At colleges and universities across the country, legions of students are collecting their diplomas and preparing to enter an uncertain job market. But for graduates seeking jobs in public relations and marketing, there is reason to be hopeful.

While the nation is still struggling to recover from the long recession, experts say that graduates with degrees in these fields can expect improved job opportunities in 2012. That is not altogether surprising given that individuals and organizations are discovering the importance of communicating their messages in an increasingly interconnected world.

If you are hoping to land a job in any of these fields, here are five tips that will set you on a path closer to that goal.

(Frank Ockenfels/AP)

Establish a strong personal brand. Your brand identity is established through all sorts of professional and quasi-professional interactions, including internships, volunteer projects and the like. The thing to remember is that you want your personal brand to be synonymous with quality, reliability, competence and integrity, particularly in image-conscious professions like public relations and marketing.

This also goes for your online image. Some employers audit online profiles. And the last thing you want is for them to come across something that is inconsistent with the image you are trying to project.

Market yourself. In today’s world, individuals have unprecedented opportunities to communicate with diverse audiences. Through social media platforms, a person can position himself or herself as a hot commodity in a given field. LinkedIn, for example, allows people to position themselves as thought leaders, experts or rising stars.

Public relations and marketing experts constantly use these platforms to promote themselves or their clients. This can be a great avenue for recent college graduates trying to establish professional bona fides in these fields.

Stay current with the industry.Creative fields like public relations and marketing continuously evolve, especially with new technologies to enhance communications techniques. Ensure you are up to date on the latest industry trends, best practices and developments. That may require regularly attending industry conferences or reading industry journals, blogs and other publications.

Get active with professional associations. Don’t wait to land a job before you get active with professional groups. The people you meet in these groups may give you your first break. Find a local chapter of the Public Relations Society of America or the American Marketing Association.

These chapters often provide access to programs offering everything from career development to hands-on projects that you can put on your resume.

Be open to internships and volunteer work. If you don’t land a job, the last thing you want is to be idle. Here’s where an internship or even volunteer work can be valuable. When choosing an internship or volunteer position, be sure that the work has some relevance to your chosen profession or field. And then, treat the work like a real job because it could be a future reference.

 The passage from college to the workforce is full of possibilities. But you have to do your part. That means establishing a strong professional image, solid work experiences and a credible network of references. 

 And in time, your personal brand and body of work will speak for itself.

Shrita D. Sterlin is chief executive and brand officer of Penn Strategies, a Bethesda-based branding, public relations and marketing firm.

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