#FinalYearFear with Orlagh Shanks

Orlagh Shanks

Since I interviewed myself for the Placement Profiles, I thought since I pestered everyone again with more questions, I would put myself through it too. Plus I thought it would be fun to look back at the year and my university life and think about the future.

What I’ve realised from this series, is that most people know where they’re going after they graduate which was quite worrying when I was posting the interviews as I had no idea where I was going.

My 13th and final interviewee to talk about #FinalYearFear is myself, who studies on the Business and Public Relations degree at Liverpool John Moores University. I spent my placement year in London working as the Luxury PR and Influencer Marketing Assistant at Coty (lol as if you don’t already know that) and you can read all about it here.


Hello, how are things with you? How are you finding final year at the minute?

Orlagh: Things are just ok, all of the work is starting to creep up on me now. When it rains, it pours as they say and as usual I’ve left everything a little last minute so I’m trying to catch up and get focused (and stop spending so much time on this blog).

Have you noticed much of a difference between final year and your first two years at uni? Is there a lot more pressure and work to do?

Orlagh: A little. If I’m honest, the first semester of university wasn’t that bad and we didn’t actually have that many assignments. I’ve enjoyed this year as the modules have been really interesting and I’ve been able to apply my placement experience quite a lot which has really helped. I’ve found that I’ve been getting a lot higher marks this year in the assignments that I’ve enjoyed because they were linked to my placement.

It was fun being able to re-visit my old job and write assignments based on launches and events that I was a part of. The work has been harder, I mean I’m not being asked to read a speech like I was in my first year but thankfully I haven’t had to do any presentations or group assignments this year and it’s all been quite straightforward.

How have you found transitioning back to university life after placement?

Orlagh: Honestly, I found it quite difficult. When I was on placement I couldn’t wait to get back to university life, not having to get up early every single morning and feeling a little robotic working 9-5 and then repeating every day, but when I actually got back to university, I hated that I had no routine and was sleeping all day, going to university for a few hours and then having nothing to do.

I learnt that I had to get myself into my own routine which worked better when I got my job back in Internal Communications which meant a few days working 9-5 along with university. I definitely found the transitioning of getting back into the social life very easy though.

Now that you’ve experienced life in the corporate world, are you excited to go back or sad to leave university behind?

Orlagh: A little bit of both. I’m excited to get back into hopefully a job that I will love as much as I loved Coty as I would have happily threw in my final year of university to keep working there, but I’ll also miss Liverpool a lot. Every time I think about it I push it to the back of my mind as I really don’t want to leave but I know that I have to in order to move forward.

I’ll be leaving a piece of me here in Liverpool and will have a lifetime of fond memories to look back on but I’m also excited to see where I end up next and what I end up doing. I won’t be sad to leave university behind as the £50k of debt just doesn’t seem to be justified.


Have you had to write a dissertation this year? How’s that going?

Orlagh: Yes, unfortunately. It’s always that assignment that you dread even from first year, but it actually didn’t go too bad. I mean, I could have started way earlier which was probably my biggest failing but when I worked it out, if I wrote a few hundred words per day, I would be fine. I’m used to writing 1,000 or so words for each blog post so it didn’t seem that challenging. Just 10 blog posts, right?

It also really helped that I was interested in the subject. I was reading all about influencer marketing and opinions from all around the world. I was also learning about things I hadn’t come across yet, such as virtual influencers. The more I read, the more I got ideas for my blog rather than my dissertation but I got there in the end!

Do you think you could have approached it better? Any advice for final years writing one next year?

Orlagh: Oh definitely. One of my main issues was deciding what to write about. Especially within PR, you have so many different routes you could take as the title covers so many different areas. But since I had worked in influencer marketing the year previous, I knew I wanted it to be on this area. Deciding what to write about within influencer marketing, was the hardest part.

I’m going to be writing a blog post about the dissertation in a few weeks when final years start thinking about their own as I went in never having written (or read) a literature review and ended up writing my dissertation in three weeks and managing to come out with a first. It was fueled by days spent in a coffee shop staring out the window at passers by rather than the library staring at other students freaking out about their own dissertations.

My advice would be:

  • Start early – it definitely makes it more manageable.
  • Figure out your topic/question early on – it will probably change, but at least know what you want to investigate.
  • Pick something that interests you – I really enjoyed influencer marketing and I won’t lie, I actually enjoyed researching about it too. I couldn’t imagine I would have the same enthusiasm in writing about political affairs within communications.
  • Get your interviews/surveys done early – this was one of the best things I did as it left me lots of time to analyse the data and then go back and do my literature review – I kind of worked backwards.
  • Do it in the order that works for you – I added to my literature review as I went along. I would take each section and add to it but never spend hours and hours on the same part, to make sure I didn’t get bored or browned off with what I was writing.
  • Meet with your tutor! – these sessions are vital, especially since that will be the person that is marking it. Make the most of these sessions and if you have to, email them a lot, annoy them, ask lots of questions – that’s what they’re there for!


What are your plans for the future? Have you secured a job/grad scheme? Are you planning to travel? Masters?

Orlagh: None of the above :). I’m currently in a very tricky situation – one I didn’t expect to be in. I’ve had a few job offers in London, and another job offer that if I wasn’t in another process, would have accepted on the spot. But, I’ve been in a process since March for a job overseas which I am currently holding out for. Failing that, it will be back to London for the aforementioned job that will hopefully wait for me.

I had ruled out a Masters this year, but I don’t think I want to rule it out forever. I enjoy learning a lot, just not the assignments part, but I would love to be able to gain a Masters in a subject that interests me. Maybe even a PHD further along the line. I don’t want to stop learning.

As for traveling, I would love to get up and go. Financially, I can’t afford it right now. But I don’t want to rule it out either. If I work for a few years and save, I would take the opportunity if I could. Some say it would be foolish to deter from my career after starting on the ladder, but we have one life. I want to see the world, even if that means taking a year off from progressing in my career.

Where do you see yourself in 12 months time? What do you hope to have achieved by then and where would you like to be?

Orlagh: This is so hard because I don’t actually know where I’ll be in four weeks time, never mind 12 months. If all goes to plan, I will hopefully be coming to the end of a 12 month internship in one of the best cities in the world, have expanded my network, traveled a lot, made a lot of new friends, a lot of memories and be planning my move back to the UK to start another job in PR. Oh, and I hope this blog will still be going too.

What’s the number one highlight of your entire university experience and why?

Orlagh: Our free trip to Amsterdam was definitely up there with the best, as I’d always wanted to go and I fell in love with the city. I also want to say the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made is definitely another top highlight – I’m so grateful for the memories (even the hangovers).

But my top highlight would have to be how much I’ve changed in the last four years and everything I’ve achieved since then. I started my university experience not really knowing what PR was, and now I’m ending it with a PR blog, being the UK’s Best PR Student Blogger for two years in a row, had the most amazing placement year ever, an award at my graduation and even an invite to Greenwich University to speak to their PR students. I guess you could say I found myself and what I want to do for the rest of my life. That would have to be my number one highlight.

What’s one thing you’re looking forward to after graduating?

Orlagh: Not partying so much. Honestly, I think I’ll be going off alcohol until Christmas at this rate. I’m looking forward to starting the rest of my life; to properly begin my career in PR. The world is my oyster, who knows where I will end up and what I’ll be doing but I can’t wait to find out.

What’s one thing you’re fearing about life after graduation?

Orlagh: Everything! At this present moment, I have a one-way plane ticket back to Lurgan with no certain plans in place that I’ll be leaving again. The number one thing I’m fearing is going back home and staying there. So, can you cross all fingers and toes and light as many candles as possible that I’ll be moving overseas??


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