Placement is ESSENTIAL!!!

When making the decision in my 2nd year on whether or not to go on placement I was tempted to skip onto final year and get my course done and dusted. How wrong I would have been. Making the choice to take on a placement at an organisation was so useful! I learnt quite a lot and had a great time.

I applied to do a placement for many organisations and received only a handful of offers for interviews which (at first) was demoralizing, I put a great deal of work into my CV, cover letters and online applications only to get a minimal response. This reinforced in my mind the idea that placement was a bad idea, I should just get on with final year and get it all over with. However the few interviews I was offered actually weren’t as bad as I thought, I always over think how tough the interviews will be and how much of an idiot I am going to sound by boasting on my accomplishments and skills. The interviews were great practical experience in adjusting to awkward situations where you are given something different and new, I gave it the “what the hell” attitude, if I succeed all the better, if I fail it’s an experience and I’m not losing anything. Eventually (and luckily) I got offered a 6 month placement with a charity called Volunteer Now. I was hoping for a yearlong placement but I liked the sound of what I was going to be doing with the charity and everyone within the organisation was really nice, happy and upbeat.

Beginning the placement was again awkward, but that comes again with any first time experience. I was taken on a walk round the building and I met most of the employees which was intense, there was over 40 people in an open plan office everyone could see each other and my desk was smack bang right in the middle of all these strangers. I couldn’t remember most people’s names and I was getting so much information my mind couldn’t catch up, I had 2 or 3 meetings on my first day (I had never been to a formal work meeting in my life) which I didn’t know what to expect would happen. But after the first week of meetings and introductions to everyone and what roles I was going to complete I started to relax and find it wasn’t so bad, there wasn’t tonnes of pressure put on me and my fellow colleagues were great craic and couldn’t have made me more welcome, they treated me like I was there for years.

The work I was given was interesting, I got to do a mixture of marketing, advertising and PR-ing. The fact that I hadn’t the exact same routine every day kept me looking forward to coming into Volunteer Now each morning. I got to be really creative, I was allowed create leaflets, posters, videos etc and put any ideas down and my colleagues would work with what I had done, they were always positive and encouraging. Any criticism I got was always constructive, I learnt how to make content look more professional, how to make my work look more attractive, how to find the important information and how to juggle many tasks effectively.

There was one main job that really gave me good experience and was completely new to me, training. I was one of the employees to manage social media for the organisation and over time I was asked many questions on how I did certain things with Facebook and Twitter and what Snapchat and Instagram was, then my manager and one of the directors asked me to teach and train the rest of the office on how to use social media, I agreed but worried about it so much. I was freaking out on how I would create a training session for all these professionals and how I would speak in front of everyone. However my colleagues reminded me that it wouldn’t be as bad as it seemed, all I had to do was talk about what I know and keep it simple. So the day came when I took my first training session and it went quite well, I got up in front of the first group and went through my slides, tweeted, posted and answered questions. My colleagues commended me, they actually found it useful! Quite a few of them took to social media in the following weeks, used my notes and didn’t find social media as scary as it initially seemed.

NB5

To conclude and cut to the chase, please take on placement! I can’t recommend it enough and if you get the chance to work with Volunteer Now, take that opportunity! They were a fantastic organisation and I learnt piles from so many talented professionals!! Every day at my placement was a new day and the experiences I got I really do not think I could get anywhere else!!

NB6

 

Niall Byrne is a Final Year student in BSc in Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be contacted on Twitter @NByrne96

Top Tips to ace your placement interview

KL1Before I started looking for placement, I think I had one interview for a job as a waitress. Although I was a nervous wreck and didn’t have a clue how to make coffee, I somehow managed to get the job (and learnt how to make the best lattes ever). I remember asking my friends and family for tips on how to properly prepare for an interview, all of which was great advice and eventually got me a fantastic placement! So I thought I would share these interview tips with you all, hopefully they’ll be as useful to you.

 

Research the company – and make sure it’s the right company

I know this sounds obvious but it’s so easily done especially with smaller organisations. You Google the company, click on the first link and learn facts from the website to impress in the interview… except it’s actually the wrong company and the interviewer is as baffled as you are. The easiest way to avoid this is to check for a web link on any emails from the company or even just look out for their logo. Try and go the extra mile and check their social media accounts to see what projects they’re working on at the moment, they’ll be impressed that you’ve done more than just look at their website.

Dress for success

Your appearance in interviews is important, you need to look professional and appropriate for the role you want. I’m not saying you have to wear the most sophisticated dress ever with your new stunning black high heels from Zara, wear whatever you feel most confident in. If you feel comfortable wearing heels every day at work then do that and fair play to you, I however wore heels once and complained about it for a solid month (so not worth the pain).

Be Punctual

Organisations can be quite strict in terms of employees’ time keeping, your interview is giving them an impression of what you’re going to be like as an employee so it only makes sense to be punctual. It’s good to get there a few minutes early and give yourself some time, although don’t be like me and turn up 30 minutes early for an interview, it’s a bit much if I do say so myself.

Practice

My housemates were really encouraging when I was preparing for my placement interviews and helped me practice. If you look up interview practice questions, spend a few minutes thinking about how your skills are relevant to the job and question being asked. I found this website really useful for sample questions . Even the smallest things you’ve done can be made relevant to an interview, don’t sell yourself short.

Show your personality

Interviews can be so nerve wrecking and intense, it can be hard to feel comfortable and confident in those situations. One thing I have been good at is showing my personality and hiding the nerves, although it doesn’t feel like I’m hiding them well. I tend to try and laugh the nerves off and apparently it works well. My manager told me that showing my personality in my interview really made the difference. Of course the company wants the best qualified person for their job, but they also want someone they can work with and feel they will get along with.

Stay Positive and relax 

Again this is definitely easier said than done. It’s understandable to be panicked and worrying because you really want the job, but it is important to remember that it is only an interview and not the end of the world. If the interview didn’t go to well, see it as a learning experience and finding out what to change for the next one. If the interview goes fantastic and you get the job, well then you’ll know these tips were the reason for it, obviously.

 

Good Luck!

Kellina Loughran is a final year student on the BSc in Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellina-loughran-a382a9123/ , Twitter: https://twitter.com/kellina_x , and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kellinaloughran/

Better (than I could ever imagine!)

RH5

In the summer of 2015, it’s not surprising that when you’re due to begin a placement in the industry you’ve been studying in and things don’t appear to be falling into their perfect place – panic begins to kick in.

Yes a placement year in CAM is optional, but when you’re as super unsure about what direction to steer your life in as I was, all practical experience is welcome.

Amidst floods of tears and feelings of failure I couldn’t help but hold on to the ounce of optimism I had when I chatted with friends and they encouraged me that perhaps it was because there was something better “just around the corner.”

However, that little glimmer of hope was immediately disseminated with my instant response of doubt and disbelief “It’s a pretty BIG darn corner!”

*sigh*

A little patience goes a long way.

RH3

Looking back, I’m sure being patient was the last thing I had in mind (and I’m sure my parents can vouch for that!) but looking back, I can now fully appreciate the process and time it took to fully prepare me for life a few thousand miles away from home in the Big Apple.

Little did I know, that for just under 8 months I would spend my time living in Brooklyn in Metro World Child headquarters, with Metro staff and interns from all around the world, endeavouring to serve God and be a small part of His big plan for reaching children and their families with the gospel in the darkest neighbourhoods of New York City, presenting them with the only source of hope that is found through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Having been involved with different aspects of ministry in my local church at home in Northern Ireland, I was super excited (and nervous!) to work alongside an organisation that was involved in a similar style of outreach in New York City (a place I had longed to visit!) and see how God was at work in another part of the world with people willing to be used by Him.

All things work together for good.

RH2

From a young age, when posed the question “Where’s your favourite place in the world?” I always had one answer, “New York City.” Having never been there I guess that’s a bit of an irrational statement, but nonetheless, it was a desire that I knew was put in my heart for a purpose.

It was about 5 or 6 years previous before I set off on my New York adventure when I sat in my youth group on a Sunday evening after the church service and listened to a young girl, Sarah Reynolds share about her experience with what was formerly known as Metro Ministries in New York City. As we listened to her share the first-hand stories about “Sidewalk Sunday School”, “Yogi Bear Kids” and hearing gunshots while teaching children from the Bible on the streets of the poorest areas in the city, it all seemed like an overwhelming mix of intense excitement and legitimate fear. Still, I’ll never forget whispering in agreement with my friends, “I want to do that someday!”

A promise from above.

RH1

When you live in a family of four children with a father who much prefers going to airports to have a picnic as you watch planes come and go every day of summer before he’d ever step foot on one – you can guess that foreign family holidays weren’t a thing in our house. So I’m sure you can imagine the horror of even suggesting I board a plane and cross an ocean by myself to a city full of strangers and streets rife with criminals.

Yea it took a while to get over that one.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the loudest, bravest, boldest person that exists and probably the last person you would want to send to the ghetto of any city, but when you’re in the centre of God’s will and He gives you a promise from the Bible like the one above from Acts to hold on to, stepping forward in faith is the best direction to go.

In every detail.

If I was to begin to tell about the kids I had the privilege to meet, the people I had the pleasure of serving alongside, or even the moments I saw God’s hand most evidently at work, well, we would be here for quite a while. So in an attempt to sum up my feelings on E V E R Y T H I N G that took place during my time with Metro World Child in New York City here’s a verse from the Bible, which even before I left for NYC could use to describe the amount of ways I have seen God at work in my life.

RH4

Of course, there were tearful moments, sleepless nights and pesky lice problems (to name but a few hurdles along the way!) but I wouldn’t exchange my experience and memories for the world.

When people ask about my placement year and the reason for two years out of my studies I often jump to the most logical explanation I think they’ll understand for why I didn’t choose the ‘normal’ placement path. This range of excuses include: “I couldn’t get a placement”, I don’t think I tried hard enough”, “I didn’t apply for enough companies.” When in reality, perhaps it was just because God had something better in mind.

*Insert most commonly asked question*

Would you go back? To visit, for sure! Forever? We’ll have to talk to God about that one.

For now and until graduation, I’m just going to enjoy good old Northern Ireland.

Rachel H

Rachel Henry is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at: Rachel Henry

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.

CC3

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.

CC2

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…

CC1

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.

It was this time a year ago I quit the job I had for 13 years.

Carrying plates for a living begun as a way to earn some extra money back in university in the heady days of the nineties. University soon fell to the wayside and before I knew it, I found myself trapped in a regional hotel that made Jack Nicholson’s break-down in the Shining seem quite reasonable. This situation had to change, so I took my rabid consumption of the music press and turned my hand to writing about music.

I wrote, for free, for a local glossy magazine called Alternative Ulster. I promoted up and coming bands, I DJed anywhere that would take me. I did stand up comedy, I stage managed, I guested on Across the Line and turned my hand to restaurant critique. I also studied journalism but made the rookie error of starting my course mere months before the bottom fell out of the print industry.

Then I had a part time job as the in-house writer for a large promotions and bar company. It was the heady days before the 2007 property crash, and everyone was so rich we were buying Terry Bradley prints like they were going out of fashion (which they did) and paying to have tiny fish eat our feet. Almost overnight the bubble burst, the money was gone and Belfast’s nightlife died a slow death that year.  I was one of the unlucky ones, and so it was back to the restaurants.

Fast forward almost ten years. I’ve kept my hand in and continue to write. I’m looking for a placement in my third year as a CMPR student, but the market is very competitive, especially for a mature student. I’ve since quit my job in the restaurant, as I now have a family and a degree to worry about. The placement is hard to come by and I’m running through my contacts getting a lot of encouragement, the promise of passing on details, and then, out of no-where, word that a local venue is looking a digital marketing assistant.

It’s not a full time position, but more importantly it’s paid and I can continue to study while working on my final year. Within a few months the social media feeds have benefited from a dedicated member of staff and I am learning every day about the ins and outs of promotion.

Things turn full circle when my original boss from the promotions company gets in touch. He’s running Oktoberfest at Custom House Square and he’s looking someone for Digital. It would have been rude to say no.

What has this taught me? It would be easy to say that picking up work is not a matter of what you know, but who you know, but I would disagree. In these challenging times money is still a big factor and people demand a return on their investment. I’d prefer to say that work brings in work. Do your best, get a reputation and put yourself out there. I’ve since got two leads for more digital work, thanks to a high profile event.

If you’re asked, say yes and work out how you’ll do it afterwards. If you’re asked once and say no, there’s plenty of others who’ll say yes and you won’t get asked again!

Shane Horan is a mature student in his final year of BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.

Saturday Night on the Other Side

Saturday Night on the Other Side

Saturday night is the night we all look forward to. We get dressed in our best, spend hours on hair and make-up, make plans, and then re-plan in the group chat where the pre is gonna happen and then go out into the City, drink, dance and be merry, and at the end of the night have that compulsory take away before we head home. This has always been the Saturday night that I have experienced, until last December when during my placement with the PSNI I embarked on a Saturday night in Belfast City Centre on duty.

As it was December, Christmas celebrations were in full swing, and this goes for inside the police station where Red TSG (Tactical Support Group) are based, as when I arrived there was two fully uniformed officers singing along to Merry Christmas Everyone by Shaking Stephens, their way of ‘preing’ for the night ahead. I sat in the debrief room and listened to the Sergeant in charge running through how they planned the night to go. I was to go with the Sergeant and two Constables on City Centre duty. It was around two weeks before Christmas and therefore they knew that Christmas parties were going to add to what is normally the busiest night of the week. The PSNI were also in the midst of running their Winter Drink Driving campaign so all officers were asked to be extra vigilant with car checks when out on patrol.

 

TSG chat to the drink driver

We set off into the city centre around 7pm and after one spin around the town we headed up towards West Belfast when a driver hit the wing mirror of the patrol car and appeared to drive off in an erratic manner, tipping off the officers that he may be intoxicated. The driver was pulled over and breathalysed. With his result coming back fail, the man was arrested for drink driving and brought to Musgrave Custody Suite. Now, many believe that all police officers do is arrest and bring arrestees into custody, however this one person arrested meant the team lost one of his officers who had to fill out copious amounts of paperwork, and as the drunk driver was a foreign national it meant they had to wait on a translator also.

Back on duty, we set back into the city and within 10 minutes we received a call over the radio for rapid response. When we got to the scene three young men had overdosed on cocaine on the street and gone into cardiac arrest. An ambulance had arrived already and paramedics were performing CPR and administrating Adrenaline to the males which thankfully brought them all round. The street became crowded with residents of the surrounding area and passersby, and the police worked on securing the scene to protect the dignity of the young men and help out the paramedics trying to save the men’s lives. One of the police officers also helped the paramedics out as he was a first aider and the Ambulance service were stretched as it was on a busy Saturday night. The partnership between the emergency services is one that many forget and is one that helps so many in wider society.

A PSNI Facebook image of the incident

Once the men had been loaded into the ambulances and more police were able to arrive on scene, we left to go back on patrol when I noticed a man lying on the ground. We pulled over and it turned out the man was having a heart attack and had come out of his house to get help. We were aware that the ambulance service was stretched to capacity now, this being about 10.30pm so the officers used all their first aid skills they knew and waited until another crew were able to come and help the man.

At around 1am, we went into the City Centre again and in the space off two hours had handed out three tickets for public urination and stopped two fights from pub revellers.

To see a Saturday night from a different perspective gave me a lot of respect for the emergency services who under hard cuts and pressures go out and do their job with a smile and are able to have a few laughs along the way. If it hadn’t been for the emergency services three young men would have lost their lives in the middle of the road, another could have caused serious damage under the influence of alcohol and many others may not have gotten home safely. In one Saturday the three officers I shadowed dealt with at least 50 different people and were shouted at and abused. It reminded me that as I get ready for my Saturday night out, there are others who are doing the same, but to ensure our safety throughout our night.

Rosa O’Farrell is a final year student in BSc Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosa-o-farrell-2a796a23/