry, to be fair) – dress professionally, dress appropriately, show your style & creativity. There’s a difference between being casual and being stylish.

Here’s my typical interview outfit formula: black/grey/white dress + blazer + memorable necklace + closed-toe pumps + leather purse = a foolproof interview outfit

On top of that, the clothes you wear need to be of good quality (note: not necessarily expensive, just good quality!), ironed, fit you appropriately, and they should also be comfortable! If you can’t walk in heels, please god, just wear flats (clean, leather or patent leather, black or neutral flats). Now, of course, you can always wear a skirt/blouse or pants/blouse combo, which is just as good! For tops, I recommend silk, tie neck or button down, etc. Dresses are just my outfit of choice – no tucking/bunching to deal with!

Still not sure what to wear? Check out some options for Strategy in Stilettos-approved interview styles below!

Dresses

use1

 Blazers

use2

Necklaces: Statement/Delicate

interview appropriate statement necklaces

delicate understated necklaces for job interviews

Pumps/Flats

shoes

Purses

bags

I’d love to hear/see what you wear to internship + job interviews, and what types of outfits you think are appropriate. Share in the comments or tweet @staceyalevine!

Building a Brand’s Voice: Why It’s Okay to Tweet About Scandal

Every Thursday night at 10 p.m., my Twitterfeed explodes.

I don’t personally watch Scandal, but apparently a ton of the brands I follow on Twitter (many of them in the fashion industry) have a social media manager or editor who does. When I logged onto Twitter, I found tweets from @DKNY, @StyleIT, @thePRwoman, @StyleRepublic, @psimadethis, @strategyDC, @ThisThatBeauty, @EatShopLiveNYC, @Pantene and TONS of others, live tweeting along with #scandal.

And that’s okay. In building a brand’s voice, it’s not all about constantly touting your product, service, or brand. If every tweet is a link to an article, an announcement of a sale, or an Instagram of your product, you may be building a voice, but that voice isn’t human.

In this changing online sphere, consumers are looking to interact and engage with brands. They want to see the human side of brands who share their interests and passions. Brands can and should absolutely be opinion leaders on Twitter, but if consumers can’t identify with them, they’ve failed in their social media efforts.

And that’s why tweeting about Scandal is great. Go where your fans are! If fashionistas are loving Kerry Washington’s style on #scandal that week, that’s where the fashion blogs should be. For example, @Pantene partnered with bloggers @StyleIT and @ThisThatBeauty to talk about hair trends on #scandal, using the custom hashtag, #WantThatHair. It’s genius!

What do you think about brands tweets about topics that are technically not relevant to their product/service? Yay or nay? Let me know by tweeting @staceyalevine!

5 Fashion & Beauty Brands That Are Rocking Social Media

The fashion industry was arguably one of the first industries to successfully embrace social media as a branding, PR, and sales tool. Now there are tons of brands that are taking advantage of social media, from Oreo to Smirnoff  to Starbucks. But as a tribute to our favorite fashion and beauty brands, let’s take a look at some who are rocking the world of social media.

Oscar de la Renta

471cb791573ded84a64f2a04eaee7679 

Oscar PR Girl is Erika Bearman, Director of Communications for ODLR. She is widely known as a trailblazer in blending the worlds of fashion and social media. According to Erika, “I think that it’s important to be a member of the tribe that I’m studying. I feel that we know our social audiences better because I’m a part of it.” She positions the brand’s voice as confident, high-end, classy, and personable, specifically through her blog and Twitter.

DKNY

214a242cf15921477141bc2f88f5fd45

The voice behind DKNY PR Girl is Aliza Licht, SVP of Global Communications for Donna Karan International. For years, the identity of DKNY PR Girl was a secret – until she “came out” on YouTube in Oct. 2011. Her Twitter bio boasts, “I’m your well-placed fashion source bringing you behind-the-scenes scoop from inside Donna Karan New York & DKNY and my life as a PR girl living in NYC.” and her tweets and blog posts live up to that. She interacts with fans of the brand via social media and has recently added Instagram into the mix.

Bergdorfs

cannon-hodge

Cannon Hodge, Berdorf Goodman’s social media manager, is the formerly secret identity behind the @Bergdorfs Twitter and Instagram accounts, as well as the Bergdorf’s blog, 5th/58th. Her voice is that of a fashion expert, simple and elegant, with tweets such as “Want your eye cream to have extra zip in the morning? Store it in your fridge.” and “Printed blouse + layers.” Reading her convos with everyone from Lena Dunham to the everyday fan makes every follower feel like an insider in the fashion world.

Prabal Gurung

Unlike DKNY and Oscar de la Renta, Prabal Gurung’s social media team is just that: a team. The brand doesn’t claim to be the voice of one person’s fashionable life, but is about the fashion industry from more of a “from the offices of PG” perspective. Prabal Gurung’s team has taken advantage of Instagram, posting several cropped images in a row, so when viewed from the main Prabal Gurung page, you can see the release of their new Fall/Winter ’13 editorial campaign. Genius!

photo

COVERGIRL

COVERGIRL has done a stellar job of engaging fans and positioning themselves as a brand for makeup must-haves. Recently, they’ve turned the conventional rules of Instagram on its head when releasing brand new images for their campaign in partnership with The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Using an innovative twist, they utilized a similar strategy to Prabal Gurung’s Instagram release above. Check it out below!

photo 1      photo 2