We're near-constantly inundated with applications for work experience placements at RDPR and have been blown away by the quality of interns we've taken on. To give a little back, and hopefully offer some insights into what it's like working at a busy Manchester PR agency, we've put together some top tips on getting the most out of a placement.
Working within public relations can be an extremely rewarding career with endless opportunities across every business sector imaginable. But I won't lie, while the job definitely has its perks at times it's no cake walk. Working closely with high-profile clients and schmoozing at a few champagne-fuelled events each year might seem wonderful, but let me definitely reassure you - it's not all the glitz and glam that you expect!
However, with fewer jobs and more graduates in today's market, one piece of advice we can offer to people searching for a career in PR is get as much experience as you possibly can. This will help boost your CV, show prospective employers you're willing to go the extra mile and provide the quality "hands-on" experience that they like to see.
Finding a placement can sometimes be tough, but a simple yet effective way to search for a posting is to create a cover letter asking for the opportunity, explaining your current situation and how you would like to get acquainted with a career in PR.
Depending on which PR sector you go into, having the "gift of the gab" could be vital to the success of your career. PR is all about communication with the public, the media and other interested parties, so you're going to have to get comfortable talking to people you don't know - whether this is on the phone, in person, via email or through social media.
There are certain essential qualities and skills that you'll need to get ahead in PR. These include:
- Good verbal and written communication skills
- An ability to multi task and manage your time effectively
- A good level of organisation and planning
- An interest in all forms of media
- An ability of being able to understand the importance of digital media
We receive dozens of emails each week asking for work experience opportunities, yet only offer placements to a handful of candidates each year. We're not simply looking for someone who ticks the boxes in terms of having a good work ethic and interest in the field, but someone who'll bring relevant skills to the table and genuinely benefit from their time here. Just some of the things that inform our selection criteria include:
Do candiates have an interest in what's going on around them?
If you want to get into PR, then you need to be aware of current affairs, trends and issues. Keeping up to date with the world around you is vital when advising clients or brainstorming unique campaign ideas. PR agencies want to see you being innovative, creative and recognising wider opportunities for tie-ins in regard to the work they are tasking you with.
Do they have good communication skills?
You must be confident talking to a wide range of people. For example, your role may involve dealing with journalists and meeting with groups of people that are important to the client you are working for. You also need to have an interest in cultivating your writing skills, as you're likely to be producing press releases, editorial copy and increasingly web-based content during your placement. Practice what you have been asked to draft and make sure you look back through old materials released for the same client to get an awareness of the tone and style of writing you need to produce.
Do you cope well under pressure?
PR roles can be incredibly varied, so you need to be able to organise your workload in order to meet strict deadlines. The ability to multi-task is essential and a flexible attitude is important. If you are looking for a nine-to-five job, then PR is probably not for you – your position may involve early starts, late finishes or from time to time at the weekend.
Make a difference on your placement and stand out from the crowd!
Some of the best work experience placements we have seen are from graduates actively involving themselves in the team. You can make a real difference working in a company if you show that you are willing to take on tasks and become involved in important areas of the business early on in your placement.
A placement is a great place to try out new ideas, providing the agency is happy for you to do so. As well as learning about the world of work, you are also there to help your employer and learn some new skills - so don't be afraid to show your creative side.
Put knowledge into practice
The best way to learn is to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. There is no better way of trying it out everything you have learned in your years at university than to put it in practice on your placement. An agency wants a dynamic work experience graduate that is willing to learn and the more enthusiasm you show, the more you'll get out of your PR placement.
Pump up that CV
I find that there is nothing worse than a CV boasting about ten A* GCSEs, five A grade A-levels and a predicted first. Academic skills alone won't make your application stand out these days. We want to see CVs that are vibrant, encouraging, show relevant experience and especially ones that are flush with practical skills. We want to know you can cut it away from the comforts of student life and be a part of the team. A couple of placements or examples of extra-curricular work on your CV shows your willingness to make things happen and can make all the difference when you come to apply for jobs in the future.
Finally, we all know that work experience is all about getting a job!
Many employers will recruit graduates who've done placements with them. It benefits both parties as the intern will know the layout of the company and have already shown dedication. The graduate gets to work for a company that they've already tested out, while the employer will already know your strengths and weaknesses.
We understand that finding a job fresh out of university these days can be a challenge, and bagging a PR or communications role is probably even tougher these days due to the ever-tighter marketing budgets and growing competition. However, I can't emphasise enough that if you land that work experience placement, put in some hard work and are willing to try new tasks and gain relevant experience, you will definitely stand out from the crowd.
Hopefully, that's given you some insight into what we look for in a work experience candidate, but we're always interested to hear your opinions and how we can better-help graduates who want to flourish in the PR industry.
Do you feel interns get the most out of placements when they are taken on or are they typically left counting pencils in the stationary cupboard? And if you're a graduate - is there anything that you would like to learn more about on placements?
As always, we're currently looking out for keen, enthusiastic and knowledgeable graduates who have a keen interest in PR and marketing. So, if you are interested in gaining some real-life experience in a busy agency environment - why not send us your CV?
We offer candidates the opportunity to work in a variety of fields, from traditional media relations projects to new and exciting digital marketing campaigns, so don't be a stranger and get in touch today.
Images used courtesy of Bill Koplitz and Tulane Public Relations on Flickr.