A University Graduate’s Journey of Breaking Into the Comms Industry
I studied Advertising and Marketing for three years at the University of Lincoln with the goal then being to work in one of the sectors of the communications industry, be it in advertising, public relations, marketing or events. However after graduating I learnt the hard way about rejection in job interviews because of experience.
Experience is crucial, unless you’ve got connections already within that industry or a very willing employer to take that chance on you.
Living in Suffolk meant that there weren’t anywhere near as many opportunities as there are in the big cities such as London or Birmingham. Nonetheless the draw of working in a London agency with big name clients grabbed me and pulled me in (plus they were the only ones that seemed to take on interns). Within a short amount of time, I was working on such clients as Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Vodafone, AB InBev and of course P&G (name me an agency in London who doesn’t have them or one of their brands as a client!).
Commuting to London took its toll on the old bank account though and soon after Christmas I had to look for something closer to home. After working in a few different agencies I decided to enquire about in-house marketing departments (again, gaining more experience), and soon ended up at a local golf course/hotel. The commute was a dream, 10 minutes from my house, instead of the 20 minutes to the station, 60 minutes on the train, 30 minutes on the tube! After working there for a couple of months with no prospect of a job at the end (due to the usual ‘no money in the budget’ routine), I ended up here! Genesis PR, the first agency I’ve worked for that doesn’t follow the slave labour motto for interns.
I always thought that working in PR agency would just be writing press releases and talking to reporters all day, but it’s so much more than that. Working within a modern PR agency is a great experience to really hone in on your digital skills. So far I’ve learnt so much about the importance of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and good social media etiquette. During my degree we touched upon these points but until you put those skills to use for a real client, I don’t think you can fully understand the importance of them.
Now down to the details that may or may not help you to gain that ‘foot in the door’ to the comms industry. Like I said before, experience is crucial to working your way in, however you have to be determined and have that right mind set to succeed (and no, you don’t necessarily have to be ‘creative’, there are many, many other job roles within PR, advertising or marketing that demand an analytical or strategic mind). If you’re still in University, now is the time to try and fill up your free time with gaining experience, don’t make the same naïve judgement call I did that you’ll be fine if you’ve got a degree.
‘Persistence, Patience, Purposefulness’
Do your research, get onto LinkedIn and find out who you should talk to about hiring or taking on interns, you’ve got to politely pester companies. If you send out an email and get a negative response saying that they have no current vacancies, set a reminder to email them again in a month’s time, situations can change pretty quickly within this industry. Also on that note, make sure you set up a database (excel spreadsheet) of which companies you contact and who the person you’re speaking to is, it’s a good thing to say “I spoke to Mr. Smith last time I called…”, it shows you’re not only interested in their company but you also cared enough to remember the name.
If you’re nervous speaking to someone on the phone and feel like you could better express yourself via email, then send the email but still give them a very quick call afterwards to check whether they received it. I’ve found this is a good method to just reiterate your name within the company.
When it comes to it (and it will) and you get an interview be sure to stand out, not only in the way you present yourself but also with what you say. I personally (depending on the company) will either wear a suit with a bright shirt or tie, or if the company looks more casual than corporate, a blazer and chinos. This way when they are discussing the candidates after and they don’t always remember names, at least they will remember your bright yellow tie or your glamourous red heels (I cannot confirm or deny whether wearing heels works or not though!).
These are all just little hints and tips that I have picked up since leaving university. Just remember it doesn’t matter what course you studied, it’s about what you know and what you can bring to the table that the company doesn’t already have. Good luck!