Figuring out how to land your dream job is the ultimate career goal.

We’ve all read articles about ‘following our passion’ and ‘being the hardest working person in the room’. But what we actually need is real, tangible advice on how to get it done!

Cue Hannah O’Donnell, PR boss babe and Managing Director of Straight Up PR.

We caught up with Hannah to learn about how she became Managing Director of her own PR biz and what advice she has for landing the career of your dreams.

Hannah thanks so much for joining us! How did you land your dream job? Is PR something you were sure of from the beginning?

Actually, I didn’t realise PR was my path straight away! After high school I completed my Diploma of Retail Management. I was working at David Jones at the time and I loved my interactions with people so I thought a career in retail was what I wanted.

But after working in retail for a while I began to learn about what else was out there. I realised that if I studied PR and Marketing I would be granted the same opportunity to work with people. But I’d also be able to do events, write creatively and be involved with the media landscape too! All a win-win for me.

So that set me off on the course to study my Bachelor of Communications at Griffith University in Brisbane, where I majored in PR and Marketing.

Hannah O'Donnell profile pic
Straight Up PR Managing Director Hannah O’Donnell

I love that. Sometimes figuring out what you want to do is all about trying different things and following what interests you. So what happened next?

Towards the end of my Communications degree I applied for an internship at The Corporate Advantage. It was later acquired by EURO RSCG and rebranded to Red Agency. The internship soon turned into a full time job after I completed my degree. It ended up being a great jumping off point for the rest of my career!

I believe a great way for anyone to get into the PR industry is to start off with an internship. An internship allows you the opportunity to really prove yourself while also gaining a feel for the industry.

YES! Internships are so integral to kicking off your career. What’s your advice for people trying to land their dream job?

Approach landing your dream job like you would pitch your client’s story to the media. What’s your story and why are you valuable to them? I mean, if you can’t PR yourself then PR is not the industry for you!

If there isn’t a job available where you want to work, get your foot in the door via an internship. Work your ass off, ask questions, hustle and show your worth. Then once a job becomes available, I have no doubt they’ll call on you.

Here’s how to land your dream job in PR (you can apply these steps to other industries too!):

  1. Get clear on the industry you want to do PR for i.e. health, fitness, fashion, food, beauty etc. 
  2. Research PR agencies you would like to work for and nail down your top three. Learn as much as you can and know them inside and out. This means past and current clients and areas they specialise in.
  3. Compile a strong pitch email to the head of the business indicating your knowledge of what they do. Get accurate contact details from their website or LinkedIn. Invite them for a coffee to catch up and hear more about their business and to share more about you and the value you could bring them.
  4. Meet them at a café close to their office – you go the distance! Ask questions and show your interest. Offer to pay for the coffee/tea. If a face to face can’t happen, then set up a phone call or FaceTime meeting.
  5. Let them know you’re looking for a job. If there isn’t one available tell them you’d still just love to connect. Make sure they know you’re open to an unpaid internship.
  6. Email them afterwards thanking them for their time and recap on any relevant parts of your conversation.

Some great advice! Finding a good role model or mentor early on can also help drive your career. How did you find this type of guidance when you were first starting out?

The person who made the biggest impact on my career in the beginning was my first manager. She was at the agency I first interned at and gave me my first full time job!

I learned a lot from her about the kind of leader and mentor I wanted to be. She taught me that you can lead with kindness. I learned there doesn’t need to be a hierarchical structure, which can limit what we’re able to do. Instead, it’s all about capabilities and if we feel we can do it, then we can.

Being thrown in the deep end is also a great way to learn! Face your fears and feel the nerves. Let them push you out of your comfort zone and help you overcome any doubt. My first manager believed in me and provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow. She always had my back and was my biggest cheerleader. 

Team shot of Straight Up PR
The Straight Up PR Team

You first began working in Brisbane, and now run your PR agency in Sydney. When did you make the move and what motivated you to head south?

After a couple of years working in Brisbane I felt as if I had gone as far as I could. The pull to move to Sydney was strong. Sydney offered a brand new clientele and agencies that would help me to advance my career.

It was down here in Sydney that I secured my first role as an Account Manager. I stayed in that role for two years before moving to another agency. I kept working and moving until I was promoted to Account Director!

After that I again felt like I had hit a peak. That’s when I started to feel the need to go out on my own and start my own agency. In the back of my mind I had always thought of starting my own agency and the day eventually arrived where I finally felt ready!

Moving to Sydney seems like it opened up a whole new world. I’m guessing that also meant making brand new connections. How did you grow your network and build up your professional connections?

Meet and greets have played a big part in it! I love reaching out to people directly and setting up a time to have a tea or coffee. I like getting to know people on a deeper level – away from social media. We may think we know people because we follow them online. But it really pays to meet in person and establish real connections. 

These days there are lots of different events I’d love to go to. But because I have kids my nights are sacred to me. I really have to choose the ones I believe will be best from a professional connection perspective. They are the events that are most worth my time and energy. 

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Thank you so much to Hannah O’Donnell for sharing her tips on how to land your dream job.

Stayed tuned for our next blog post with Hannah where we’ll deep dive into her wellness-focused approach to business, work life integration and how she tackles working in an industry notorious for being competitive.

For more career-related reads, head on over to our career section. Or check out our recent post Grow your career with these 5 Instagram accounts.

Until next time, 
Madeleine xo