Hello. Welcome to my newest blog series, documenting the thoughts of placement students as far and wide as I can. Each week (hopefully) I will have a profile of a current placement student giving their thoughts on searching for placements, the competitiveness, how they found the process and what they think of their placement they are currently undertaking. And most importantly, they will give their verdict on whether they think a year in industry is worthwhile.
This week’s interview is with Ellie Foster who works as a Press Assistant for the Beauty SEEN Group, London – finally, a PR interview! I actually met Ellie during the placement process and we have kept in touch ever since. Assessment Centres can also make for great networking opportunities! This below interview is a very interesting read as Ellie tells about her experience helping to launch Fenty Beauty in the UK, attending glamorous events as well as the struggles of completing a placement year unpaid!
Ellie attends Bournemouth University, where she studies on the BA Public Relations course and is currently 11 and a half months into her placement position. Below are her thoughts on placement life so far:
The application process
OC: Was a year-long placement compulsory on your course?
EF: Yes, it was compulsory, but I am so, so glad it was because it forced me to move out of my comfort zone and I honestly couldn’t imagine not doing one.
With a year in industry being compulsory on your university course, how did you find the competition with your classmates in securing a placement?
I found that it was rather competitive. Everyone wanted to go into the same industry which is a really competitive industry anyway, and then those who wanted to go into Beauty PR didn’t have a huge amount of choice as there are only so many beauty focused PR agencies, meaning we were going up for the same jobs.
I also think everyone felt quite pressured, as my university didn’t help much when looking for placements but made us feel panicked if we didn’t get one straight away! Not many people got them instantly, no matter how experienced they already were.
How did you find applying for placements; Did you apply for many? Was there a team at your university to help with placement searching? What websites/resources did you use for your search?
At first I found it exciting, but when I started getting turned down I didn’t so much! I went to three interviews in total and I seemed to become more relaxed as I went along, but they were still quite scary.
I started off with the mindset that I would only apply to Beauty PR agencies because that is my main passion, but when I started getting turned down, I applied for an array of PR agencies and in-house companies. However, my persistence meant that I still ended up in beauty!
What would be your advice to students who are looking for placements themselves?
Definitely not to panic. I know it’s easier said than done, but it just isn’t worth panicking over – it doesn’t help anything.
Placement opportunities become available throughout the year, so there is always time to find something! I would suggest not giving up, because you will find something.
With the company you are on placement with now, what was their application process like? Was there anything you particularly did or didn’t like about it?
I saw my current placement advertised on my University placement website and started looking into them, and loved the feel of the company from their Instagram and clients. I then reached out to them via email stating this and how I would love to be part of their company and sent over a cover letter and CV.
I remember that night I was drunk in the queue for a club (typical) and saw a notification that they wanted to give me a phone interview! I thankfully decided not to respond right then, but first thing the next morning I responded. I then had a phone interview followed by a more relaxed face to face interview at their offices. A week later I was offered the job!
How do you think completing a year in industry will give you an advantage when applying to jobs over those that haven’t? (If you think this is the case)
I think the amount of experience I have from the past year will help me greatly going forward (fingers crossed!). In PR, experience is key. I have learnt a huge amount over the past year about the industry and quite honestly about myself and my true strengths and weaknesses.
I think even more so than this, it has given me a lot of confidence. Confidence to approach different people and companies once I have finished at uni and confidence in general.
Had you interned anywhere before your placement? If so, what job role, how long for and what were the main roles?
I had done work experience at a few in-house beauty brands including NARS, Estée Lauder and Tom Ford Beauty, but spending a week or two in a role is nothing compared to spending a year in a role!
You become a trusted member of the team and much more independent during a placement year, as expected. But I do definitely recommend if you can, getting a week or so experience with different companies before searching for a placement because it gave me the chance to meet some amazing people and work with amazing brands.
From your previous internships/work experiences, did this prepare you for full-time work in the role you are in now? Did it help you know what to expect or what was going to be expected of you?
My previous experience definitely helped me understand the industry more than I would have if it wasn’t for that experience. However, spending a year in a role is completely different to two weeks work experience, as previously mentioned. You inevitably learn a huge deal more in a year than just two weeks!
On the job
How did you feel when you first started your placement year? Were you nervous/excited?
I was sooo scared! I felt like everyone knew what they were doing and I had no clue. I also felt really shy when I started, which may be shocking to some people who know me.
I didn’t feel confident in my role but I persevered because I knew with time, I would pick it up.
Compare your feelings of how you started with how you feel now. Do you feel like your job is second-nature? Or do you feel like you are still learning?
I feel like although I am far more confident now and can do some tasks I would have found difficult at the beginning with my eyes closed now, there is still so much to learn!
I love how in this industry no day is ever the same and it is always changing. Everyone in the industry is always learning and bettering themselves and adjusting to the changes, whether it be with new technology or new products. I feel like I will never know it inside out, but that’s exciting (and sometimes scary).
Have you been able to experience other roles within the company?
I have often been put in positions experiencing different roles, say when someone is on annual leave or sick and you have to pick up on their work. Or if someone is busy with another client or often if you have strengths in a particular area. I feel like this is exciting because you get to see a glimpse of what’s to come!
What’s been the highlight of your placement year?
Without a doubt, working on Fenty Beauty. It has been a very demanding brand but it has given me so many opportunities. Fenty is the brand I am so incredibly passionate about, perhaps because we launched it and have worked on it ever since. The huge success of the brand has just made me feel so proud, and the tireless hours worth it!
A standout moment for me was the Fenty Beauty launch party where Rihanna made a guest appearance. She is such a genuine person and seeing everyone’s reaction to her when she was walking around was crazy. Definitely something I’ll never forget!
What’s been the biggest learning curve/mistake you’ve made?
To always check who you’re sending an email to!! On one occasion I accidentally sent an email to someone with the same name as the person I was intending to send the email to and it was a horrible feeling! But I’ve definitely learnt from that and it’s not to be repeated!
Placements – are they worth it?
Since you’ve been putting your degree into practice, do you think you’ve made the right decision with the course you’ve chosen? Could you see yourself in a similar job once you graduate?
I definitely think I will continue working in PR. It’s made me understand the sector even more and confirmed my decision!
Overall, do you think a year in industry is beneficial and prepares students for life post-graduation? Would you recommend it?
Most definitely. I couldn’t recommend it enough. I think in PR and Marketing it is crucial to make key connections and learn as much as possible. However, perhaps for some industries, it isn’t so key.
Now that you’ve almost finished your placement year, if you could go back to second year when you were in the application process, would you still choose the same company and role?
I definitely don’t regret choosing the placement I picked because I have learnt so much and have been given amazing opportunities, but being unpaid has been very, very difficult.
Although I live at home, working your ass off essentially for free is a rather crappy feeling. But I just had to keep reminding myself that it would pay off in the end, so fingers crossed it does!
Last question – Do you feel more motivated to go into final year or are you feeling apprehensive?
I feel really excited to go back into final year. I’m so excited to live with friends again and go out and have that freedom. However, I am dreading the workload and the deadlines. I’m also going to miss the friends I have made on my placement year so, so much, but hopefully we will visit each other when we all go back to uni!