It’s been an eventful year full of stress, panic, and more than a few mini breakdowns, but last week I donned my gown and mortar board and strutted across the stage at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light to graduate with a distinction from my MA in Public Relations.
Sitting here now in the Publicity Seekers office, living the career that I’ve worked so hard to achieve, reminds me just how far I’ve come in a relatively short amount of time, and just how crucial it was that somebody, somewhere, gave me a shot.
I first contacted Publicity Seekers in January 2017, kicking off my new year’s resolution to make this Master’s degree happen by gaining some relevant work experience.
The course at Sunderland University was brilliant, and the modules and lecturers were great, but it didn’t give me the industry experience that I needed to stand out from other graduates.
On paper I didn’t have a great deal to offer. I had no relevant experience in a communications role, where as many of my co-students had journalism or PR backgrounds. Yet the team at Publicity Seekers gave me a chance and invited me to come in to the office one day a week.
I cannot lie, I was nervous. I felt like a lot was resting on it and I was terrified that I was going to mess it up. Yet the team were more than understanding and patient, and in time I was given the opportunity to show what I could do, something that I would never have been able to do in a half an hour interview situation.
I think that’s the thing, many graduates don’t have the experience to secure their first role in their chosen field and it soon turns in to a nasty cycle. You can’t get a job because you don’t have any experience in the field and you can’t get any experience because you don’t have a job in the field.
Especially in a result based industry like PR, how could I ever expect an employer to hire me when I couldn’t show that I could achieve the results they needed?
It’s tough, and that’s where companies need to step in and offer their support. Lots of businesses do have the time and the resources to give a graduate that first step on to the ladder, it’s just a case of giving them a chance and letting them prove what they’re capable of.
During my time on work experience I was put out of my comfort zone, but thanks to that I developed skills that my fellow students might not have had, and my confidence went through the roof.
My advice to a business owner or managing director would be to make connections with local colleges and universities and to be proactive in working with students before they graduate.
By investing in a student, inviting them to come work with you on a part time basis, you’re moulding them to be a great fit for a role in your industry. You’re creating a candidate who will fit perfectly in to your business.
I’m talking a lot here about businesses investing in students at a higher level, but in reality I think it needs to start much earlier on. I went to university straight from finishing my A Levels, to study Sociology for no other reason than it was a subject that I was quite good at.
If somebody had exposed me to a career in the creative industry while I was at College, or even when I was at secondary school, I’m sure my decisions for university would have been very different and I would most likely be a lot further on in this industry than I am.
If businesses in the North East want to thrive and grow, I strongly believe that they need to be setting aside more time to engage with the next generation, their future workforce. Demonstrate to them what a career in that sector looks like, show them what life could look like for them once they’ve finished studying, inspire them to work hard, and make them want to work for you.
On a final note, I want to say a huge thank you to Publicity Seekers and all their clients, for giving me a chance, being patient, and giving me a job that I love getting up for in the morning. What more could anyone ask for?