Tara Dunning, a student at Birmingham City University is currently with us for one week. Here’s her latest blog.
It’s pretty obvious why work experience is vital when you are studying towards a chosen career. By gaining practical experience in the industry you hope to one day be a part of, you are learning cool things about your dream job that you just don’t get taught at university.
I study advertising marketing and PR at Birmingham University and my big plan is to finish my degree and begin to climb the career ladder. Although I love my part time job in retail, I can’t help but increasingly think about it as a stop-gap until I can finally qualify and start my expedition into the diverse and exciting world of communications.
I often get lost in day dreams while I am sorting the hangers out or processing someone’s refund on the shop floor. They may involve rushing around at press launches, making sure my celebrity client is prepared for her interview. And then it hits me. I have some serious competition.
Statistics published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show that 49.3% of young people in England entered higher education in 2014. I don’t know how many of the near 50% of graduates my age will be interested in a career in PR but I am sure that it is a popular industry.
According to Liz Yeomans, who is a principal lecturer in public relations, at Leeds Metropolitan University, there are a shocking number of graduates applying for jobs in PR with no experience. So as soon as my second year university semester ended, my job hunting for a work experience placement commenced.
It was vital for me to try to find a suitable work experience placement. I reasoned if I’ve got experience then I’m slightly ahead of the competition that Liz was talking about.
After sending the first 10 emails, I heard nothing back but I persisted and here I am, working at a PR Week top 150 agency feeling like part of a well-oiled team of REAL PRS!
Here is a secret: You’re not always making tea; in fact I’ve hardly made any tea at all. I have been writing press releases for a big client. I have provided marketing support and delivered target market research for a client who is looking to expand their services.
I’ve also noticed that you gain an awareness of the issues in the industry from working with people already immersed in it. The environment is slightly different than I imagined, I love it and I still 100% want to be a professional PR but the job covers so many tasks (including the mundane) for the client. There is lot more to PR than people might think.
This confirmation and awareness that PR is exactly what I want to do is a nice feeling. However many students could partake in work experience to find that the job is not what they are looking for, but at no cost to the employer and with the opportunity to try work experience elsewhere afterwards, it’s no big deal.
The biggest and most valuable aspect of work experience may be the added advantage to your degree, or the networking opportunities, or even a job at the end of it. What better place can you go to for advice or to ask questions and get real, honest answers than from people who are already living life as a professional in the industry that you dream about?
I know what it’s like, you get 20 weeks of the summer and you have cool things planned, I’m trying to get as many hours as I can at the shop so I can save and move out, but if you want a good job in the future you have to start investing in yourself NOW. If you are like me, and have big plans for the future, think big, but start small. Send emails, start your portfolio and ASK anyone and everyone you know if you can volunteer. You’re working for free but you are earning information for your CV that will in time be invaluable.
Or don’t, I could do without the competition.
Not everyone will take plunge and ask an agency if they can come in and be part of the team. Not every agency will take the time of day. But this one did, and I already feel although am better equipped for that fast approaching graduate life when the day dream stops and real life starts.