Opinion

How I Wound Up Working In PR, Without Interviewing

So thanks to the lovely people over at Girls In Marketing, I picked up quite a few new followers last night on both Twitter and LinkedIn. I feel a bit guilty, as I’ve neglected my blog a little bit recently, so I thought today I’d blow the cobwebs off my keyboard and write something that will hopefully be a help to a lot of you, especially those who’re still in university.

Everybody’s different, but me, I was majorly shy when I was a student. Up until 2nd year, I very much kept myself to myself in class. Even after that, I was probably perceived to be the quiet one still. I had quite the issue with putting myself out there, was totally lacking confidence and was quite socially anxious.

Not the perfect mix for a career in PR, right?

Well, actually, wrong.

I did, and still do, think that the PR industry has a big need for introverts, just as much as it does extroverts. PR people are generally perceived to be overly-confident, shouty, and the ‘liquid lunch every day’ type. That’s not the case at all. One of my most popular blog posts to this day was when I wrote that you don’t need to be the Samantha Jones type to work in public relations. I still find this to be true today.

Now however, at the age of 23, I’m completely different to how I was back in university. I’m much more confident, and I don’t doubt that’s mostly in thanks to my career in PR. Nevertheless, I still remember what it was like to be a little in-my-shell, which can be quite daunting especially as you near graduation. The concept of interviews, as I went through my studies, was extremely disconcerting to me. In fact, I was sure set that I’d never land the job that I wanted in PR because I know that I eternally suck at interviews, and don’t see them as indicative as what I’m like as a person, and more importantly as an employee.

So, to all my followers, new and old. I wanted to tell you about the non-conventional way that I wound up working in PR. And spoilers: I didn’t have to interview at all.  

My First Job In PR & How I Got It

Internships

I began taking my career seriously in my second year of university. I started this blog, and I began flirting with the idea of internships. To tell you the truth, our lecturers were quite forthcoming with the idea of placement years, but I was absolutely certain I did not want to do one. Looking back, I’d have quite liked to have done a year abroad, but at the time I’d just settled, made really good friends and was enjoying my course, I didn’t want to leave that and plunge into something new all over again.

So, instead I took the initiative to look for my own shorter internships instead. Our university did offer a great scheme where you could get paid to undertake work experience, but I decided to go solo and find my own. I’d emailed a few companies, but was mostly unsuccessful. Then I thought I’d make use of a platform that I’d created, but never really used: LinkedIn.

If you’re reading this, I sure hope you’re grateful as I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes scrolling through (and cringing at) my old LinkedIn posts. All to find this: the post where it all began. 

Screenshot 2020-08-27 at 15.48.35.png

When I decided I’d look for an internship, I thought I might as well post on LinkedIn, to see if anybody could help me. Little did I know I’d have 38 offers just from that one post. In fact, in just over a month it had over 1 million impressions.

I know this won’t happen to everyone, but to any graduate or individual looking to begin working in PR, I’ll say this: never underestimate the value of social media in your search. Because, from this post, I ended up completing 5 internships. Here’s the timeline of how that went.

Internship One: Music PR Agency 

I started interning on a remote basis at a music management agency, assisting with their PR. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but the two guys who owned the business were helpful and I ended up writing a lot of features and press releases. I’d actually already volunteered for a charity before doing their PR, so I knew the basics. However, long story short the business liquidated not long after I began interning there (nothing to do with me, I’d hope) and therefore all the exciting things I’d had in the pipeline with them, were quickly erased from my calendar.

Internship Two: Birmingham PR Agency 

I then began my first (as I see it) ‘proper’ internship, where I’d commute to the office every day. I worked at this agency for two weeks. I actually really enjoyed it there, I loved the people that I worked with, and even got to attend a doggie photoshoot. I got a lot of hands-on experience with this internship, and it began to set the precedent for me that they are really worth it, even when unpaid.

Internship Three: Liverpool PR Agency

My third internship took place just before I started my third year of university, in Liverpool. It was at a well-known PR agency who work with the likes of the National Lottery, L1 Shopping Centre and more. I won’t lie, this internship was a little more hectic than my last, and at only a week-long I could have done with more time there, but nevertheless, I gained a lot more experience, and it was here that I decided that a life in PR really was for me.

Internship Four: Manchester PR Agency 

After starting university, I then began my fourth internship, and my most important. It was at an SEO agency in Manchester, and was where I’d learn the ropes of Digital PR. I worked here one day a week (paid) for the duration of my final year of university, and then moved on to 2 days before becoming a full-time employee. More on this a little further down.

Internship Five: (Another) Liverpool PR Agency 

My final internship was one that I undertook during a reading week. Though I was pretty set with my 1-day-a-week arrangement, I really liked the look of this agency and didn’t want to let the opportunity pass me by. Therefore, I completed 5 days at this company and thoroughly loved it. This was another busy agency that really threw me into writing press releases, researching campaign ideas and content marketing. I wanted to mention it as although (unbeknownst to me at this point) my career path was set, I still see it as a valuable experience. I went back there to interview at the end of my studies. More on that now too.

From Intern To Executive

I will always be an advocate of internships, I firmly believe I would never be in this position today, if I hadn’t taken the initiative that I did in the summer of 2017.

I wanted to write this post for people who might be in their final year of study, or perhaps those aren’t at university, who just want to break into the PR industry. I know that it’s not always easy to interview, especially when it’s your first job. There’s often a ‘catch 22’ where employers want you to have experience, but you can’t get experience without a job in the first place.

I had two failed interviews before I got my first role in PR. Though quite deflating, I still learned a lot from them and ultimately found that you don’t always need to take this route, in order to land your dream job.

Failed Interview One: Internship Edition

My first failed interview still makes me a little uneasy to this day. It was in fact not for a full-time job, but rather for my very first internship opportunity – the only one that I didn’t get through that LinkedIn post. I emailed a company asking about an (unpaid) internship in Birmingham, they asked me to come in for a little chat which I thought might have been them discussing my options. I wasn’t prepared for a full sit-down interview, where I was quite intensely questioned. Needless to say, I hadn’t prepared for this, and I crashed and burned. I was asked questions that I had no way of knowing how to answer, as I’d had no practical experience in the field to date. Though a blessing that I probably didn’t get it, I still feel like this was a little unfair and hope that these situations don’t still occur for students who’re trying to get their foot in the door. I totally understand the need for a formal interview for paid, or quite exclusive internships – but I still think that when the position is voluntary, you need to cut your prospective interns a little slack.

Failed Interview Two: Post-Graduate Job

When I was looking for a job after graduation, I was planning on asking at the company where I’d been interning at anyway whether I had any options there. All the same, I thought it best that I applied to a few places. For experience, if nothing else. I actually had three separate interviews at one company where I interned. I was pipped to the post by someone with more experience in the end. This method just wasn’t right for me when I was starting out in my career, I wasn’t a strong candidate in interviews and found them hard to showcase exactly what I could do, and who I was.

Successful Result: No Interview

Which brings me to the end of the beginning of my journey, and how I got my first job in PR without ever interviewing at all. I was lucky enough to land my 1-day-a-week placement without even a prior meeting, which I still consider to be an incredibly honourable thing of my previous employer. Especially seeing as it was paid. From then, I was able to show them my strong work ethic, and what I could do. They put a great deal of trust into me, and I sure hope that their gamble paid off. I was keen to grow my skills, and grow I did. By the end of my internship, which lasted just shy of a year, I was doing a lot of things that a full-time employee might. In the August of 2018, I was offered a full-time position as an executive. I didn’t need to interview for it, and I ended up staying there for a rather long time. In the end, taking on a huge deal of responsibility.

The ‘apply ➡️ interview ➡️ offer’ model is still by far the most commonly used, but for me, I’ve always found that my connections and my own ‘personal brand’ have afforded me the opportunities I’ve had so far in my career.

I hope that if you feel like I do, that interviews are not the best way to show off what you can do, that you’ll take away from this that it’s not the only pathway to your journey into PR. There’s more you can do if you’re not the most confident when sat across from somebody at a desk. Some of my advice would be…

My Tips For New PRs

  • Network – LinkedIn and Twitter are my go-to’s for meeting new people in the industry. Connect and engage, get your name out there.
  • Brand – building a personal brand is one way to make your name stand out, let recruiters and employers come to you because they know you’re good. Comment on things worth talking about, and don’t be afraid to have an opinion.
  • Blog – if you think it’s for you, blogging or even vlogging is a great way to build a personal brand too. My blog has been bought up time and time again with potential employers, it shows initiative and a real passion for PR.
  • Intern – if you can afford the time and expense, interning really helped me to get my foot in the door. Even unpaid internships hold value. I wouldn’t recommend anything more than 3 weeks though, as your time is precious.
  • Research – my university was personally really good at helping with post-graduate opportunities, take a look at what yours can do for you. If you’re not a student, then it could be worth connecting with recruiters on LinkedIn and see what advice they can offer.
  • Connect – even if you don’t network to potential employers, connect with other people in the industry, you never know when they might be able to pass your name on. I always share posts on social media when I see somebody looking for a job, and I know many people in the industry love to lend a helping hand too.
  • Post – be active on social media, and if you’re looking for a position – utilise it to help you. I’m a big believer in the butterfly effect, and have no idea where I’d be now if I didn’t write that LinkedIn post 3 years ago. You never know where a similar post could get you.

If you ever seen any more advice, whether it’s about university, or getting a job in PR, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn and Twitter. I certainly don’t know all there is to know, but I’ll always try and help where I can.

Or, if you’re a PR person reading this, feel free to drop your top tips in the comments below or on Twitter too.

 

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