Prior to my internship at Weber Shandwick, I had little direct PR experience. My background in Political Science and Journalism gave me a worldly perspective, but the majority of PR jargon was foreign to me. When I applied for jobs, I knew other candidates would have at least one PR internship on their resume, along with a degree in PR. But that didn’t stop me from applying, and it shouldn’t stop you either.

I discovered that leveraging my diverse background helped set me apart from other candidates. This ultimately led me to an internship offer at a leading global PR agency. Here are three steps to help you land a job and succeed at an agency without a traditional PR background:

Identify Your Strengths

Rather than focusing on all the job requirements you don’t meet, list out your strengths. You’ll likely uncover key attributes that make you a desirable candidate. When creating this list, make sure you include examples from your previous experiences.

For me, my experience as a former journalist helped develop strong writing skills and the ability to creatively tell a story. In my job application, I included three published writing samples.

Connect the Dots

Next, research the agency to determine the scope of their work and the types of clients they partner with. Try to find crossover with your background. When interviewing, show how your skills will add value to their work. For example, I noticed that in addition to traditional PR, Weber Shandwick offers clients extensive digital capabilities. While interviewing, I highlighted my social media experience because it aligned with the agency’s integrated communications approach.

By connecting the dots, you demonstrate two things: 1) You have done your homework and are genuinely interested in what the agency has to offer; and 2) You can draw insights from the information you gather.

Set Yourself Apart.

Once you land the job, the real work begins. Without a traditional PR background, you will have a lot to learn quickly. However, make sure you don’t forget what initially set you apart: your background. In addition to meeting client deadlines and keeping up with industry trends, PR agencies are always looking for creative ways to solve clients’ business problems. Coming to an agency with a diverse background and skillset provides you with a significant advantage here. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Agencies ultimately value people who can collaborate and provide innovative solutions. By following these steps and leveraging your diverse background, you will be one step closer to a successful career.

Still not convinced? Here’s what some current Weber Shandwick employees with nontraditional backgrounds have to say:

 “For me, getting a foot in the door at Weber was all about digital (go figure). I was launching an online food magazine at the time, and a lot of the work I was doing mirrored the content work we provide for our clients. Today, I use all of that experience with a branded spin for our clients – it’s a ton of fun!” –Amy Henson, Digital Producer

“I frankly did not know that my job existed five years ago, but I’m thrilled to be able to leverage my global chops (in the nonprofit to for-profit sectors) to help my clients navigate business and communication challenges here in Seattle and around the globe. Not bad for a once-aspiring Russian history academic.” – Autumn Lerner, Vice President, Health and Social Impact

 “Aside from the obvious benefits of quickly ramping onto new science and healthcare accounts, my training in analytical thinking helps me bring new perspectives to all of my teams. When applying, having a background in biology automatically made me stand out from other applicants.” – Erica Jordan, Account Executive



Juliana Pera is a digital and technology intern at Weber Shandwick and University of Washington alumna. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


Photo credit freestocks.org

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