As tens of thousands of students flock to our cities to either start or return to university, recent graduate and account executive Frankie Hutton looks back on life before graduating and reflects on entering the world of work last year.
The days of partying on Wednesday nights and sleeping in until noon will soon become faded memories before the impending doom of the working world presents you with a 9pm curfew and a death-defying hangover after a midweek gin.
It’s not all bad, though. Have a read over some of my advice on the best things to take out of your university experience to prepare you for a PR career.
We will probably all openly admit that at university, we were a little self-centred, and perhaps thought the world revolved around us. Much to your dismay, the world of work doesn’t work that way! In all seriousness, university is the perfect setting to adapt to living and working with a variety of personalities and realising that you’re not perfect either.
To give you the best head-start in your glittering PR career, you will have to become adaptable, particularly in environments where your pals haven’t washed their dishes in 3 weeks – who knows what kind of bacteria your body is immune to now! Aside from living with people who don’t uphold the same hygiene standards as you, you will have to learn to be entirely self-sufficient and make big decisions on your own. No, I don’t mean whether or not you should wash that red sock with your white bedding (do not do that), but you do need to use your initiative without having the reassurance of another, older adult who you deem more responsible.
In your third year, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. The best ways to respond to challenging or confronting situations with people you consider friends, for example. Or how you react in a pressured situation when you have three essays due last minute, an 8-hour shift to work, and you still haven’t defrosted that chicken breast for tonight’s tea. Be open to maturing, take constructive criticism, manage your time better, but always say yes to a beer on a Friday.
Go the extra mile
Seriously, work experience is highly valuable when it comes to standing a higher chance of bagging that PR grad job. It’s hard to come by, and with a demanding university degree, I can appreciate the challenges that taking the time out for work experience – or even just to look for it – poses. .
I did my work experience in between term time, which meant that when I was at university I could focus on my degree and work part-time. Making yourself available is vital if you want to appeal to employers. People want to see interns that are willing to go the extra mile to get valuable and enriching experience to stamp on their CVs.
You’ll find that in most jobs you move into you will sometimes be expected to do more than the job description, be that stay a little later, support a struggling co-worker, or pickup extra work for the lucky ones who are on holiday. It helps if you’re in a job you’re passionate about – a job that doesn’t feel like work, if you will. Do your research, get relevant internships, and gather more life experience, rather than hiding away in your pit until mid-afternoon. These resilience AND character building skills will serve you well when you have to join the rest of us commuters at 7am.
Learn to say yes
How many times have you turned down an opportunity, or missed out on new experiences because you couldn’t be bothered to find the time? Probably more often than you’d like to admit.
There are a lot of clubs and events I wished I’d have thrown myself into at uni which could’ve contributed to my CV, lead to work experience, or even just expanded my network. Perhaps I didn’t because I was too shy and I also thought I’d become slightly overwhelmed, but even if you only partake for a term or a year, you really should scout out some extracurricular activity.
Working in the world of PR is just one long experience of holding your breath, diving in and hoping for the best, but generally you always come out the other side having had a great adventure. Eventually you’ll be jumping in looking like you’ve just finished a two-week crash course with Tom Daley… just take the first plunge.