So you’ve just left university and you’re hankering after a job in PR. What should you be doing? Here are my ten top tips. Continue reading
Monthly Archives: March 2013
One of the things employers look for when recruiting a new member of staff, is how stable their work history is. If a job applicant has jumped around from job to job over the last ten years, the recruiters first thought will be “why don’t they stick at anything?” Similarly, if an applicant has a significant length of time out of employment, the recruiter may be suspicious about why.
When you’re in an interview, it’s often easy to explain away jumping jobs, or being out of work but you may not even get that far if you don’t make the reasons clear on your CV.
The first thing you should do is label any jobs that were short term contracts, seasonal work, or temp jobs, as such on your CV. Make it really clear that the reason you left the job is because you were only employed on a contract basis.
If you were made redundant after a short period in a job, it’s OK to make a note of that too. In the current economic climate redundancy doesn’t have the stigma that it had a few years ago, particularly if your redundancy was part of a large section of your firm being laid off rather than just your role being made redundant.
If you’ve job hopped because you’ve got bored in the roles, that’s much harder to justify and when you secure your next position you must think carefully about sticking it out for a decent length of time, even if it bores the socks off you. Similarly, repeatedly leaving roles due to a personality clash with a boss or team member can tar you with the “uncooperative” brush so it’s not wise to draw attention to why you left those roles if at all possible.
There are lots of reasons why you may have a gap on your CV. The most common being taking time out to travel, raising a family, illness or bereavement. Don’t leave those gaps on your CV blank – recruiters are a suspicious bunch and will think the worst – so make sure you clearly note what you were doing during those months or years. If you have suffered with an illness it is important that you make it very clear that the condition has passed, you are fully recovered and it will not affect your ability to work. If you took time out to raise your children, or simply to take some time away from work to reassess what you want to do with your career, then it’s a good idea to mention anything you have done to stay in touch with the industry. Do you still have a good network of journalists in your little black book? Do you read industry publications? Have you take any courses to update your work skills?
By making it clear that the gaps are not anything untoward, it gives you a much better chance of getting to the interview stage where you may find the interviewer is sympathetic to your situation.
Stats on graduate employment make depressing reading. It is one of the hardest times ever to leave university and secure a graduate level job. My trainees worked out it was taking them on average 33 applications to secure an interview. AN INTERVIEW, not even a job offer! These are well trained grads who write great cover letters and have sparkling CVs which experienced PR headhunters have combed through in great detail, and even they struggle.
Which is why I was surprised on Monday when six out of twenty graduates invited to come along, didn’t turn up for the Taylor Bennett Foundation assessment day. Two¸I believe, had genuine reasons not to be there but the other four contacted us after 8pm on the day before to say they wouldn’t be turning up. One said “I’ve had a change of circumstance”. What could possibly change on a Sunday night that they didn’t know about on the Friday?
None of them had the balls to call us on the phone. Even the two with genuine reasons. They all sent vague emails. That really grips my shit. It’s rude, and cowardly. Although in the past we’ve had some who haven’t turned up and haven’t bothered to contact us at all and that is unforgiveable.
To get an assessment invitation they had to fill in a very very long application form. It is deliberately long to test commitment to the programme and to give me the opportunity to check out whether they write well and whether they have the right motivation to be selected. Then they have to attend a two hour pre-assessment briefing where they are given a rundown of what the assessment day entails and a presentation topic which they have to spend several hours preparing in advance. Finally, they have to complete a 30 minute online personality suitability test. It’s hardcore. It’s detailed. It’s designed for us to get the best. These six graduates completed all these stages and yet still didn’t show for the assessment.
They are told, even if they don’t secure one of the eight coveted spots on our programme we will give them very detailed and honest feedback. This takes considerable time and effort by our assessors and our Programme Manager who has to collate all of the handwritten notes from the day. It is feedback they are never likely to get anywhere else. It is unique to us and it is our way of helping more than just the graduates who join us for the ten week traineeship. Only about one in ten grads bother to reply to us to say thank you for the feedback. Manners, it seems, are not taught at university.
If I were a grad in this economic climate, I would have to be on my deathbed to not to turn up to such an amazing opportunity.
In a way, those graduates did us a favour. It saved us the job of weeding them out as unreliable and uncommitted during the assessment process. However, they did not do other grads a favour. If they had given us enough notice – say, Friday lunchtime – then we could have invited others to have taken their place and have a shot at getting a place on the TBF programme.
So if they apply again, their applications will automatically go in the bin. We don’t take rude and selfish people at the Taylor Bennett Foundation, and I suspect other employers won’t either.
As a relative newcomer to the world of PR – having just finished my first three months as an account assistant – I’ve had to face a steep but exhilarating learning curve.
PR is much more challenging than people seem to realise, requiring a huge amount of flexibility, a willingness to turn your hand to anything, and a hefty dose of self-confidence. By my second week I was pitching to the national papers, which terrified me, but I survived!
The payoff is learning a lot incredibly quickly,. This ranges, from how to keep clients happy to writing a press release or byliner on a subject you have little knowledge of. I’ve gone from knowing next to nothing about technology to being able to chat casually about cloud storage, IT resellers and data centres; I can practically recite the names of the national education correspondents in my sleep; I can handle Tweetdeck like a ninja, zooming around columns to spot client mentions or journo requests. I’ve survived conference calls, major meetings, and I’ve even had the fun of PR networking events where the wine is flowing (and free!) and you have the opportunity to meet some of the industry’s key peoplebest and brightest.
For anyone trying to get into their first PR job, it can seem daunting – a path of internships and fierce battles for the entry-level jobs, with andand no clearly-defined entry requirements. While a degree in a subject such as English or Media might give you a slight advantage, you really can get into PR from almost any discipline and background. I got into PR with a hotchpotch combination of an English degree, some publishing internships, some temporary admin jobs and a three-month stint as a barista under my belt. All taught me skills which have come in handy, such as how to handle a tetchy demanding client customer and how to proofread.
If you want to make a good impression, enthusiasm will take you a long way. You’ll be asked to do daunting tasks such as calling up journalists you don’t know, and who have little patience tolerance for with PRs, but if you can put your hand to it with a good attitude and confidence you’ll win both the respect of your office and (hopefully) coverage for your client. Another important factor is creativity, especially in business PR. You have to come up with interesting ways to promote themclients, angles to make their stories accessible to the general media, and ways to get people engaged.
Like many people entering into PR, I had no real idea what to expect from the B2B world, as my main perceptions of PR came from B2C. Luckily I took to it like a duck to water, and relished the challenge to work with businesses. I’ve enjoyed my time in PR from the very first day and never feel bored or unchallenged. Right now is an exciting time for the industry as social media grows ever more important, and so if you’re hoping to get into PR there’s never been a more interesting time to go for it.