My year in the Weapons Industry

My year in the Weapons Industry

If you had of asked me “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” while I studied for my GCSE’s, the answer would have been somewhere in Liverpool studying Advertising or Graphic Design. All my career prospects revolving around the idea being able to see a Liverpool game whenever I wanted and drawing cartoons. Immature and hopeful thinking, especially as I have never been the best student, “Curtis has plenty of potential but just needs to apply himself” a phrase that my dad was sick of hearing year on year at parent teaching meetings.How things have changed. I never thought back then that I would be where I am today. Although on the surface a lot is still the same; I’m still working in the same job I had when I was 16 (Shout out to Peacocks) My friends are still the same as when I was sitting my GCSE’s (lads, lads, lads) .. But what has changed is how much I’ve grown up and mainly just in the past year. Even my harshest critics in my dad would have to agree somewhat… although I get the feeling he won’t be completely convinced for a while yet.

What has changed in the past year? Well I spent the last year on Placement at Thales UK for my placement. An opportunity I am very grateful to have got. Last August in typical Curtis fashion I had left getting placement until the last minute. Two interviews later and I was starting my chapter as Internal Communications Intern for a company I knew very little about never mind the industry they are in. Thales is a global company with sites located in England, France, Australia, Germany, USA and Northern Ireland. In Thales Belfast or AOW we focused on Air Operations and Weapon Systems. As you may have guessed this is an area in which I have absolutely no background in, unless you count all the hours I dedicated to playing Call of Duty while at school. (It absolutely does not count). Luckily I wasn’t hired to know anything about Engineering or Weapon Systems.

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I was tasked with creating the Role of Internal Communications across the business line. I effectively became the point of contact for Internal Communications for 500 plus employees.

For someone who had only ever worked in bars and clothes shops this was a daunting task at first. I found myself frantically re-reading all of my notes and beginning to panic thinking I was not up for the job. To be honest it was those notes that really got me off and running within Thales. I carried a small notebook around with me gathering information on everything from every person I met from different fractions throughout the business. When I say everything, I really mean it literally. I even made note of what people looked like as not forget their name. It was this almost psycho level of detail that allowed me to create an extensive SOSTAC analysis in which to pitch to the leadership team.

The morning of the pitch I suited up got in extra early to arrive in and find that Fridays are actually ‘dress down Fridays’. As I stand there dressed to the nines while literally shaking with nerves, I make my pitch and much to my surprise I am greeted with a wave of compliments and support. It was from that moment on I knew to have confidence in what I was doing, the content I had learned from the lectures in the past two years had actually paid off! (Who knew that paying that £3,000 a year was anything more than an excuse to go out 4 days a week?!).

I then began to implement a series of my ideas, a lot of them through trial and error and it was then I learnt the importance of time keeping and how important it was. For years I have heard teacher moan and cry about these aren’t assignments you can’t do the night before and well I had a very big wakeup call when I had bit off more than I could chew and determined not to let my new employers down, I found myself working straight through the night trying to meet the harsh deadlines I had set for myself and when I found myself nodding off at my desk the next day, I learnt the importance of planning.

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While in the most part my time at Thales was plain sailing even with my incredibly cringe worthy and ‘puntastic’ email blasts and embarrassing myself to the tune of ABBA at the staff do.

I then began to grow into my role, becoming more and more involved with every aspect of the job. From seeking more responsibility in joining up with the corporate section of the business; by getting involved with air shows and All Employee Road Shows. To becoming a member of the Charity Group and the Society working group and helping them with their many fundraisers and allowing me to use a more creative side and also get some training from the Graphics team in creating posters and newsletters.

At times working in Thales seemed surreal, I felt like it was a dream that I was going to wake up from at any moment. Meeting Astronaut Tim Peake, Being sent across the water to spend a few days working in London and Southampton, training on a military helicopter simulator, attending an air show, meeting members of the Malaysian government and royal family and not to forget being asked to represent Thales at the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards. There would even be model missiles left on my desk in the mornings…

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No day was the same and rarely boring! Although I can’t pretend my head wasn’t turned when my housemates made their regular appearance to FLY Monday’s… I’m still a student after all.

I had fully expected to be making Tea and Coffees and doing the jobs that no one wanted, so I was over the moon to be granted the freedom to do my job my way. My manager was supportive from get the go, I can’t thank Thales enough for the role they have played in getting me to this stage of my development as Public Relations professional.

Who knows maybe I’ll be back one day?

Curtis Cregan is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter: @CurtisCregan17, and Instagram: @CurtisCregan7.

How To Increase Your PR Job Prospects In Northern Ireland

 

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When considering a career in the Public Relations industry I believe there is a few important questions you must ask yourself before diving into a career in PR. Due to the fast paced, forever changing, and high-pressure environment you will be working in you must have an acquired skill set, hold a great level of determination and drive to prosper within the industry.

 

The first question I would ask myself is…

 What is PR?

Well much to the dismay of many people it does not involve being responsible for promoting nightclubs across social media nor is it attending lavish events and living this glamorous lifestyle that the media portray a job in Public Relations to be.

One of my favourite definitions of Public Relations is one from the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) which states “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Public Relations is essentially all about reputation and relationships which is something we touched on in our lecture about PR, Rhetoric and Persuasion in week 2.

 

Am I interested in what is going on in the world around me?

Having an interest in current affairs and reading about what is happening in the environment around you is a very important aspect of a PR practitioners job as they regularly analyse trends and brainstorm campaign ideas with various clients daily. Therefore, being informed and knowledgeable about what is happening in the world around you will set you apart from others.

 

What does a job in PR involve?

A job in PR can be quite varied and diverse depending on the company you work in so it’s hard to specify, although the ability to be a flexible, highly organised individual with the ability to work under pressure and possess excellent written and communication skills is a must.

 

So, with the above questions in mind. How do you go about increasing your chances of employment in this field? I thought I’d share some of my own personal top tips to help anyone that is considering a career in Public Relations!

 

CIPR membership

For an excellent discounted rate of £35 annually for students the Chartered Institute of Public Relations will provide you with endless opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge of PR to help you climb further up your career ladder through providing courses to attend, achieve chartered status and hosting events with likeminded individuals who you will have the opportunity to network with.

 

Follow Key PR Influencers/Blogs

Getting involved in the world of online blogging by reading, commenting and sharing PR related blogs online. Check out PR Week, PR Daily, PR News Online and follow key influencers on Twitter for example @CIPR_UK, @PRstudies, @BobPickard and @pracademy to stay abreast of the latest news!

 

 Work Experience

Get your foot in the door – offer yourself up for paid/unpaid internships in local agencies to get real life experience of the job because when you start a career in PR you will automatically be expected to know how to write a press release, develop a campaign strategy, plan an event, liaise effectively with journalists and so on. This is also a great way to determine whether the job is for you or identify areas in which you would like to specialise.

 

Public Relations Courses

Enhance your CV with a PR qualification – there are plenty to choose from both online and face to face through the PR Academy. These CIPR accredited courses will provide you with working examples to give you a more thorough understanding of the industry.

 

Be Passionate

The ever-changing nature of the PR industry means passion is key to success. Stay abreast of latest news, get involved and prepare to be forever learning!

 

Nicole Hanna is a final year BSc student in Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://goo.gl/pLviS8 or on Twitter @NicoleHanna101

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

Sun, Sangria and Siestas – A Placement Year in Barcelona

As I wound through the country roads the morning of July 22nd 2016, memorising the all too familiar miles of green around me, I tried to imagine what the following year had in store for me. The weeks of last minute packing and goodbye parties were actually over and I was exchanging the Emerald Isle for Barcelona. For real. Not just for a holiday but to live and work there for a year.

Of course, there are the obvious pros of moving abroad, like meeting new people, learning a language and broadening your horizons, but we’ve all heard that before now, haven’t we? Whilst sun, sangria and maybe even the odd siesta are all part of a year in Barcelona, there are many more reasons why moving abroad is, in my opinion, simply the best thing an individual can do.

  1. International Experience is in Demand

It’s a vicious cycle that is continuously driven into the mind of students, employers want graduates to have experience. It’s become a broken record! It’s not all doom and gloom however, as an often overlooked, potentially easier way to get this all-important experience, is to work abroad. There are countries out there crying out for employees with knowledge of the English language as a native speaker. Obviously this is dependent on the country, but if you work in a company alongside non-native English speakers, you will automatically be given high levels of responsibility and instead of being the one asking the questions; people will come to you to acquire knowledge. We all know that experience on a CV is a requirement, but international experience? That is very much a desired asset to have as an employee. More and more, companies are turning their focus to the international arena so with an understanding of different cultures and business practices, your CV will stand out amongst the sea of students in your position!

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  1. Personal Development

Working abroad will push you to the limits of your comfort zone and beyond, compared to if you were to remain at home. Your experience abroad will drive you to gain independence, attain indispensable skills in a personal and professional sphere and grow umpteen amounts in confidence. Working abroad will not only help you realise your full potential in your professional life but it will also benefit you personally too. I can safely say it has enabled me to make relative, positive and effective life choices!

  1. The PEOPLE

 It wasn’t all smooth running. I had my down moments, let’s be realistic – everyone does. There were times when I simply didn’t want to socialise. I was stressed from work, missing home comforts and wanted to go home. It was times like these that my Barcelona family pulled me through. It is amazing hat a combination of good people from varying backgrounds and a few beers can do! In fact, as I write about the amazing people I met; a Lithuanian, a Spanish and a Czech are on a flight to see the wonders of Northern Ireland. It is my turn to be the tour guide! As cliche as it may sound, they really are friends for life.

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  1. Travel Opportunities

It should go without saying but working abroad will allow you to extend beyond the border of your country of choice and explore the world! Whilst you may not be able to travel in the traditional sense, you can still make the most of your weekends and public holidays. You could also extend your time abroad after your placement to travel fully so take advantage of your geographic location and see a different side of the world! If you are lucky enough to get some work holidays and use them to take a trip home, you will realise how much we take things for granted, in addition to learning who the most important people in your life are!

  1. You learn SO MUCH

The world may be slowly transforming into one global village, but national and local customs still govern the daily lives of many populations. Doing a year abroad is a funny (but awesome) thing – you feel a bit like you’re on holiday, whilst simultaneously settling into a new home. When you move abroad, you automatically learn about a new culture, other people and languages without even trying, but mainly, living in another country pushes you out of your comfort zone. When you know you’re only in a country for a limited amount of time, you just want to make the most of every opportunity, say yes to everything (within reason), travel everywhere and yes, eat everything. My justification? It’s one year in a lifetime, embrace it.

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It has been nearly 3 months from I arrived home from my year abroad, and it is safe to say that the ‘Barcelona Blues’ are well and truly getting to me. It’s hard to believe that I’ve just spent a whole year abroad, on my own, and survived – for anyone who knows me well, this is a miracle!

My point is, moving to Spain was nothing like I expected it to be – it was 10 times better. As far as I’m concerned, if you can conquer your year abroad, you can do just about anything. I know it will not be for everyone, but if you believe you could see yourself working abroad, in an international environment, then get out there and do it – life is too short!

Check out this short video summarising one of my typical after work picnics on the beach, it’s really not your standard placement!

Chloe Stewart is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can follow her on Twitter @ChloeStewart8 or reach out on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/chloe-stewart-007150a4/ 

 

 

PR-ing my way into the future (hopefully)

Often we make decisions not knowing where they will take us and then later regretting the fact that we didn’t take time to study our options and thinking through the decision carefully. For me, I had thought about public relations in detail and thought of where it might take me but was nervous as to whether my perception was actually going to turn into a reality. I knew public relations was going to be about managing an event or occurrence that has taken place within society and how the public would receive the message but I didn’t know how I was going to fit into that equation. I didn’t know if my skills would “fit the bill”, would I be able to be a public relations professional? (That answer is hopefully a yes, being in final year I am hoping that I’m shaping up to “fit the bill”).

When I first started my course I had visions of going into marketing or advertising or PR-ing for an organisation. However, telling other people didn’t work out the way I expected.  Studying to be a “PR” came with a great deal of “slagging”, many people laughed and asked was I going to be outside the clubs trying to drag them in and persuading them to be on the guest list, or was I going to be writing to them on Facebook telling them that this club is amazing and they have to go there on Tuesday night. No became a very frequent word to start my conversations, explaining that my course actually isn’t about “repping” for clubs and that it has a lot of content on communication, language, interpersonal skills, advertising, marketing, politics and lobbying.

As time went on (and fortunately the slagging died down) I started to get more and more interest into how much work takes place in the world of business regarding communication and public presentation. A project given to us that involved evaluating a well-known organisation’s strategy to retain and grow within their target audience really started to get me thinking how much planning is needed to be successful, there is so much knowledge needed to keep the product in the consumers mind and many variables are needed to be kept in consideration. Evaluating skills we had was another project, on a weekly basis we recorded ourselves acting out skills we displayed in certain scenarios. Here you might wonder why is this relevant to public relations, I myself didn’t get the usefulness of this module in the beginning but rather how awkward it was to act like an “ejit” in front of people I barely knew, but again as time passed I discovered how useful it was. Practicing to communicate with people I didn’t know and evaluate my skills was valuable, I realised that in my future job I am going to be communicating on behalf of an organisation to individuals I have never met before on a regular basis, so learning to communicate effectively was important and getting the social awkwardness out of my system now was worthwhile.

Many lectures consisted of professionals coming in and explaining their area of expertise and how they got there, each professional was linked to the lecture topic which was easy to digest as for me the content of the lecture didn’t always register with my brain but getting the material again in a different manner helped.  It was so interesting to know how my course could take me down so many different career paths, public relations was going to open up so many options.

I do feel lucky to have made the right decision, it could have went so wrong and I could have been back at square one wondering what am I going to do with my life. Thankfully I have been kept interested and eager to discover more of what public relations has to offer.

Niall Byrne is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be contacted on twitter @NByrne96

 

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.

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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

Who runs the PR world…? Most Definitely Girls!

In the wise words of the inspirational Oprah Winfrey, “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” A theme which ran prominently throughout the CIPR NI (@CIPR_NI), Women in PR Panel Event, which took place in the ESparkGlobal (@ESparkGlobal) Belfast Hub in Lombard House. With not a man in sight, the room was full of budding PR professionals and women at the top of their professional game. Since my last blog I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of the new Student Ambassadors for CIPR NI alongside the brilliant Kathryn Bigger (@KatieB_05). We are already planning events and making connections so watch this space for some exciting news…

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I have to begin by introducing you to the incredibly accomplished panel, Gemma-Louise Bond (@GemmaLEBond), Michelle Canning (@micanning) and Susie Brown (@Brownturf). Gemma, also known for her fabulous blog ‘That Belfast Girl’, at just 25, has been able to achieve career goals, someone starting out in the world of PR could only dream of. As the Marketing Assistant at Victoria Square, Gemma is responsible for keeping its brand as iconic as its stunning glass dome. Next up we were introduced to the skilled Michelle Canning, who made a brave career change at 41 into the world of Communications. Now the Communications Manager at Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Michelle has utilised her skills as a Journalist to propel herself into this senior role. Last, but by no means least, was Susie Brown, whose impressive CV speaks for itself. Alongside her busy career as Interim Director of Corporate Development at Tourism NI, Susie also headed the ‘Be Seen Be Heard’ media initiative to improve gender balance on Northern Ireland’s airwaves. The first thing, we, as an audience were asked to do, was introduce ourselves to the rest of the room. Networking, always being at the fore of any PR event. Hearing the positions of the rest of the women from leading PR firms in Northern Ireland was inspiring for me, going in as a novice.

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Michelle Canning raised the invaluable point that even rejection in the workplace can be good, using J.K Rowling as the prime example of being turned down time and time again but not giving up. This led the chair of the night, Sara McCracken (@dougalhorse) to ask the panel what they felt were the biggest barriers they have faced in the workplace. Having come up against ageism and unconscious bias, the panel explained how they faced challenges head on to overcome and conquer them. As an advocate for women being heard throughout Northern Ireland, Susie raised the thought provoking statement that “you can’t be what you can’t see”, sparking a conversation change towards self-confidence. How can young women coming up in the world of PR aspire towards anything if they cannot ‘see’ someone else doing just that. The moral of the story being to speak out about what you’re doing and don’t be afraid to big yourself up.

When asked where they wanted to go in the future all three women had very different answers. Gemma has a very clear five-year plan, with the end goal of being the director of a company by the age of 30 (which I have no doubt she will achieve). Michelle doesn’t make plans but achieves what she wants through sheer determination. Susie spots an opportunity and runs with it, making her the definition of a #boss. All three women left us with their final words of wisdom… ‘speak out and influence up’, ‘stand up and be counted’ and ‘be confident in who you are’. I’ve already ordered the board mounts with these inspirational quotes for my future PR office.

Thank you so much to the three forward thinking, self-empowered women who shared their experiences and to CIPR NI for organising such a #girlboss event.

Olivia x

Olivia McAleenan is studying for a MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter @OliviaMcAleenan / LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mcaleenan-88774413b /Facebook – Olivia McAleenan / Instagram @oliviamcaleenan

The Confessions of a PR Girl

So, here it goes …

I am Kathryn Bigger, lover of fashion, PR (shocker) and collecting cacti.

As a third-year student studying Public Relations and Communications I have certainly learnt a lot about myself and most importantly what I am capable of.  If you too have a love for all things PR, Fashion and Cacti (Avocados are so overrated) then I know you will feel right at home here. My mission is to provide insight into the wonderful world of PR and to let you know that it is OK to mess up along the path of reaching your goals. Trust me, this is a tough industry and the more you learn to dust yourself off, pick yourself up and progress forward the better!

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When I thought about writing my own content I have in some ways been put off by the negative stigma that surrounds the blogging network.  Within Northern Ireland word spreads faster than I can spread Nutella on toast (true bill folks).  Just like our small but widely diverse communities, our NI blogging network is tightly knit.  Those who fail to understand the network are quick to judge, it is nice to be nice (I see you keyboard warriors).   It is time that we focused on the positives by supporting those who are confident, courageous and creative enough to showcase their lives online – You go Glen Coco!

I will let you into a little secret, a secret that I am slowly learning to share… I wear my heart on my sleeve. Some believe that to work in PR you must be utterly glamorous, cut-throat and super confident.  This is NOT the case.  One of the many reasons why I decided to write this blog was to share with you that it is absolutely OK to be yourself. You can remain successful by being humble. Climbing the slippery ‘social ladder’ in PR may seem daunting at first, however my best piece of advice is to remain true to yourself.  Let success be your noise!

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Communication is KEY.  I am pretty sure that if my friends and family had to write one thing about me they would jot down immediately that I LOVE to talk (just as my phone bill would suggest).  Whilst chatting for hours may not be your cup of tea it has helped me immensely in the world of PR.  Making solid connections with clients is vital, it not only boosts morale but will help you to nurture new and existing relationships. Ok, so we are all capable of communicating but what is that magic ingredient that brings our ideas and conversations to life? CREATIVITY (Yes, this word deserves capitals because it is the Queen of sass).

We are created to create.  I love to communicate through illustration, just as the saying goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ The moment I put paintbrush to paper the world around me stops.  Being able to express my thoughts and feelings on a blank canvas is the most rewarding feeling.  One simple, understated design can progress into something rather beautiful.

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So, discover what you are good at and make it work for you. Exercise your talents and remember stay true to who you are. Authenticity is an extremely attractive characteristic; only you can determine your own success!

Kathryn x

Kathryn Bigger is a third year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She is currently undertaking her placement year at Marks Design Collective. Kathryn can be contacted on: Instagram – the_fashion_fairypr / Twitter – @KatieB_05 / LinkedIn- Kathryn Bigger.