Flying the nest

Moving to a new place can be a daunting experience. The bright lights, the constant hustle and bustle, one day hurtling into the next.

Coming from a small town and being thrown into the city lifestyle can ask a lot of a “culchie” as city slickers like to call us non city folk.

For my university placement year , I decided to move to Barcelona. As the baby of my family I was the last one to fly the nest and leave my family behind. I felt like I was ready to go somewhere different, somewhere new. My dad lived in Spain when he was at college and my sister had lived in Spain a few years previously and I wanted to be the next on that list of ex-pats. Nothing would do that I would get my placement in España.

After a long job hunt I finally found a position in Barcelona as a digital marketing assistant in a Video Marketing Company. As a city I had never visited before, it was scary, exciting and ultimately life changing. If the tough 9-6 job hadn’t been included in the placement year deal,  I might still be there…! The prospect of 8 months in Barcelona was surreal, an opportunity of a lifetime, a brand new venture into the big bad world for me. Accommodation sorted, flights booked, job placement ready I was set for the Catalonian capital.

As a person who loves to always be in company, I found it incredibly hard adjusting to not having my friendship group around to have a cuppa tea or go shopping with. I didn’t like spending time on my own AT ALL. Over time though, I gradually grew to enjoy my own company, so when I did make friends in this new city where I knew NOBODY, it made such a difference to my lifestyle and my general mood. I never thought I would be the sort of person who could enjoy my own company but after this experience I definitely appreciate it a lot more.  Even though making friends took me a little while to do, it was worth it in the end. My Barcelona family circle kept me going through my months abroad, whether they reined from Ardboe, England, Canada or Germany, each one made my experience so worthwhile and I now have connections in all corners of the globe!

 

 

Possibly my favourite part of my time in Barcelona was the impromptu exploring. No plans, no destinations, no expectations. Whether it was roaming the streets of the city or going to the train station and getting on the next train to a neighbouring town for the day. These days always seemed to just, fall in place.

Getting lost on the streets of El Born or arriving onto the beach side train station at Tarragona. From sampling “Barcelona’s best churros” to walking in the Roman ruins in a neighbouring town, our spontaneous day trips were always a great success. Constantly reminding us of how lucky we were to be living in this stunning city.

El Bunkers del Carmel, a showstopper and a hidden attraction. Whether watching the sun rise or the sunset, you are in for a truly beautiful natural spectacle. Birds serenading the sun as it set was the perfect evening treat for any visitor or local.

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Putting aside all the fabulous aspects of moving to another city, I can’t forget about the homesickness. I did suffer a lot especially in the first two summer months. But this wasn’t going to let this stop me make the most of my time. It made me try something new. I joined Barcelona Gaels, the Gaelic team in Barcelona. This helped me find a bit of home in my new city. Joining the team was one of my best decisions. Running up Montjuic on a Thursday evening in 20-degree heat is undeniably a tough test, but an experience nonetheless! This team really made me feel welcome. The team spirit, the happiness for your teammates when they scored or even the craic on a team night out kept me going on those missing-home days.

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As I look back now, I am thrilled that I moved. I’m happy that I persevered on the tough days, embraced the good days and can now have such happy memories.

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I could talk for days on my favourite parts of my Barcelona, a city that will forever remind me of some tough days in work but an incredible myriad of memories that I will forever look back on with a happy heart. When I think of the girl I was before Barcelona and the girl I have become they are just worlds apart. With more independence, more appreciation, more perspective and more motivation, I’m glad I took that leap into the unknown and changed my life for the better…Barcelona style!

Barcelona, a Mediterranean city where new meets old, nature meets city and day meets night. Where buildings are art, food is life, work is play and every night is the night to meet up with friends.

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Derbhla Evans is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/derbhla-evans-132417153/

Did I give up on my dream of becoming an artist…or am I right where I need to be?

So here’s a little bit about me: My name is Kayleigh, I am 22 years old and I am only half way through my university degree. However before I can get to the good stuff I have to take you right back.

From a young age I always dreamt of being an artist. When I was in secondary school I lived and breathed art. Although I was very academic I only worked hard in other subjects (history & business) so that I could get the grades I needed to get into art school.

Long story short… my hard work paid off and my childhood dream came true. I was going to be an artist!

The calm before the storm 

In September 2016 I packed my bags and moved to the big city (Belfast). I was full of hopes and dreams; nothing was going to get in my way. Throughout my first semester my attitude changed. This course was not living up to my expectations, my dreams. I changed as a person. My parents noticed how unhappy and unenthusiastic I had become. This course was draining my passion for art from me day by day.

I have been told it takes real courage to change direction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Insight into Art School

One thing that you should know about studying art is that the meaning is more important than the execution. For example you could be amazing at art. You could draw the most perfect portrait, or paint the most beautiful painting the world has ever seen. But the question is… WHY did you draw that, what does it mean? 

It’s pretty…yes… but it doesn’t have a purpose or a story! (This is what they will tell you)

On the other hand someone could grab a ruler and draw a straight line. Perhaps they are feeling adventurous today and draw a square. But this is no ordinary square. Their square is the lines that define society.

My point is: It doesn’t matter how good the execution/final piece is, if there is no story or purpose to the art you will not get a good grade.

So is the creative idea more important than the execution if you want to become a successful artist?

*Come January 2017 I dropped out of my degree. I felt as though my world had ended but I couldn’t continue being this unhappy.

New Strategy

In September 2017 I started a new course: Communication, Advertising & Marketing at UU. To be honest I applied for this degree blindly. My dreams had been shattered. The future, unknown.

I was taught in school that marketing was a type of business degree that involved boring people in suits sitting in an office all day long reading reports etc. You would lead an extremely boring life…but hey you would be loaded!

How wrong was I? I was led down this path for a reason.

The re-invention of myself to date

I am now 4 months into my placement year at The Irish News. Every day I am faced with a new challenge or a new campaign. We create and pitch ideas. My ideas are actually listened to and taken on board. Once we establish that magic idea, we create a brief and send it to designers. We brief them on exactly what we would like the campaign to look like. From imagery, to colours to the overall design.

So am I the artist or is the designer who knows how to use photoshop?

I may not have created the final product…. BUT I was taught in art school that the final product is worthless if it doesn’t have a purpose/a story/a message.

It was drilled into me that I had a stupid dream because being an artist was like being a pop star, “you are never going to make it” “what will you do as a job”. There was a very slim chance that the world would see my art.

 

“Don’t give up on your dream because it is not going in the direction you want. There are different routes to the same destination. Stay focused and determined.”-  Janice Harris      

 

I took a different direction to achieving my dream. The dream I am now living.

I am no Picasso or Van Gogh but I guarantee that the majority of you reading this will have seen our artwork in the newspaper, online or perhaps on the side of a bus, you just don’t know it.

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Being a marketer means that my art is seen by the world, it has a purpose, it has a message and it has made a difference.

 

So… has my dream changed or developed? -That’s up for debate.

 

Kayleigh Tinney is a 3rd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University, current doing a placement year at The Irish News. She can be found on: Instagram – @Kayleightinney and LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayleigh-tinney-76b240161/.

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.

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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.

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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

Placement Panic

In this exact moment in time I wish I could just press pause in my life so all the stresses and worries of second year could disappear into thin air and just bugger off for an appreciated 5 minutes (that’s all I’m asking for).

It pains me to say that I am guilty of entering second year with the delusional mindset that it’s not going to be that much harder than 1st year, however, spoiler alert, it actually is a LOT harder.

I know there will be other people in my class who will read this and laugh at me because they may think so far second year is a breeze. They obviously haven’t felt the same weight on their shoulders as I have and if that is the case honestly fair play because I’d love to be in your position. However, surprise – I am not! Because here I am, writing this blog about how incredibly stressed out I am and it’s only the start of November.

The main cause of my current condition of basically just being a big bag of nerves is due to the dreaded topic of placement. At present, the only thing that seems to be going through my sore little head are the words ‘placement’ and ‘CV’. I’m sure many people have been in a similar position, because no one wants to consider that there will be a time (very soon) when they’ll not be kicking around the Jordanstown mall with their mates or making their way down to the Hatfield on a casual Tuesday night, for the weekly ‘County Holylands’. Instead, they’ll be making their overnight oats, laying out their clothes for their 9-5 in the office and anticipating the dreaded alarm blaring beside them at 7am the next morning. I know I know; I honestly can’t bare to think about it myself, I’ll start tearing up.

However folks, this is the sad reality of the dreaded placement life the majority of us will unfortunately all face at some stage in our university lives. So I’m writing this blog because I want my fellow stressed students to know I feel your pain, like a slap in the face, I feel it. It’s daunting, nerve-wracking and just down right scary that we have to step foot into the adult way of life and start putting together a 2 page document that defines exactly who we are, what we can do and what we’re good at.  Realistically, it would take a lot more for the people reading them to see how pretty amazing we all really are.

Personally, I’m not even exactly sure what it is I want to do yet, or what route of my course I want wander down because there’s so many different opportunities. I’m anxious about every possible aspect of placement, including what tasks I’ll be trusted with, what clothes I’ll wear everyday (so I look suitable for the role), if I’ll find myself in the same place or perhaps across waters in new surroundings (which in itself, comes with a whole lot more responsibilities my brain can’t even bare to consider right now) and if the people I’ll be working alongside will even like me…and not kick me out.

So I’ll end on a slightly higher note than I started. If anyone stumbles across this word vomit I have splattered out onto this page, and even slightly relates to how I’m feeling then please let me know! It’s a lot easier to suffer when you’re suffering alongside someone else who’s in the same boat, someone who reassures and comforts you because THEY GET YOU. As the saying goes, “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry”, so let’s all try have a laugh, even if we’re all just laughing at ourselves.

Holly Gillan is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing BSc student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Facebook: Holly Gillan, Twitter: @Hollyg453, Instagram: hollygillan987 and LinkedIn: Holly Gillan

Placement, In Retrospect

Everyone’s placement journey is different, for some of us we may find our dream job in one interview and for others, it may take several bottles of Rescue Remedy and endless nights on Glass Door.com.

What I learnt from the placement process is the most important thing you have to market is yourself, or how about, #SWOTYourself?

Strengths

Yes, we all did well in our A Levels, we’re here for that reason – we work hard, but we are not homogenous. Each of us offers something unique to future employers, some of us know what that is and some of us don’t but if the fit is right for you, your placement will be your match.

Try your best not to let your nerves get the best of you – excel in your strengths and your ability to communicate your ideas on why you are the best match for the prospective placement.

Weaknesses

My name’s Olivia McKearney and I completed six placement interviews; the first 1-4 were train wrecks. I prepped for each for them, had pages of notes of buzz words memorised but when I sat in front of the panel, everything was forgotten. I stuttered answers even though I knew I was more than capable to answer those questions.

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After each politely worded rejection I gave up for a few months, I applied for a final two placements and gave myself the ultimatum that if I didn’t get them I would go straight to final year – which is a completely worthy path but not the one I had planned to pursue.

On a Wednesday in May I had my fifth interview and I went in with one thing that had been absent from disasters 1-4, Confidence. I wasn’t intimidated anymore by the people across the table, I was able to converse with them because I knew the answers, and I didn’t need memorised statements.

The next day, I had my sixth interview. That afternoon, I was offered both placements and chose to accept McKeevers Chemists based in my home county of Armagh. You wait for a bus and two come at once.

Don’t become disillusioned, it will work out.

Opportunities

These prospective employers are here to give us opportunities to succeed, they wouldn’t have advertised the role if they didn’t want us, we’ll be taken seriously and treated professionally. I can only speak to my own experience when I say I received an unprecedented amount of opportunities on this year. From event planning, social media influencer outreach and content creation, this year provided the building blocks to my future career.

Don’t let anyone look down on your chosen placement, I have had, and still have people question the experience of what you can “really” achieve in a local company – check out my CV.

Some people remain largely ignorant to the effects of marketing, but not us as students, take every opportunity you can.

Threats

The obvious threat is that of competition amongst fellow students. We’ve faced that our entire educational career and it’s not going anywhere. As I said, you are unique as a person, better yourself and let employers see the real you across the desk – don’t let the biggest threat to success be you.

Placement was a pivotal year for me; I become financially stable and massively independent;

  • I travelled the West Coast of America for three weeks with my best friend.
  • I made my way to Budapest for a once in a lifetime music festival.
  • I realised the career path I want to endeavour and enhance my skills at.
  • I made wonderful friends and connections.
  • I achieved my own personal KPIs and know that I am more than capable and deserve my standing in the future of Communications.
  • I made myself proud.

If I can do it, you can too.

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Olivia McKearney is a Final Year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/olivia-mckearney  

 

 

A Year In The Real World

Here it goes, first blog and I don’t really know where to go with it but I’ll start by saying I’m currently writing this to avoid thinking about the dreaded dissertation! Week 4 and I still don’t know what I’m going to write 10,000 words on, surely I can’t be the only one?

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Rewind to March 2018, a second year student competing with hundreds of others for an opportunity to take a year away from studying and get a taste of what it’s like to work in ‘the real world’. At this stage in the year many students have already secured their placements but me being me I put it off until almost the last minute. May quickly came around and I finally bagged myself a few interviews, only to be rejected! At this stage I was talking myself into forgetting about doing a placement year and moving straight into final year, sure it would mean graduating a year sooner than expected and being done with Uni, that doesn’t sound too bad? (or so I tried to convince myself)

The summer had well and truly started and I still didn’t know where I was going to be come September, meanwhile others in my class had already started their jobs, I spent the next 3 weeks checking my emails about 30 times a day hoping Conor would send a job ad that I liked the look of. To spare you all reading another paragraph of invaluable information about my hunt for placement, my lucky day came and after a successful interview I was offered a 12 month post with Tourism Northern Ireland, yay! So don’t panic, even if you think you have left it too late you still have a chance to get a good placement.

Day one, the 17th of September and as you can imagine I was as nervous as I had ever been, I was a student with no experience, how am I going to know what to do? What if they expect too much of me? What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them? How am I going to get up at 6am every morning for the next year and travel 45 miles to Belfast!?

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First things first, if you are planning on taking a placement year I would HIGHLY recommend applying to Tourism NI, I couldn’t have asked for a better organisation to spend a year with. I joined the Social and Digital Marketing team and although I am studying a mainly PR focused degree I wanted something a little more marketing related, so this was perfect for me. Therefore if you can take anything from this, don’t limit yourself to what you apply for, if it’s not exactly what your degree title is and you think you could do it and meet the job requirements then go for it!

The team I worked in covered so much including looking after the Discover Northern Ireland website, consumer facing social media channels, digital partnerships and influencer marketing, data feeds, email marketing and visitor information along with all the general day to day admin. I think it’s fair to say that I got an excellent all round experience of all things digital marketing.

I had a lot of great experiences working with TNI but the highlight of the year has to be getting the opportunity to be involved ‘A Major’ (excuse the pun) sporting event in Northern Ireland. Unless you were living under a rock you will be well aware that The 148th Open was held at Royal Portrush in July and I got to spend a few days working in the TNI Marquee at the event – Not even our lovely Northern Irish weather could put a dampener on this!

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I have 3 top tips for anyone who decides to do a placement.

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  1. Network, Network, Network! You will come into contact with many people and other businesses throughout your time on placement so build as many relationships as you can with these people as you never know when these connections could be useful in the future.
  2. Don’t be scared to ask questions! We all like to pretend we know everything and don’t need any help, but the most important thing is if you are unsure about something no one is going to punish you for asking a question. After all a simple question is so much easier than putting extra pressure on yourself and trying to figure it out alone (This is something I wish I got into my head a lot sooner than I did).
  3. . Enjoy your year, take every opportunity and make a good impression.

Finally, after contemplating not taking a placement year I can now say I am so glad I did and I had the best year with Tourism NI. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity of doing a placement year as you will gain invaluable experience and meet some great people along the way. If you’re lucky enough to get into TNI, I hope your experience is as successful as mine was!

Back to thinking about the dissertation for me…

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Megan Carton is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/megan-carton-351485182/

Introducing Orlagh Shanks: An Interview With The UK’s Best PR Blogger 2018 & 2019

 

This is blogger, and former PR student, Orlagh Shanks (22), who runs the blog https://orlaghclaire.com/, where she talks all things PR related happening in the world from day to day. She also discusses all sorts of life experience topics, such as being a student, living in different cities of the world and general lifestyle categories.

I was drawn into Orlagh’s blog when I was exploring the idea of studying a PR related course at university, and with Orlagh being from the same town as me and attending the same secondary school, I felt I could gain some well trusted guidance from her blog.

Her blog was one of the many reasons I not only decided to study a PR related course, but also then decided to start my own blog.

So, for me, it is not hard to see why she has been given the title of ‘UK’s Best PR Blogger’ for not only 2018, but also 2019.

This is why I wanted to do an interview with her, for those that may not know her, in order to get to know Orlagh and find out what drives her in staying so dedicated to her blog and also to find out what her future plans are now that she has graduated. I feel that Orlagh will have some great advise for this years final year CMPR and CAM students.



Siobhan: 
Hey Orlagh, how are you? I have seen that your life has been crazy at the minute, so I appreciate your time to complete this interview. We are both from the same hometown and have both chosen to do PR related courses. You have now graduated with a first class honours, well done! So my first question for you is a typical one, why PR?

Orlagh: Hey Siobhan, I’m really good thanks! Ah, I always dread this question even though it’s so straightforward. I had always planned on following a career in finance, but my interests were always centred around magazines, fashion, entertainment and music. But growing up in the small town that we come from, a career in any of those industries was never really seen to be real or achievable to someone from Lurgan, in my eyes. But I spent three days at a PR agency in Belfast for work experience and I was sold. I wasn’t really able to explain PR to my mum and dad (or myself) but I just knew that it would allow me to somehow follow my dream career in one of those areas and be able to work with journalists since I had squashed my own idea of being a journalist once my two favourite magazines folded. Choosing PR meant that I was going to give myself a lot of options once I graduated from university and only once I started to study PR at LJMU did I realise just how many opportunities PR opens up.

Siobhan: How would you describe your course at Liverpool John Moore University?  What did you enjoy about it and was there anything you didn’t like about it?

Orlagh: It was a good course. I studied Business with Public Relations so I was able to also study modules like Marketing, Accounting and Finance, HR and Corporate Social Responsibility alongside my Public Relations modules. I enjoyed that part of it a lot as I now have a fair bit of insight into these areas of business that I wouldn’t have if I had studied Public Relations on its own. Another thing that I loved about the course was the option to carry out a placement year. I knew I was going to be making use of this once I had applied for the course.

What I didn’t like about the course was probably that it was very top line. Unlike a few other universities, my lecturers weren’t very active online in the PR community. They didn’t promote writing a blog like Conor McGrath from the University of Ulster does or Richard Bailey from Leeds Beckett. They didn’t really seem to know what was happening outside of LJMU or even that I had a blog and had won an award. It kind of felt like you were there to get the bit of paper at the end and that was it.

Quite like the schools back home, the main career choices were pointed towards working in corporate comms, crisis comms or internal comms for not-for-profits and public sector organisations. Roles such as publicity, influencer marketing and social media management weren’t discussed much or thrown into the equation.

Siobhan: Why did you choose to go overseas for university rather than stay at home?

Orlagh: Being honest, I couldn’t wait to get away from Northern Ireland. I was around 17 when my dad told me to get out of Northern Ireland as soon as I could, to make a better life for myself. I knew that there weren’t any opportunities for me and I wanted a change of scenery. I wanted to broaden my horizons, meet a lot of new people, live in a new city and see what England had to offer. I also think that if I hadn’t moved to Liverpool for university, I probably wouldn’t have applied for a placement in London as I would have gotten too comfortable being at home. Moving to England at 18 was probably the best decision I have ever made as I think everything that has happened since then has been a ripple effect from that moment. Right now, looking at Northern Ireland in the news and just being away for so long has really made me realise how far behind NI is and how much it is struggling in terms of government, healthcare, prospects etc. I know I won’t be coming home for a very long time, that’s for sure.


Siobhan: So you said you did your placement year in London, what was your experience with that? 

Orlagh: Yes! And it was the best year of my life so far, without a doubt. I was able to carry out a placement year at Coty Inc. in London working in the Luxury PR and Influencer Marketing department. I lived and breathed my job and was so excited to go to work every single day. I was basically living my childhood dream of working with magazines, going to fashion events, music events, movie premiers, working with huge fashion labels etc. It was everything I imagined and more. My placement year made me realise that you really can find a job that you enjoy and wake up excited to go to. Now that I’ve had that, I don’t want to settle for a job that I don’t enjoy when I could be working and progressing at one that I do. My team were the best, my role was the best, the other interns were great and living and working in London was an overall great experience and one that I won’t be forgetting for a long while.


Siobhan: How did you become the UK’s best PR blogger for 2 years running?

Orlagh: Truthfully, I don’t really know. I started blogging at the beginning of my second year of university, so three years ago now. I think it really helped that I was consistent and kept blogging at least once every single week and I think with the amount that I was writing, I was improving with the practice and with every blog post that I wrote. On my placement year my content really ramped up which I think helped a lot. Then during my final year, I still managed to post at least once a week, sometimes up to three times per week and was able to give a speech to students at Greenwich University in London as well as be active on social media, contribute to Twitter chats and network with other PR professionals.

I think the main thing was consistency. I made myself stick to posting something every single week and then just got into the habit of doing it. Now, it’s second nature to post at least once per week and when I don’t post, I have a weight on my shoulders until I do. I think the more time I invested into my blog, the more my stats progressed and the more recognition I received, the more I became pretty obsessed with my site. I was constantly trying to make it look better, write better content, make it easier to navigate, make social media pages for it etc. I’m quite proud of how far my blog has come in the past three years and I think the time that I put into it shows for itself. I would be up to all hours of the morning blogging away and neglecting all of my university work just so I could focus on my own website instead. And now the middle of the night is the only free time I have to blog in New York.


Siobhan: How did blogging help you during your time at university? And how do you think it has help you in your career path?


Orlagh: I guess for university purposes, it helped a lot with my essay writing. I was writing 1,000 word blog posts a few times per week, so when I was given a 2,000 word essay, it didn’t seem as daunting. This is also how I approached my dissertation. To me, 10,000 words was just like writing 10 blog posts – achievable. It also helped a lot in terms of knowing what was going on in the world of PR and being able to draw examples for my work as I was constantly reading about PR and getting involved in conversations surrounding what was currently happening.

The main thing that my blog helped me with was my career, for sure. I really do think I owe my placement year at Coty to my blog and the opportunities that followed. Any public relations graduate can say that they are interested in the subject since they studied it, but a blog really emphasises how much you are invested in the industry since you are constantly writing, reading and talking about what’s going on. Having a blog about your degree topic is probably one of the best things to have on your CV (if you can write and spell well of course).

There’s a lot of writing involved in PR, so your blog would be a great example of your capabilities, who you are as a person and your skillset for the working world of public relations.

 

Siobhan: What does the next year have in store for you now that you have graduated?

Orlagh: After graduating in July of this year, I moved to New York City at the end of August to work for a year in influencer marketing. I feel extremely lucky to be here and can’t believe that I actually am. I’ve only been here six weeks but working and living in New York has been everything I imagined and more.

I’m excited to learn more about influencer marketing and further my knowledge and skills in the area as it’s the career path that I currently want to follow and work in once my year in New York is up.

So for now, I’ll be spending the next 12 months in NYC working in the finance industry and seeing and doing as much as I possibly can. Where blogging fits into that, I don’t know as I don’t seem to have a spare minute to myself at all.


Siobhan: What advice would you give to the CMPR/CAM students of Ulster University to help them get through final year?

Orlagh: Enjoy it as best you can! It may be called final ‘year’, but in reality it’s around eight months maximum. Those months will go by in a flash and it will be straight out into the real world. Make the most of your lie-ins, your flexible calendar, your student discount, living with your friends, many nights out and everything that your university offers. I was able to go to Amsterdam with my course during my final year and it was the best way to celebrate the end of our four years together.

Also, look out for one another. Final year can be very tough and you can feel a huge amount of pressure when thinking about what you’re going to do next. That was probably the toughest part of final year for me – deciding what my next career move was going to be. Make sure your classmates are finding everything ok and if they are struggling, help them. There is no competition in university as you all want to finish with the top degree, so help make sure all of you get the result you deserve.

But seriously, enjoy it. Don’t feel that because you are in your final year that you need to spend the entire time in the library. Do your work on the weekdays and enjoy yourself on the weekends. You can have the best of both worlds and still finish with a first class degree. As long as you put the work in, you’ll get the mark that reflects it.


Thank you so much to Orlagh for being involved in this blog post and answering some questions for me. I feel that we can all take in this quality advice from Orlagh to help us complete our degrees.

View Orlagh’s award winning blog by clicking here.

 

Siobhan McKerr is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations staudent at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @Siobhan_mckerr, LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/siobhan-mckerr and Instagram: @Siobhan_mckerr.