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Exclusive Q&A: Publicist and Author Jessica Kleiman on Selling Yourself

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Exclusive Q&A: Publicist and Author Jessica Kleiman on Selling Yourself


Remember the scary quote in The Devil Wears Prada when Emily Blunt tells Anne Hathaway that a million girls would kill for her job? With the current economy, we're well aware that a million girls would kill for any job. Thanks to Jessica Kleiman (Hearst's vice president of public relations) and Meryl Weinsaft Cooper's new book, you'll have just what you need to stand out from the crowd in the workplace. "Whether you're looking for a new job, a promotion or recognition in the job you have, the techniques will apply," Kleiman says. Cooper, managing director of the Home & Lifestyle Division at DeVries PR, teamed up with longtime friend Kleiman to write Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Techniques to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work (Career Press, Jan. 20).

We spoke to Kleiman about writing during her maternity leave, working with a girlfriend, and why the word pubic will always stick out in a cover letter.

What was the hardest part about writing the book?
I actually got the book deal the week before my daughter was born last February. I was very excited but nervous since this was my first child and I had no idea what it would be like when I was raising a newborn. So, I didn't nap during my 12-week maternity leave. I finished all of my chapters during that three-month period and then Meryl took the mantle and did the rest of the writing, then we traded and edited. When you're writing with a partner, there are pros and cons. The pros are that you are splitting the work and the cons are that you might have a different style, which can take some getting used to. Meryl and I work very well together, but she was exceedingly busy and there were times when she couldn't necessarily get to the work that was on our schedule, which made me a little bit nervous but of course she got it done. We had to figure out the best way to work together.

The book is full of anecdotes, which one is your favorite?
My favorite one is actually one of mine. I've been at Hearst for 10 years and I've been running the PR department for eight and half of those years, so I've interviewed somewhere between 300 and 500 people. One person, though, never made it to the interview process because she wrote a cover letter saying she wanted to work in 'pubic' relations, not public. When you're reaching out to a potential employer, whatever you send them should be the best example of your work.

What are the three most important career lessons women can learn from the book?
The book is divided into three parts: prepare, project and protect. To prepare, it's extremely important to have your key messages down. You want to know what you want to say before you go into any situation. It's important to do your research and it's so easy to do with the Internet. Before any interview, go on the company's website and set up a Google alert so you know what's been going on in the news. For project, the most important lesson is to stay connected with others. We say that your network is your net worth. You want to develop relationships with as many people as possible. Face to face meetings are really important and informational interviews are a great way to find out about a company in a non-threatening approach. A big tip, though, is to keep in touch with people even when you don't need something. Lightly stay in touch with people throughout the year so that when you do need help with your career it's not transparent that you're only going to them when you need help. For protect, it's that once you've created your personal brand you want to make sure you don't damage it. I would say the most important thing is that everything you say and post can be held against you, particularly with younger people who are living their entire lives online.

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