Five practitioners on getting hired and getting ahead in public relations

Five practitioners on getting hired and getting ahead in public relations

A blog about career development in public relations with insight from expert practitioners.

We ran a session for students at Newcastle University last week on getting hired and getting ahead. Practitioners at varying stages of their career joined the session. They spoke about their first job, their career; sharing insights and reflections.

Here the North East based practitioners talk about applying for jobs; agency vs in-house; motivation; authenticity; and career planning.

My thanks to Becky Beaumont, Amy Maughan, Abi Kelly, Gill Stephenson, Tudor Tamas and Ross Wigham.

#1 Only apply for the jobs that you really want

Getting your first job out of university can be daunting, but the main thing to remember is not to panic.

Rather than applying for everything and anything in a hope that one of the employers will take you on, take your time to look at the roles and organisations, and only apply for the jobs you actually want.

I learnt this lesson early on when applying for my year in industry at university, it resulted in wasted time for me - and the employers - as well as a very awkward interview.

If you apply yourself to the jobs you really want rather than spreading yourself thinly over hundreds of applications, you will have better results. Employers know if you’re not fully dedicated to a role and just see it as a ‘job’, so stay calm and really focus on the roles you really want.’

Becky Beaumont Media and Public Relations Executive NewcastleGateshead Initiative

#2 Agency versus in-house?

During their careers, public relations practitioners will often have to make the choice between ‘in-house’ roles and working for an agency. Having worked on both sides of the fence I think there are pros and cons to both.

What I enjoyed about my five years in an agency was definitely the variety. I liked the fact that I could be pitching a story about Whitbread’s annual results one week and opening a show home for a housebuilder with Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen the next.

Working in-house allows you to really understand an organisation so that you can provide strategic advice on a whole host of issues, often not directly related to public relations.

It enables you to develop wider leadership skills, and not to be seen as just the person who manages the media profile of your organisation. The more senior you become, the more you will find that the skills you possess as a public relations and communicator are valued in all sorts of ways.

So, if I were to come down on one side of the fence; for me it would be an in-house role for those reasons.

Abi Kelly Executive Director Corporate Affairs Newcastle University

#3 Purpose and discipline

It might sound like a cliché but unless we find something we are passionate about, something that truly rewards our inner self, most of us are not willing to invest the time, effort and patience required to cultivate a culture of self-discipline.

Setting and meeting personal deadlines and drifting away from the convenience of acting under the instructions of a higher authority - managers, lecturers or other influencers - is the key to becoming our own masters and achieving our objectives.

Tudor Tamas Head of Communications and Public Relations Factory51Media

#4 The best version of you

I can’t be anyone else other than me. I’m a mix of all sorts of good and not-so-good things. I am sincere with myself and with others about my strengths and weaknesses and what I like, dislike, think and feel.

This helps me build a real closeness with others. I can communicate how I really feel and show my vulnerabilities. Plus, it’s good for my mental health – I find it tiring and unsustainable being someone I’m not.

Authenticity is especially important when working in public relations. It has helped me establish trust and understanding with people and ultimately help build faith in my profession.

Gill Stephenson Head of Communications Marine Management Organisation

#5 "I don't make predictions.....and I never will"

Making predictions about your career and what direction it might take is something that current public relations students should be very wary of.

The speed of change is so relentless that the skills you learn now might very well take you in a completely different direction in the future.

You need to balance the ambitions you have now, with the need to flexible and find the right space in a crowded and complex media landscape.

Too many people, myself included, start out planning for some imagined future that may never come, so make sure you are operating in the 'here and now' and developing the skills for the communications workplace of tomorrow.

Don't make predictions and expect the unexpected.

Ross Wigham Head of Communications and Marketing Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

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