In most of our PR profiles, we ask our practitioners a common question: “What advice would you give a third-year university student who’s keen to work in PR / comms?” We’ve compiled some of the answers below, in this First Bumper Edition of Advice for Students.
I think it’s very important to seek and use every chance you can get to learn, learn, and learn… especially from people with experience and knowledge. Go out and get as much work experience as you can wherever you can – even if it’s not in the industry you want to work in, or doing the tasks you’ve been studying – understand that every opportunity is valuable.
Offer to do anything: making coffees, filing, basically whatever needs doing, so that you can soak up the atmosphere. Find any way to work next to someone you can learn from and be committed to listening, watching and learning. Live and breathe their work goals and tasks, watch what they do and how they do it, practice it yourself. Show the people you’re working alongside that you can and will provide support and jump in wherever needed.
Offer to do anything: making coffees, filing, basically whatever
needs doing, so that you can soak up the atmosphere.
Don’t be afraid to try your hand at anything, and always approach any task and situation with enthusiasm and positivity. Make sure you double and triple check your own work before handing it in to a superior – and then check again. Follow the news, sign up to niche publications – but most of all, find out what sectors and industry areas you’re interested in and passionate about.
Having a positive attitude is absolutely critical. I feel that not everyone realises that a university degree can’t take the place of learning on the job – and good opportunities are rare and competitive to get! Learning on the job has been a huge and very invaluable part of my career.
Get some work experience – Not for profits are usually under-resourced in terms of PR people and are great opportunities to get some experience writing media releases (good for portfolio building), helping with events and understanding how organisations work. I did volunteer work at Red Cross and the Asthma Foundation before I found a full time PR role.
Find a mentor – Mentors can help give you some direction, open doors and act a sounding board or touchstone for junior practitioners. This is especially important if you are starting out and there aren’t other people with PR skills in your organisation that you can bounce ideas off.
Be realistic – your first job may not be your dream job but all the skills that you learn will be invaluable and will set you up for future opportunities and better paying roles.
Don’t burn any bridges- Adelaide and the PR community is pretty small. You never know who is going to be your next boss or who they know. People talk. Be the best person you can be and professional at all times. Your role is representing the company and your behaviour and performance is always on show.
Consume lots of media to get an understanding of what journalists write about and what piques their interest. Do work experience in the media to understand how it works and what journalists look for and pick up on. Understand the environment you want to work in and don’t be afraid to ask questions, ever. It’s how you learn.
Well, like many, I got my start in volunteering and can’t speak highly enough for how much this helps you to gain industry knowledge and experience that you can’t get in the classroom. If you stick your hand up for everything you’re bound to get noticed, and having supervised a lot of interns over the years I can say it’s easy to tell those who are able to solve problems and use some initiative, over those who are constantly asking for the next job to do (we love and need go-getters in the arts, I can tell you!)
I don’t think it hurts either to get in touch with people who work in the career/industry you are interested in, and ask if they’d have time to meet for a coffee and a chat – you’re not there to pin them down for a job, but I think most people love getting to feel important and share some knowledge. I do anyway!
The job market is tough, so you might not get your dream job
to start, but be willing to work hard and earn your stripes.
If you’re specifically referring to arts PR, I can say the arts festivals are always looking for volunteers, and PR teams in particular will usually take on a couple at festival time to help with the volume of media clippings, ticket requests, interviews and more that are thrown at you on a daily basis. One of my first internships was on the 2006 Festival of Arts doing just that.
Get active in the local PR community, attend events and networking functions and take advantage of all additional learning opportunities. The job market is tough, so you might not get your dream job to start, but be willing to work hard and earn your stripes. It will be noticed. Most importantly, continue to expand your professional knowledge. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t learn something new.
The age-old, timeless piece of advice – get as much experience as you can! Work experience, internships and volunteer roles will put you in good stead to stand out in a competitive industry. It’s important to remember that regardless of whether you’re getting paid, all experience is invaluable and will stand out on your resume. Be pro-active and contact organisations you’d love to be involved with, volunteer in uni co-curricular activities related to your field or perhaps your current job needs someone to do their social media.
It’s also important to remember that the industry is evolving, and these days PR can encompass everything from traditional publicity, to digital media, communications, event management and marketing. Don’t limit yourself and be open to jobs with these words in their titles so you can keep expanding your skills!
Stay tuned for future comms bumper editions …