Category Archives: Graduates
Writing skills are highly prized by PR employers but if you’ve had three (or more) years of writing essays and dissertations, how do you go about changing your writing skills to be relevant to a PR career? Continue reading
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
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.
I often get asked advice by graduates looking to break into the PR industry so here’s my round up of useful articles for job-hunting grads:
2012 is turning out to be quite a year. Not only will the Taylor Bennett Foundation be running four PR internships, and increasing the intake from six graduates on each programme to eight but also, rather inconveniently, I am having a baby.
It was a planned pregnancy. Well, planned in that we have been trying to conceive for nearly five years with no luck, but I never really had expected it to happen and so in terms of when the baby is due to make an appearance, it was not diarised.
For anyone who knows me well, you will realise that this has caused me endless sleepless nights. My role at the Foundation is completely unique. I have never met anyone who does my job elsewhere and so I take great pains to make sure I am not away on holiday when the internships are running so that someone else doesn’t have to take on tasks they never imagined they’d have to. I never imagined, therefore, that I would be taking four months maternity leave in the middle of the year and leaving my precious interns in the hands of someone new.
The baby has been warned that it must appear on its due date of May 5th as to be early would be disastrous and to be late will mean mummy will be cross. My friends have scoffed at the idea of a child who follows my spreadsheet but it will have to learn pretty quickly I tell you.
The question of who will manage the internship programmes while I am away is still up in the air. We’ve had a few ideas but the decision of who takes over is down to the Foundation’s trustees so I have my fingers crossed they will go with my first choice.
Whoever it is will have to take on a bewildering array of tasks. I have been running these programmes for two years now and I had never quite grasped the variety of things I do on a day to day basis. To ease the cover person into the role, I have started compiling a “Guide to Running the Taylor Bennett Foundation Internships”. It is twenty pages so far and I’m only up to what to do to recruit the interns and how to settle them in on their first week.
I am very lucky in that I love my role. It is challenging, interesting and can be very rewarding, but it demands of me some unusual skills.
So, for those of you who fancy running such a scheme here are just some of the more random things you’ll be tasked with:
– Make sure the interns understand how to change a toilet roll (no one likes going into the loo to find that the last roll has been used and not replaced)
– Ensure you’re up to date with popular culture so as not to seem a million years old (I am 37 so to the average 22 year old I am ancient) and, if running an internship focussed on fashion PR, be clear in your understanding that Paul’s Boutique bags are chavvy and Mulberry are not
– Be clear when giving instructions. Graduates are used to pages of academic instructions with little room for interpretation. If your directions aren’t clear, they’ll go off piste
– When giving them career advice think about it from their mum’s point of view. If it’s not advice you’d give your own child, it’s bad advice
– Bring them cake. Homemade is best, but if you’re six month’s pregnant and can’t be arsed to bake then Krispy Kremes also go down well