Having recently embarked on my second year journey of my PR degree, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on my first year as a PR student and maybe advise the current freshers, who may be feeling the same way I was during induction week – not really knowing exactly what PR even meant.
By the end of your first year, you’ll know for definite if public relations is the career path for you. Around Easter time was when I truly fell in love with the subject. I wanted to read every book and blog I could find related to PR, research the most successful PR gurus and somehow follow in their footsteps and mirror their successes.
During the first semester of my first year I was still trying to find my feet in the new city I was living in and trying to balance uni life with my social life. I landed a part time job in a fast food restaurant to give me some pocket money to help with nights out and dinners with friends. The hours I was given were almost always weekends from 10pm-6am plus one night during the week. My sleeping pattern was out of whack, I was missing big nights out with my flatmates, I wasn’t eating properly and my body almost gave up I was that exhausted.
I gave up the job after six weeks and if I’m honest, I would totally recommend not having a part time job in your first year (if you can survive without one). I went out minimum three nights a week and loved every minute of it. I spent so much time with my flatmates and other people I had met through them and built strong relationships that I hope to keep.
I’d say I attended 75% of my uni classes, missing the occasional 9am but I never missed a Finance & Info class, which I made sure of. If you’re undertaking the Business with PR course at LJMU this year and have the finance module in January, make sure you attend every class!! I can’t stress this enough. A lot of people struggled with the finance but the maths geek inside me quite enjoyed it.
With the essays I lacked a lot of motivation. I would leave it until five days before it was due and tackle it at 10pm each night which, looking back, probably wasn’t the best plan of action. But I find I work best in the middle of the night and it’s when I feel most motivated and energised. Weird, I know. I remember submitting two of my essays after 4am near the end of the year, but that time of night was my quiet time and when I worked best. During those days I preferred to sleep past 1pm so I was able to stay up late, which couldn’t be any farther from what I’m like now.
Your first year is kind of a free pass to explore yourself and the city you live in. Your final mark doesn’t count towards anything but you must at least pass to be able to progress to second year. So go out, have a good time but go to some classes, put in the work and you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
I surprised myself (and probably my tutors) by finishing first year with a first (1:1)! I have no idea how I achieved it since I spent 90% of my time in Concert Square and sleeping until mid-afternoon but somehow I did. It’s given me the motivation to attack second year with a hard working attitude so that I can end this year on the same level as my first year. I’ve set the bar high for myself so I need to maintain it.
My first bit of advice to first year PR students is to take every opportunity you receive. Whether it’s a field trip to a manufacturing company or a lecture given by a visiting professor, attend it. The focus of one of my end of year essays was on three talks we’d received throughout the year and we had to reference these talks in our essay, which would’ve been very hard for the people that didn’t attend.
Start networking. You’re in a class with hopeful future PR professionals. They could come in handy someday. Keep in good relations with your classmates, they make for lifelong friends and associates. Networking is an essential skill to have as a PR practitioner, so there’s no time like the present to start developing this skill. No matter who you come into contact with, network. Whether it’s a visiting lecturer, your own tutors, business men and women, members of the student union or even people you meet on a night out. Exchange details, connect with them on LinkedIn, and make sure they know who you are.
You’ll have quite a lot of spare time in your first year, so don’t waste it like I did and watch every series possible on Netflix – although I thought it quite an accomplishment to have finished six seasons of Gossip Girl in two weeks – instead put that extra time towards something useful. Start a blog. In the world of PR you need to know how to write and write well. Having a blog will enable you to practice your writing skills and it’s also impressive to an employer to see that your writing has reached an audience and you’ve received comments and feedback. Having a blog is also a good way of networking as you’ll find a lot of people with the same interests as yourself.
Immerse yourself in the PR world and you’ll want to go to class rather than feeling like you have to. Read, read, read. Read every book and blog you can get your hands on and learn about PR. Watch a documentary or a Ted Talks video. There are so many amazing PR books out there that you must read. To be the best you need to learn from the best.
Get organised and make lists. Get a calendar or diary, whatever works best for you and have your planner for the week or month somewhere you can clearly see it every day. Add your class timetable and mark in when all of your assignments are due throughout the year. Keep on top of your assignment list, you may have two or three due the same day. Organise your time so that you can fit in uni, seeing friends, time for yourself and your own PR time.
Take advantage of the professional PR association memberships that are being offered to you for free. You may be able to join CIPR and CiM thanks to your tutors.
Be a know-it-all. Keep asking questions, be on top of the game. Know the ins and outs of everything going on in the world. Never stop being curious. In PR you always need to know about current affairs and what’s going on in the business world. Read the news whether it be online or in print. Get alerts sent to your phone, follow the top news accounts on twitter. Make sure you’re always surrounded by what’s going on in the world.
The more experience you receive, the more focused you’ll be on a particular area of PR that you want to work in. Find an internship or five. Work for a day or two at an in-house PR company and in an agency. Compare the two and decide for yourself which you think suits you best and which you’d rather work for.
Most of all, enjoy your first year. You’re in a new city, living independently and about to have the best year of your life. Do it right. Do it well.