What I’ve come to realise after many applications for placements and from conducting my #GirlBossMonday posts, in the PR industry, experience is everything.
Experience is no longer a way of impressing the employer, but now seems to be a basic requirement for any job in PR.
But how can I get experience when every job requires that I already have some?
Start as soon as possible
When I was 16 years old and looking for my first job, this was always a frustration of mine. Looking through the adverts, ‘experience essential’ or ‘experience advantageous’ was featured in every one. How was I going to get my foot in the door when these places were only hiring people with experience?
It was a matter of ‘who’ you knew rather than ‘what’ you knew.
In all honesty, I acquired my first job because it was the same company that my mum worked in. By 19, I had three years of experience in the hospitality industry; in waitressing, bar work, reception and admin work and PR and event managing. I was starting my second year of university and had yet to sit an interview.
As part of my Careers class in secondary school I had to go out into the wonderful world of full time work for work experience. I spent three days at CMPR which I acquired by sending an email. The other two days were spent at a local accountants, which I acquired through a family friend.
Starting my second year of university, I realised how important work experience was going to be when I started applying for placements. To make myself stand out amongst other applicants I was going to have to do something about it.
I already had three days at CMPR and an entire summer doing PR for my local nightclub on my CV, but it still didn’t seem enough.
Applying for placements
During my reading week in November, I spent five days at Influential, a PR and marketing agency. I also started working as the Internal Communications Assistant at a large insurance company on the Wirral, where I work two days a week alongside my university classes. This means I’m gaining experience every week, while at university.
I could tell that this was the major difference when it came to my applications for placements as I got through to the next stage of every one that I applied for. I don’t want to sound as though I’m blowing my own trumpet, I only want to advise you, as PR students, how to get placements and jobs.
At the assessment centre for Coty, the two other girls that I was up against had stacks of work experience at major companies like Esteé Lauder, L’Oreal and even Coty itself. I thought I had no chance.
Will experience alone get me the job?
Having experience clearly set me apart from the thousands that applied, but these girls also had experience. So what was going to set me apart from these girls at the final stage?
Having this blog may have given me the edge, as the company are heading down the blogger/influence route in the coming months but my experience seemed to be what secured the job.
When I was offered the job, the first question I was asked was, “do you feel that you understand the role?” Only from experience could I say ‘yes’ as I know what happens day to day in a PR office. No two days are the same. You cover so many different clients in one day, a lot of research is involved and there’s a lot of admin work to be done.
The company were looking for someone to come in and not have to be taught from scratch. From all the experience I had, I knew that I would be able to carry out the role successfully.
What the professionals say
From my #GirlBossMonday interviews, when I ask what advice they would give a student today, all of them say ‘INTERN!’ Start interning as soon as possible. Get as much work experience now as a student, so that you can go straight into a graduate job. A better graduate job.
Intern for as many companies as you can, in many sectors and for both in-house and agency. Get a feel for what you like best. Experience isn’t just something to have on your CV, it also allows you to get an insight into your future. It helps you make decisions on where you want to be working and what doing.
You might think PR is the right career path for you, but once you step into a PR office, you could change your mind completely.