A graduate’s guide to landing your first job in PR

A graduate’s guide to landing your first job in PR

Natalie Clarke and Charlotte Goss are Account Executives at Holywood based PR and experiential agency, Clearbox. Coming from two different degree backgrounds, and with nearly a year of agency life under their belts, they’re here to serve up some of their best advice for soon-to-be graduates on getting a job in the world of PR… 

We’ve been there. You’re finishing up your dissertation, exams are on the horizon and after that… PANIC! What do I want to do after uni? Where would I like to be? What jobs are out there? What skills and experience do I need to get a job?

One year later, we’re working in a great company with great clients and just generally living our best PR lives. But we know it’s not that easy to just walk straight into a job once you graduate. It can  be a daunting task to get into the PR industry in Northern Ireland – it can feel like everyone knows everyone and competition is fierce.

While university is a great starting point for gaining the basic skills, we felt there were a few extra things worth noting before you start the job hunt.

It’s not all about your degree

We both came from different disciplines: Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University and History and International Politics and Conflict Studies at Queen’s. The courses are very different in terms of subject area, and it goes to show that not everyone in the industry starts off in the same way. You don’t have to have studied PR to get a job in PR; having a broader knowledge of the world around you will set you apart from other applicants. This is particularly important within Northern Ireland where you have to be aware of different ways of thinking, and sensitivity around certain topics of discussion. Having a deeper understanding of these issues is a very useful trait to have. Travelling the world and having interesting hobbies are also great for giving employers a better feel for who you are; it helps them to know if you’re a right fit for their team. Make sure you include the sports team you’re involved in, that summer you worked at Camp America or the time you spent Interrailing on your CV – these are great ways to show your personality and that you have more to offer.

Werrrrkkkk that networking life

It sounds cliché because everyone is always telling you to ‘network’. It seems a bit awkward and forced, doesn’t it? Getting out there and surrounding yourself with people in the industry is important, but try and do it in a way that works for you. That could mean joining a collective like ‘Netwerk’, being a student member of the CIPR and attending industry events, or (if you aren’t ready for all the small talk) just getting in touch with local media on Twitter. Simple things like knowing your Cool FM presenters from your Q Radio presenters can help you to stand out as a graduate who is comfortable with the local media landscape and is ready to dive in to their first industry job.

Hello. Is it me you’re looking for?

Knock on everybody’s door. You don’t have to wait for a company to be hiring to hand them your CV. Putting a face to a name is also a great way to get an employer to notice you, whether that’s asking to meet for a coffee, or hand delivering your C.V. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth, especially in somewhere as small as Northern Ireland. A friendly face and a positive attitude goes further than you’d think.

READ READ READ READ READ READ READ… you get where we’re going with this

PR professionals are multi-tasking machines covering content creation, media relations, social media management, SEO, event management… the list goes on. It’s useful to know what new skills are being demanded of PR graduates and to take some time to read up on them to give yourself an edge. Free online webinars and industry publications like Campaign Live, PR Week and The Drum are a great way to keep up to date. Seeing how brands and agencies launch new products, pull off stunts and do things a little differently can also be a great way to spark your own creativity. Keeping up to date with the news agenda is also an essential part of the job – you need to know what the world is talking about to help build your campaigns and speak to your audience. If a PR-related scandal is happening in the media, read about it and formulate an opinion – how would you deal with it? What can we learn? It’s a great conversation starter and helps you to show you’re engaged in the industry.

The writing’s on the wall

A huge part of any PR job is being able to write compelling and creative content. Building a portfolio of your work is a great way to show potential employers your flair for writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a post for the Ulster PR Student blog or Facebook posts for your dad’s business. Get drafting, offer to contribute where you can and don’t be afraid to have an opinion in your writing. Make sure to also ask for feedback on your work so can continue to improve your tone and style. Writing experience is great for your CV and gives you something to chat about when it comes to the interview.

There are hundreds of things we wish we knew before starting out, and a lot of that comes with being in the job and experiencing things first hand. Our advice is to put yourself out there and grab every opportunity you can. You never know who you’ll meet or where it will lead.

YOU GOT THIS!

You can follow Natalie and Charlotte on Twitter (@NatalieClarke9 / @CharlotteGoss94) and LinkedIn (Natalie Clarke / Charlotte Goss)

You can also keep up with all things Clearbox on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

Life after Graduation… Not Sure What is Next?

If you are a final year student I am assuming you form part of the majority of people who are not too sure what they wish to do after graduating. With deadlines for the large organisations’ graduate schemes drawing close, I am beginning to feel a little over-whelmed. Do I want to apply for these jobs? Will it be a waste of my time? Or might I miss out on some amazing opportunities? If you are just finishing up after 18 years of education and aren’t too sure what the next step should be, then continue reading as I try to round up some of our options.

 

Grad 1 Now what

The vast majority of students go straight into full time employment whether it be after the summer or straight off the Waterfront stage. However, it is so important to choose the right way to start your career, as a graduate we have plenty of options, we may not have considered them just yet.

One of those options is to take a gap year as you may decide that after those many years of education you deserve a rest and rightly so! This is a great choice especially if you want to solely concentrate on your degree and achieve your target classification. Allowing you to not have to allocate time to get your CV up to date or to prepare for those tedious recruitment processes. You may get a visa and gain some life experience abroad or perhaps you might work part time in a job not related to your career choice. This allows time to plan your future career after you have your degree in the bag. This would suit you if you are not sure what you want to do next or if you want to gain experience in a particular area.

 

Grad 2 dont make me adult

 

If you decide you would rather do something else or continue to study after graduation there are loads of options here too. You might realise throughout your final year that this particular area of work is not for you, there is no need to worry as there is no requirement for you to follow this career path blindly. What’s important is that you stop and take count of your strengths and where they would be best utilised. You may decide that a post-grad course would direct you better in terms of what you want to do.

Whether it be at graduate fairs, in the numerous career services or even online you will recognise the major organisations offering graduate programmes, which are great as they offer investment to the potential high flyers. These highly competitive schemes usually last one or two years and provide you with experience in many different sectors within the company, enabling you to get a more fine-tuned view of what type of work would suit you best in your future career. This would suit you if you are highly ambitious and are comfortable in the corporate world.

It is important to remember that this is not the only option as a graduate looking for a job. The truth is that majority of graduates start their career on different routes.  Such as working for a smaller business, these roles may be less rigid allowing you to develop skills across a range of functions developing your career quickly, especially if you are willing to work hard. Some disadvantages of this type of work is that training and promotions may be less structured than in larger organisations and starting salaries less attractive. This will suit you if you are a learn quicker, creative and flexible.

Whatever you decide to do, remember to identify your values and passions, don’t rush to any decisions and never stop learning but always remember that the most important thing is to be happy in your work or study.

Grad 3 garlic bread

 

Carla McCloskey is a final year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/carla-mccloskey-14a47b10b/  and on Twitter @Carla_Mac12