How did I get here and where do I go next?

Hi, my name is Jamie Doran. I am a final year communication management and public relations student and any fifty shades of grey jokes will not be tolerated.

In all honesty, I’ve struggleJD5d to settle on something to talk about. I’ve read a good few blogs now with topic’s varying, which have been written by students in my year. I’ve decided to talk about some of my experiences before and during university and discuss where I want to go from here. In all honestly, I’m only writing this blog because I am required to, I’m a more keep myself to myself kind of guy. I know that the whole point of a blog is that people read it however, the thought that my peers may read my post sends my anxiety levels sky high. If you haven’t worked it out by now I’ll tell you the obvious, I have never written a blog. Taking this into account, please have patience as I try to write a post that makes sense and doesn’t waffle about nothing for the next six to seven hundred words.

Having completed art and design, religious education and travel and tourism for my A-Levels I didn’t really expect to be in the final year of this degree. Infact, when I left school in 2015 I thought I was the new Seth MacFarlane or Matt Groening and began an animation degree in Ulster University Belfast campus beforeswitching to communication management and public relations the following year.I have always been very keen to demonstrate creativity in whatever job I find myself in, animation seemed like a good idea at the time but after spending a full semester on this course I realised I am tremendously average at drawing, (I have included a drawing below so that you can judge yourself).JD4This sudden realisation was a slap in the face, I had always seen myself designing and creating and I believed at the time that this was the only route to follow. I decided to reapply through UCAS to Ulster University in January 2016, on this occasion I decided that artistic creativity may not be the best choice and I searched for another platform from which I could develop my own ideas and plans, CMPR was by the the best option.

My first two years in Communication management and public relations don’t count towards my final grade which I cannot be more thankful for as the most valuable piece of information I picked up over this time was tuck your wing mirrors in when parking in the Holylands… Ok so that’s not entirely true, I have learned so much in my first two years in CMPR which I plan to put to use throughout final year and of course carry these new skills on into my JD3future career. When I say my career though, I have no idea what I’m talking about, in my own head I still feel like a first year, I still have no clue what I want to do with my life and I don’t feel like I’m getting any closer to an answer. At this point I can’t see myself jumping straight into a graduate job. I still have relatively no idea what the world is really like outside this Northern Irish bubble, therefore I do not want to commit myself to staying here whenever I have no idea what the rest of the world has to offer.

I’m not scared of maturing so don’t let the last paragraph fool you. I didn’t complete work experience between second year and final year; however, I have had several positions within large organisations. In the past number of years, during my breaks from university I have had full time positions working for RBS bank, Vodafone, Cisco, the Library board and the Northern Ireland Civil Service. These experiences have proved to be extremely valuable because this semester I am completing a module called ‘organisational communication’. Having experienced working life in so many organisations, I have been able to closely examine how they operate internally – using this module alongside my experiences should prove very effective when completing my coursework. All of the positions that I have mentioned have required me to speak to both customers and other members of staff throughout my shifts, helping to educate me in how to correctly present myself in a professional workplace.

Without taking up too much more of your day, I’ll just let you know what I plan to do in order to find the correct career path for me. Personally, I believe that travJD1eling the world for a few months or years would be as much of a benefit to me as a work placement is for others. My hope is that I will be able to find that one ‘life calling’ and using the skills that I have picked throughout my years in Ulster University, base a career around it.

Some people want a good career for the money, others want it for the lifestyle, I want my career to be fulfilling and fun.

5 days a week for the next 52 years is a long time to not enjoy something, so I’m going to make sure I pick the correct path and take my time in doing so!

Jamie Doran is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram – @jamiedoran96

What I would tell myself 365 days ago…

I am currently on my year-long placement with Danone Ireland and I am lucky enough to enjoy it. However, it can be so easy to land yourself a job that you really don’t like. But this is good too. Here’s why…

I am writing this now because I was reminded of the stress of applying for placement jobs when helping a good friend with her CV in preparation for job applications. It made me question that when you start applying for your third-year internship, what do you really know? I mean you’ve only really completed one year of university and are still taking a wide variety of completely new modules and topics. How can you possibly know what role you want to undertake for a year? That’s the thing, you don’t. I study Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University which should really be called Communication, Advertising, Marketing, PR, digital media and graphic design, because there’s so much more to the degree than the title portrays. And this isn’t just my degree, every undergrad degree is the same and offers various career path options. Unless of course you’re studying a vocational subject like nursing, medicine or teaching- then you usually know what you’re going into… I hope!

To get to my point, with a degree like mine, I reckon it will take a couple of jobs before I properly find my niche in something I really love and would settle with.

Image result for settle in new job

When I was applying for internships last year, I stressed about it so much, I wanted something as quickly as possible, simply so that I could enjoy my year without that added weight on my shoulders. I was so envious of my friends when they’d arrive in class with the news of their job and all I had was either an attempt at a CV, a handful of confidence knocking rejections or the guilt of non-applied for jobs. There’s always that person that has a job in the bag by Day 1- I was not that person. I knew I wanted to go to Dublin. That was all. So that’s all I applied for really. And yes, it may sound naïve to apply for the place before the job, but why not? I am still a student and for me, a change of location was all part of the experience. And I knew that wherever I ended up I was going to learn something anyway so that’s where my focus was. Dublin is one of the friendliest cities

I went through the motions of applications, online interviews, face-to-face interviews, assessment days, cover letter and CV editing and of course, rejections. But the way I looked at it was, yes, this is for a real-life job, but only as a taster for the future…. Realistically, no company is going to fully depend on a student or expect them to change the world. We are there to learn and develop. Life is full of people that won’t get you or appreciate you or agree with you, so of course rejections are inevitable. I learned so much from the application process alone, the most important thing being not to take everything so personally because that gets you absolutely nowhere! My dream job was a Marketing and Publicity role with Warner Bros. Ireland and I was shortlisted to the top 9 candidates meaning I had to attend an assessment day. I was beyond nervous for this but when I was further shortlisted to the top four, I started believing in myself for once, that maybe I could be good enough. Anyway, long story short I received a phone call in the middle of a good old Holylands’ barbecue to say I didn’t get the job. The enjoyable street party was unfortunately short-lived because I cried that much I went home. I had had enough, bearing in mind this was mid-late April, I felt like time was running out. I honestly couldn’t understand why I wasn’t good enough and thought this was just the end of the world. It was one of those situations where you hear news that completely blow any other worry, excitement or feeling completely out of the park until they don’t matter anymore in the slightest. I hated life. After a couple of hours of life contemplation (I am so dramatic), I recognised that I couldn’t actually have done anything more in that interview, so it obviously wasn’t meant to be!

One of the questions I kept asking myself last year was, ‘how am I supposed to know what I want to do?’ and what I would tell myself 365 days later is that you don’t. Careers are like one big chain of trial and error. My job at Danone is mostly communications and corporate affairs. This isn’t what I envisaged for myself 365 days ago but here we are. I would tell myself not to worry if I get a job I don’t like, because then I will know what I can rule out for the future. I am walking/ running down a career path where I believe change is inevitable and absolutely necessary in order to learn and develop. I would tell myself that placement is only one of the small and first pieces of the ‘Hannah’s Life Jigsaw’. It isn’t the be all and end all, there’s still plenty more to be put into place.Image result for the life jigsaw

Last year, I put so much pressure on myself to get this ‘dream placement’ and yes, it’s good to have a goal or an idea, but I would tell myself not to fixate on it. There will be aspects of every job you won’t like and aspects you do. But theseopinions give you the chance to fine tune the end goal you want for yourself. I am in a comms role and enjoying it. But placement has allowed me to develop my plan that I want to get a masters and a job in other aspects of my degree aside from communications, because you never really know until you try.

Image result for stress free

Less stress is best.


Hannah Gilsenan is a third year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @han_gil98 and LinkedIn – Hannah Gilsenan

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?


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.

Bridget Jones Meme

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?


Women in PR meme

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!

Introvert meme

  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:

What’s the difference between a squirrel and a rat? PR.

The reality of picking a career path from around the age of sixteen that may dictate the rest of your professional life is immense. It’s a regular convention of traditional education in our generation, but just because it’s common doesn’t make it ordinary. This decision process, aided and hindered by influences such as parents, siblings, friends and teachers, tends to divide the teenage population into two categories. A spectrum exists between the two extremities, but more broadly there is one of two responses.

  1. PANIC: This response involves someone adding years on to their prepubescent bodies and minds through the futile gesture of stress. Lots of it. Everyone reading this can think of an example of this character. Teens in this category may know exactly what they want to be from a young age and are therefore aware of the snowballing pressure of achieving academic success. At the opposite end of the panic spectrum, teens in this category might not know what they want to do at all. This is often the case with smart children who are heaped with praise and told from a young age that they can be anything they want to be. When the world is your oyster, which path might produce most pearls? The pressing weight of expectation shows no mercy to the precociousness of youth.
  1. DON’T PANIC: This response has its variants, too. At one end we have the ‘wasters’ as they’re commonly known. Those who, for one reason or another, are so indifferent to academic progress that their future education doesn’t bare consideration. Alternatively, we have the academic optimists- those who believe it will be fine regardless of how much consideration is given to the decision. How can one decision at sixteen really shape your life? And the downright oblivious – fully unaware of the significance of what’s going on.

Honourable Mention; Treefish. The Treefish is a student whose intelligence can’t be measured by methods of traditional education. Stemming from Einstein’s famous quote on judging a fish by its ability to climb a tree, this type of student should not be confused with the wasters.

Image result for intelligence fish climbing a tree

I was more of a Don’t Panic. I’m not saying I was laid back, I was closer to the oblivious category than anything else (although I often fancied myself as a bit of a Treefish). I could, with some competence, identify my own internal characteristics. I was better at knowing what I liked about myself than knowing what I could succeed in as a career. I couldn’t picture working in a real job, and I failed to see how any of my personal qualities could transfer to my internalised concept of a professional environment. I wasn’t good with numbers, I couldn’t remember the periodic table and the bandsaw quickly became the banned saw in my case. I had traits – I was relatively hard working from a young age, dedicated, honest. But I never thought I had any skills. I failed to comprehend where I could take little more than a genuine consideration for people and their happiness and make a living out of it. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that I found out about PR because the truth is, I’m still discovering it. With each revelation about the nature of the sector, I feel confident that I’m on the right track.

So, what makes a successful PR practitioner? (I think):


“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people”

W. B. Yeats

I’ve always been a good communicator. In every scenario apart from texting my mother to let her know I’ve arrived safe and well, I’ve always been able to get my message across. Such a talent is central to the word of public relations. Tracing back to the 19th century and predating the first recognised PR practitioner (Ivy Ledbetter Lee), diplomat Alvin Adams states “Public relations are a key component of any operation in this day of instant communications and rightly inquisitive citizens”. Communication was, and remains, absolutely vital. If only Adams (deceased 1877) had any idea how his world of “instant communications” might develop. Which brings me on to my next point.

Media & Relations:

“It is always a risk to speak to the press: they are likely to report what you say”

Hubert H. Humphrey (Former US Vice President)

To succeed in PR, a flair for media is crucial. Definitively, PR was founded on the use of mass media to achieve organisational goals (Duhe, 2007). I’ve always been interested in the capabilities of all media, particularly as it’s developed in the digital age. Figures from Statista (2018) claim that there are 2.62 billion social media users in 2018. To add context to this figure, eMarketer (2017) states that with a global population of 7.63 billion people, 1 in every 3 people is connected online via social media. Subsequently, the impact of recent social media revolution cannot be understated (Kraski, 2017, p.924). A fundamental contrast between traditional mass media and social media is that social media takes the audience from a passive role and centralizes them in the process. The role of social media from a business perspective is a “delicate harmonizing act between users’ trust and owners’ monetizing intentions” (Clemons, 2009, cited by Van Dijck, 2013). If users feel manipulated, they can simply leave the site.

I’ve always had an interest in developing good relationships with those around me. While I perhaps lend myself to it more than I should in some instances, I feel that it’s a trait indicative that I’m in the right line of work. Positive media relations are fundamental to success in any PR role. Additionally, in an age of increasing consumer control, ethical and honest media relations are essential, particularly as stonewalling isn’t as effective as it was in previous generations due to a world of hyper-connectivity and instant communication. If an organisation refuses to converse with the media, the world will quickly know about it and begin to theorise why. Hence, communication should be transparent. This brings me on to my next point.

Ethical Practice:

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get it’s pants on”

Sir Winston Churchill

As discussed in the previous report, many struggle to trust PR as a credible, trustworthy sector. This image comes as a result of the actions of few dictating the perception of all. PR ethics focuses on “the ethical implications of the strategies and tactics that are applied to solve… the problems of organisations” (Parsons, 2016. P.148).

An example is often made of the Philadelphia 76’ers. The basketball team pledged to deconstruct their roster in order to allow for future superstars and success, with the backing of their fans amidst a risky plan. However, lies were publicly conjured about fake trade deals and injuries, and following this realisation, the fans turned their backs. A classic example of how unethical PR backfires.

Satisfying client needs is a key role of PR. But to reference back to Grunig and Hunt’s definition “management of communication between an organization and its publics” (1984), it’s nonsensical to communicate in an unethical manner that has the potential to jeopardise public opinion or trust. As an industry, the level of ethical consideration within PR practice varies. This is not a “if you can’t beat them, join them” situation. In fact, the whole issue lends itself more to Harry Truman’s “If you can’t convince them, confuse them”. Nonetheless, I enter the industry with the plan of being as ethical as possible.


It’s hard to pin down!

Exciting Functions of the Industry

As a profession, PR is fresh and exciting. A personal attraction of the industry for me is the variance in work. From the social elements of networking to the reflective evaluation of drafting a press release, PR doesn’t fit the archetype of a normal desk job.
It’s People-Driven. People skills are easy to overlook. Considering I have them, I plan to use them and PR is the right industry to put these tools to use.
It’s a jack-of-all-trades industry. There is an interchangeability to the industry. It’s near impossible to predict which client l could be working for next, in which industry, or the insights and knowledge I gain along the way. I consider myself as being “pro stuff” and the opportunity to get involved across a variety of industries is quietly inspiring.
The industry is hard to pin down. Some can’t see its value and some feel that its literature is outdated and in need of a revamp. Phoenix Business Review (2018) placed a PR executive 8th in their list of most stressful jobs of 2017. Interestingly, Huffington Post (2012) conducted surveys with Dunkin’ Donuts and and found that PR consumes the second largest amount of coffee annually per profession, beaten only by lab technicians. While all this may lead to to a job that is perceived as stressful, it provides an interesting challenge both existentially and academically. Proper application of one’s self to a career within Public Relations is no doubt trying, but surely rewarding. I intend to find out for myself.

Eamon Daly is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found at: Twitter – @EamonDaly5 ; LinkedIn –

A career in PR, is it for you?

When I started to think about my career I had no idea what I wanted to do. Unlike my friends who knew they wanted to be nurses, teachers and astronauts from age 10 I was different, I had absolutely no idea and still to this day I am open to exploring many different career paths, but I know PR is a career that is versatile, would provide variety and most importantly is exciting.

On that note, if you’re like me and wondering whether working in PR is for you here are a few reasons why a career in PR appeals to me…


It’s hard for anyone to deny that they wouldn’t love to earn a lot of money. Being a student and earning little to nothing has only motivated me more to do well in my career and hopefully one day be as happy as Mr Krabs when I receive my paycheck each month…


A career in PR can pay well and there are lots of opportunities for development in the PR sector, an individual could start off as a “PR assistant” and work their way up to “PR Manager” and maybe one day even “Director” showing the PR industry is versatile and provides lots of opportunities. I am interested in working in a company that I can learn and develop in rather than work in a dead-end job with no opportunity for promotion or development.

Although it depends on what sector and where in the world an individual decides to delve into, according to Reed (2017) the average salary of an individual working in PR in the UK is £40,205 a year with the lowest salary for a PR professional being £30,866 a year. The idea of earning these figures is something I am definitely striving to work towards. Compared to other jobs, PR can be a well-paid job with many benefits such as flexible working hours, holidays, maternity leave and so on.


Another reason I would like to work in PR is the copious networking opportunities I could engage in within my career. Working in PR could mean an individual has to work with many different people across many different sectors. Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.13) highlight a career in PR can be glamorous, it can “involve lunches, receptions, events and parties which include many different people at a range of different locations.” Attending events and working with many different companies sounds exciting and would offer opportunities to get to know more people and build up contacts within the sector.

Working in PR can mean managing events and ensuring these events go ahead as planned. Having previous experience in event management has gave me a taste of what life in PR is like. In my opinion, PR is fast paced, pressured but exciting. It requires a lot of work and communication with lots of different people to ensure needs are met and events are successful. I also like the idea of recruiting individuals to attend events and communicating messages to individuals at events that will enhance brand image.


An aspect that made PR appeal to me was the variety of jobs that are available within the industry. There are opportunities in the voluntary, public service and private sectors. Working in PR means every role is different, there are a variety in roles and positions and a variety of different companies to work for. There are opportunities to work for a private company, an agency, a non-profit organisation, governmental body and so on. For PR professionals the world is their oyster. Working in PR opens many doors and can allow an you to have a wide experience in any sector of the industry.

I have had experience within the voluntary sector and it was a very enjoyable experience for me. However, I am interested in exploring the different types of jobs within PR. Working in PR is fast-paced and no day is ever the same, so it would be interesting to find out what working in an agency or private company is like. But, it is interesting that PR can lead you down all walks of life which is why I am interested in working in this industry.


Another reason why a career in PR interests me is the creative flair that comes with the job. Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.13) claim PR is a “creative industry”. I would consider myself a creative person and working in PR will allow me to express my thoughts and ideas whilst also working with others to produce exciting and engaging content that will influence public opinion.


To develop written pieces, online content for social media and provide content for journalists is something that appeals to me. Writing blog posts, creating engaging social media posts and designing promotional material is an aspect of PR that is very important, and I feel I have the abilities to be creative and ensure all content is engaging and unique to a client’s needs.

In my previous experience I was able to create content for a company’s online website, write posts for social media and other promotional material. Having this experience has made me determined to find a job that will allow me to do this and more within the company.

PR matters

One could ask, can we survive without PR? I highly doubt it. PR is a necessity to any organisation and is valued more than ever before in today’s society whether it be through crisis management, creating content or securing sponsorship. With PR, there will always be jobs out there because organisations are constantly trying to improve their image or promote their brand. Also, the practice of PR is adapting to keep up with current trends and the digital transformation. It’s not just about press releases, PR is so much more than that. Therefore, PR is important to society today and working in PR has a purpose.

A great pathway to success

Working in PR enables individuals to develop a wide range of skills that are adaptable and relevant. Working in PR requires good verbal and written communication skills. PR professionals need to work well in a team, they need to be able to work under pressure and be flexible to work long hour days to meet deadlines. I love working under pressure and love the idea of meeting new people and working with lots of different clients. Although working in PR is hard, I think it will teach me a lot of skills that are required in many fields of work. I think a job in PR provides individuals the opportunity to learn and develop their skills, so they can succeed to the best of their abilities in the workplace. I also feel it will help me develop as a person through the ability to express myself through the content I create. Working in PR will also improve my confidence whilst also gaining a wealth of experience in a very exciting industry.


All in all,  PR is a versatile and exciting job that means no day will ever be the same. I enjoy the fact that PR is fast-paced, pressurizing and will keep me on my toes. To work in PR a person needs to be creative, being able to work on my own content and create my own pieces of material is something that really excites me. PR can lead to many different opportunities and there are lots of opportunities for development within the industry. There is an increased desire for PR services in business (Morris and Goldsworthy, 2016), and working in PR means there are lots of jobs out there and lots of different sectors to work in.

I look forward to pursuing my career in PR in the future!

Orlaith Strong is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @orlaith_strong and Linkedin: @orlaithstrong


Five Things I’ve Learned before Graduating

As my final semester with Ulster University and the stress of final year continues to loom overhead, the end is almost in sight. However, as I was procrastinating from my assignments last week, I stumbled across an interview between pop star Taylor Swift and Elle USA to mark her thirtieth birthday. The article is titled ‘30 things I learnt before turning 30’, with Taylor providing life anecdotes and advice from friendships to family. Whether you’re a fan of Taylor Swift or not, I highly recommend reading this article as I instantly felt motivated after reading it. You can read it by clicking here.


Although I’m only 22, this article inspired me to compare Taylor’s anecdotes to my own life, and compare it to all the things I’ve learnt before graduating. It allowed me to reflect on how different I am now compared to the 18 year old girl who stepped foot at Ulster back in September 2015.  Therefore, I’ve been inspired to write this blog about 5 things I’ve learnt before graduating university. Although everyone is feeling the heat and is eager to finish, I couldn’t help but think of all the positive things that have happened since beginning my journey at university.



  1. Positivity is key: Failing and rejection is normal

As clichéd as it is, and I know we hear it all the time, failing is a part of life that will never cease to exist. I remember being so afraid of failing things at university. I was very academic in secondary school, and I didn’t want this to change in university. I’d been warned by my older sister of how different university marking/grading  is compared to school, and I remember in first year receiving my grade for my first ever assignment and feeling slightly disappointed.  I’d predicted in that moment that I was failing my degree and that I wasn’t cut out for university, but in reality I was completely overreacting. It’s easier to focus on the negatives, however it’s how we deal with those negatives is the game changer. From constructive criticism on your style of writing, to improving your interview technique or even receiving criticism from friends, it’s always beneficial to use this to continuing improving and bettering yourself.

I’m a very big fan of the quote: “what’s for you won’t go by you”, therefore failing helps facilitate the opportunities that are meant for you. A positive outlook can go a long way, and you’ll never stop failing in life, so keep continuing on your journey.



  1. Be involved: Take interest in your degree

I can only speak from my own experience, but to get the most out of university and your experience at university is down to adopting a pro-active attitude. Due to the nature of my degree, I discovered from first year that it is important to have an understanding of what’s out there in the industry, whether that is local agencies or companies and learning more about the work they do. The university is excellent for introducing us to key notable speakers from Northern Ireland and beyond, as well as putting us in contact with successful past alumni of the university. I’ve really enjoyed attending these sessions, and yes, although it may mean staying in university that extra bit later, it’s a great way to network and meet people in the industry. This is a brilliant way to help secure contacts for your placement year, or for later in life.  There are a number of competitions/ opportunities available through our degree. In first year I took part in the PANI (Publicity Association Northern Ireland) and had the opportunity of working with local advertising agency, Ardmore Advertising.  Fortunately, our team were lucky enough to win this competition, meaning that our campaign for local charity Shelter NI went live across Northern Ireland in September 2016. Not only did I get the experience of working with a local agency; I also got to meet new students I wouldn’t normally have been in contact with, as we completed the competition with two graphic design students from the Belfast campus.  Small things like that not only enhance your university experience, but allow you to find your feet within the industry.

  1. Getting the right balance between work/play

Undoubtedly, there is a massive jump between secondary school life and university, as well as a massive jump from first to second year in university. Especially in first year of university, I found myself with a lot more free time than I did in secondary school. I didn’t know what to do with my new-found freedom. I always found it extremely important to get the right balance between work and play when managing my time. For many, this means finding the right balance between partying and studying, but I saw this free time as an opportunity for personal development. Free time allows you to indulge in new interests. For me, I decided to use my free time to work on gaining more experience in fields relating to my degree, for others it meant taking up a new sport/hobby. As I am in the final stages of final year, it’s truly opened my eyes to the importance of having a balance between work and play even more than before. There’s always going to be an assignment you should be doing or a journal article you need to read but spending time with friends over a cup of tea, going to the cinema in the evening or going on a night out with friends shouldn’t make you feel guilty (although I know I’ve been there). It’s so important to not burn the candle on both ends, but instead enjoy everything in moderation. A motto that I’ve found myself adapting in university is: “At the end of the day, I’ll get it done.” – and you will.



  1. “I need a dollar, dollar, a dollar is all I need!”

One of the best days in the life of a student is when they receive their student loan installments. I have thoroughly enjoyed these days, and I’ve even had count-down apps on my iPhone counting down the days until I receive the next installment in my bank account. (Sad, I know) The opportunities available for using your money are endless, and a new-found sense of generosity kicks in; both to yourself and others. “Shall I buy every item in my ASOS basket?” “I’ve had a long day, I deserve this Dominoes.”  “I’ll pay for the taxi, you can pay for the drinks inside!” – (this is NEVER the case).

One thing that I’ve learnt from university is the importance of budgeting money. University for many introduces a list of bills/payments, from paying for rent to buying groceries for meals. If you’re struggling to keep on-top of your spending,  simple things like creating budgeting plans or giving yourself a weekly allowance can help keep your spending in check. Just don’t go too wild with your overdrafts…

  1. If you need help – ask.

This relates to a series of problems. If you’re struggling with the workload and unsure what you’re meant to be doing on an assignment, your course director and lecturers are more than happy to answer any of your questions via email or meet in their office hours. I’ve never been someone to shy away from asking questions, as ultimately the only person you’re disadvantaging is yourself. University can be a tough time for many people, as it’s an opportunity to fully embrace independence and finding your feet in society. For many, it’s described as the best years of your life; however there is an unspoken pressure that you must be enjoying yourself and having fun 24/7 which is unrealistic. If you feel that you need to talk to someone professionally, the university has a ‘Mind Your Mood’ campaign on their website and work closely with Inspire to provide one on one counselling.  If this isn’t something you think you need, even talking to a friend and venting out your stresses will make you feel a lot better. A problem shared is a problem halved, even if the solution isn’t always clear.

In conclusion, I’m excited to see what the next stages of my career will be; however, I’ve had the best couple of years at Ulster University both on placement and with an amazing group of people in my class – I couldn’t have gone through university without them.



Abigail Foran is a final year BSc in Communications, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @abigailforan ; LinkedIn:

Final Year: So How Did I End Up Here?

Final Year: So How Did I End Up Here?

As I start into the second semester of my final year at university, it’s interesting to reflect on just what lead me to study communication, management and public relations. Just over four years ago, I had a very different plan.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a primary school teacher. I had performed well all throughout school, I wanted to work in a job where I was helping people and, to be completely honest, I really did quite like the idea of summers off. I carefully chose my GCSE and A level subjects around a potential career in teaching and even progressed further throughout my grades in vocals and piano, knowing that it would serve me well as a teacher. But now, those skills simply serve me well at karaoke nights.


In January 2015, I went for my entrance interview for Stranmillis University. With the predicted grades I needed for admission, the interview was a key aspect of gaining a place on the course and I was determined not to fall at this hurdle. Following the advice from my parents, I went into the interview calm and collected and let my personality shine through.I nervously waited for weeks for the letter that would urge me on to achieve the grades that I needed. But when that letter arrived and I learnt that my application wouldn’t be taken any further, I didn’t know what to do.

All of my life, I had planned to be a teacher. I never thought I would even need to consider a plan B. Devastated and desperate for clarity, I got in touch with the university. I needed to know why I wasn’t considered good enough. The answer I got was simply; “We don’t think that you’re teacher material”. I started to re-evaluate everything; who I was, what I wanted to do and what type of person exactly did I come across as during a 20 minute interview?


In a discussion with one of my teachers, he mentioned jokingly that my personality really was ‘more fitting for a PR executive for a vodka company’. Whilst it was said in humour, I couldn’t deny that he was probably right. This was nothing to do with my love for every single flavour in the Absolut range, but I knew myself well enough to know that I was outgoing, organised, creative and thrived off deadlines and goals. Surely all of the skills and qualities that would serve me well working in public relations?


But at this point, I didn’t even know exactly what PR was, never mind whether it would be the correct career path for me. My knowledge of PR stemmed from Samantha Jones from Sex and the City and thankfully I was smart enough to know that a career in PR wasn’t all about organising glamorous launch parties, going to power lunches and barely ever spending any time in the office.

But now, as I edge closer to graduation and prepare to throw myself into the big bad world of public relations, I know exactly why a career in public relations interests me.

Ask any of my friends and family and they would probably tell you that I never have a free moment. I am constantly doing something, making plans, working on projects, planning my next trip. I tend to thrive when I have more going on- I don’t like being bored! A recent study revealed that PR is one of the most stressful jobs being listed alongside careers such paramedics and advertising executives (Krietsch, 2011). It isn’t the apparent stress that is attracting me to the career, but instead the fast-paced environment. I believe that when you have a passion for what you do alongside an understanding of what is required from you, the stress of your job is minimised and stressful moments become moments that add a little bit of excitement to the day. As someone who has previously worked in jobs where the only excitement would be if somebody brought a dog into work, this is definitely an important factor that I look for in my career.


Another personal attribute of mine that I believe has encouraged my interest in a career within public relations is my ability to ‘spin’ and persuade. Despite the negative connotations that spin within PR receives, I simply mean that I have the skill to communicate in such a way that has the ability to change how people perceive  what I am saying. By no means am I claiming to be a professional liar, but I naturally try to see the good in every situation and focus on that. As for my persuasion techniques, I’ve managed to persuade my boyfriend to make me lunches for  work nearly every day for the last two years- so if that isn’t skillful persuasion, I don’t know what is….

During my time at university, my course has provided me with the opportunity to study a wide range of modules that cover topics such as; marketing, political communication and media and society. The combination of media related topics that I have been able to learn about is one of the main reasons why I recommend my course to other people. I believe that it has been a great foundation in preparing me for a career within public relations as public relations can consist of a combination of many media related jobs. When coming up with ways to promote a client via a multitude of channels, you use skills relevant to advertising. In maintaining a strong brand image for a client, you are practicing brand management. I even believe that the skills taken to write an effective and informative press release are those that would be required from a journalist. When pursuing a career in PR, you really are pursuing a blend of many media related jobs- all of which I believe to have gained experience in through my varied university course.

As a career in public relations involves many different media related roles, it can provide you with the chance to work more specifically within an area that interests you. According to Johnston and Zawawi (2004), there are more than twenty roles and areas within the PR industry that you can specialise in. I believe that as work takes up such a large part of your life, it is important to be doing something that interests you and matches your motivation. Although I have a great interest in politics, which would suit me well to work within public affairs and lobbying, my one true skill that I believe will serve me in my future career is planning and organising. I am quite lucky to come from a family who are very laid back and even more lucky to have found friends who are happy to let me take control of most of our plans we make together. They all know that it brings me happiness to organise events, make travel plans for holidays and to have control over situations. My personality would definitely be best suited to event management. But the best thing about a career in public relations? No matter your personality, you would be able to find an area within it to suit you.


From press releases to blogging, writing is a major element of a career within public relations. I have always enjoyed writing from a very young age. I remember our old family computer when I was in primary school; it didn’t even have the internet, but I spent most weekdays after school on this computer, writing short stories and daily diary style entries (I was basically way ahead of my time with the whole blogging craze). Whilst I never thought that I would be pursuing a career in which I would get the opportunity to use my creative writing skills, I have to say that it is one of my biggest motivations now for my growing interest in a career in public relations.

As I write this essay, it is a little over 4 months before I will be graduating from my communications and public relations degree. Given the opportunities and experiences that I have gained through studying my course, I have never been more thankful for that rejection letter I received in 2015.

Lucy Sempey is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @LucySempey ; LinkedIn –