Placement Year Vs Final Year- Should you stay or should you go?

Having just returned to final year after a year out of education, the month of September had me reminiscing on the previous year I spent on placement and the adjustment I needed to get back into the swing of lectures, coursework and the dreaded dissertation!

As mid-September came around, I was struck by the ‘change curve’ mindset which went as follows:

  • shock and denial that my endless days of summer and freedom to do as much or as little as possible were coming to an end
  • anger at the thought of assignments, early mornings and long days
  • bargaining with myself that I would still have lots of free time if I did assignments as soon as they came in
  • acceptance that this was only one more year of hard work before I’ve finished education forever
  • problem solving in the form of a 2019-2020 diary to plan my life for the next 8 months

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This mindset got me thinking about my second year of university when I was considering whether a placement year was for me. There’s a lot to consider such as the type of placement you want, where you’re willing to go for a placement year, be it Northern Ireland or overseas and finally, the commitment a yearlong placement requires.

I decided I wanted to go ahead with a placement year because of how many post graduate job applications I saw that asked for some type of industry experience or training and while this isn’t the case for every job opportunity, I wanted to challenge myself to try something different and pick up skills that would help me face final year and life after university.

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These are some steps to consider if you think a placement year is for you and what to expect:

  1. Apply Early!

You’ll hear this from all of your lecturers, students before you and everyone around you but you can’t prepare early enough. Each placement you apply for will require a different cover letter tailored to their specific requirements and some have applications to fill out all of which is time consuming. The earlier you start applying and creating your CV and cover letter template the better chance you have of securing the placement you want.

  1. Preparation is KEY

From the very first interview you’re offered, the more preparation you do the better. When I was applying for placements, a few of the interviews took place on the same week, meaning I had to divide my time between two different roles and learning about two different organisations. The more you know about the role you’re applying for and the organisation, the better so starting to research early is important.

  1. Keep Calm

This is most definitely easier said than done but when you’re going for interviews, it’s important to stay calm and try not to panic otherwise all the preparation you’ve done will go to waste. It’s important to remember the organisations you apply to want you to be professional however they know you’re still a student so DON’T WORRY– they don’t expect you to have the same level of knowledge they have. You’re there to learn – remember that and don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

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  1. Diary of a Placement Student…

Once you’re offered a placement, buy yourself a good diary or planner because without one, I’m not sure how I would have survived placement year. With many different tasks to do depending on the nature of your placement, it’s unrealistic to remember everything, especially between phone calls and emails, so a diary will be essential to keep track of your day and to ensure your using your time effectively.

  1. Stay professional

The transition from university student to placement student can be difficult at the beginning as you begin to learn things like how to speak to clients and email etiquette- abbreviating your words or sending memes isn’t always appropriate! This is important because you represent your organisation every time you speak to or send an email out to a client so being professional and approachable is a must.

  1. Don’t forget to have a life!

If your placement is a particularly busy or stressful environment, it’s easy to fall into the habit of taking work home with you to get ahead the next day, or to overthink a working situation at home but it’s important to remember you can’t just live and breathe work- take time to have a social life or some time to yourself and get the right work/social life balance.

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  1. Make the most of your year

Placement is a unique experience in that it’s essentially a learning curve as well as work experience so take every opportunity you can and experience as many areas as your organisation can offer you as this can help you decide on what industry you’d like to work in and your strengths and weaknesses in a business setting as well as being a great addition onto your CV!

Overall, having just returned from my year out on placement, I would recommenced this because it gives you an insight into the industry you could potentially want to work in as well as preparing you for life after university including writing a CV, job interviews and it enables you to start forming your career path with some experience in mind.

Eimear McGrane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eimearmcgrane/
LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/eimear-mcgrane-54a46a156

Keeping up with the ‘Joneses’ – The Misconceptions of Women in P.R and The P.R Industry

Now I am half way through my first semester of final year, the pressure to begin looking for post-graduate jobs has set in. The thought of going back through the job-hunting process- applying for jobs, updating CVs, new cover letters and the dreaded interviews for each role has consumed me since August.

I began scouring every recruitment website I could find, watching out for what employers were looking for in terms of skills and experience in the P.R industry and researching what job roles generally entailed, when I stumbled upon an article about opinions surrounding public relations and confusion around what the role of the industry actually is.

The article was about a theory called ‘The Samantha Syndrome’– a theory coined by Dr. Jane Johnston and named after the infamous character Samantha Jones from the book and television series ‘Sex and The City’ which refers to the way Public Relations professionals are depicted on screen and how young intellectuals at secondary school and university level are taking an interest in the public relations industry because they believe it involves endless parties, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and travelling to exotic locations- a clouded and incorrect version of what P.R actually entails.

Dr. Johnston also looks at how women are portrayed on screen, for example Samantha in Sex and The City, or Bridget from Bridget Jones’s Diary as young, attractive, middle class women but most importantly, both are portrayed as single, albeit not for the same reasons but nonetheless, both women cannot seem to have a successful career and healthy relationship at once.

Sex and The City go as far as to introduce Samantha as ‘Public Relations Executive, Unmarried Woman’, further reiterating the illusion that successful women and single life go hand in hand and reinforcing the existing negative stereotype in society that women who focus more on their careers than a traditional family life are seen as outlandish or as having their priorities wrong. Why can’t they do both?

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And of course Bridget from Bridget Jones’s Diary, who despite working in a public relations role, is known less for having a knack at public relations but predominantly as being objectified by her boss. The film portrays an out of date version of what P.R is and belittles the work Bridget does, summed up by Bridget’s love interest and boss Daniel Cleaver as “fanny-ing about with press releases.”

And in case you’re stuck in 2001 when Bridget Jones’s Diary was released, public relations is a lot more than writing press releases: according to the CIPR, it’s about “managing reputation with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour” whilst building relationships with clients, the media and the public.

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This article got me thinking about all the misconceptions surrounding public relations which hopefully I can dispel for you! Starting with…

 

  1. Public Relations is an industry for women:

This is one of the most common misconceptions of public relations I have encountered since beginning my studies- most responses when I explain what I study at university are along the lines of, “that’s a course for girls.” When did this become the case?

 

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While public relations is a field dominated by women, with statistics stating 60% of women versus 40% of men work in P.R, more men are now deciding to study P.R and are appointed to top tier positions in organisations and agencies and Edward Bernays, one of the people responsible for developing professional P.R and dubbed the ‘father of public relations’ was male- setting example for all of the future men to come in public relations!

  1. Public Relations is the same as Advertising:

While public relations and advertising have some similarities such as how both enable communication with target audiences and both are used to positively portray an organisation to the public, the difference between the two is that advertising is paid for and a direct message is sent through the advert whereas public relations results are gained by providing the media with information and press releases which are then reported to the public and finally, public relations is reputation based, while advertising is used to encourage sales for an organisation.

  1. Public Relations is non-stop parties and events:

While some areas of public relations involve planning events, for example launch events for new products or a new business, public relations is more than just partying 24/7. There are many other aspects to P.R as well as events, such as lobbying, social media, crisis management and public affairs to name a few- something in the industry for everyone!

  1. To work in Public Relations, you must be a ‘people person’:

This misconception stood out most to me as it’s one I can identify with; being an introverted person, I worried there would be no room in public relations for quieter personalities however this couldn’t be further from the truth. Being a people person, while a great quality to have makes up only a small part of P.R- skills such as good communication, organisation, planning, time keeping and creativity are all vital in public relations so a variety of introverts and extroverts would make the perfect team. Introverts are also known for being observant and picking up on nonverbal communication such as body language cues which make up over 70% of overall communication- not something you can afford to miss in public relations!

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  1. Public Relations versus Propaganda:

There is a sense of confusion surrounding public relations on whether or not it is propaganda because of the similarities both share: both use the media to get their points across and both are targeted at specific people, however the key difference to remember is that propaganda uses biased opinions and misinformation in their messages while public relations report logical information based on facts which can usually be checked out to ensure this.

 

Eimear McGrane is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at:
Twitter: @eimearnigraine and LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/eimear-mcgrane-54a46a156