A little advice goes a long way..

Ok, I admit it. I neglected my blog. Now, I’m not one to make excuses for everything but I did neglect it through a time of extreme stress and lack of free time, 2nd year 2nd semester, 10 assignments, 3 weeks. So you can understand.

So I am currently on placement with a PR agency called Wildwood PR in Sussex. Wildwood PR works with clients such as Panasonic, Lifestyle Europe, BDR Thermea and Vent Axia. It is only my 4th day so I am still finding my feet and settling in, but so far so good! I will keep you updated.

I remember finishing my 1st year, excited for 2nd year, excited for a year placement, itching to get on. Here’s my top tips for 1st year students who are thinking of completing a year in the industry

1. Experience

Hopefully through your first year you would have been getting work experience in PR agencies, building up your CV and creating some portfolio pieces. But don’t think because you have a couple of bits of PR work here and there on your CV its enough. When you go to placement interviews you are going to be up against hundreds of other applicants; make sure you have a competitive edge against them… strong diverse experience, with lots of examples to talk about. Spend your summer and your entire 2nd year getting more short-term placements.

2. Start early!

Start thinking now about your strengths and weaknesses. Do you want to work in-house or in an agency? Research the benefits and begin to think about where you may be better suited. What sort of industry do you want to go into e.g. entertainment, business to business, fashion, technology etc. Start researching some of the companies you’d like to work at and research if they offer year placement opportunities. If you know early the kind of industry/company you want to work with – you can start looking for short term placements which are relevant.

3. Secure a strong cover letter

Your CV and your cover letter is your chance to convince the employer that they should interview you. Make sure you have a extremely strong CV and cover letter, double, triple check everything before you send it off. One spelling or punctuation mistake and its straight in the bin. Research the company, why do YOU want to work with THEM?

– What achievements/awards have they got?

– Has a particular campaign they have done impressed you? Why?

– What is their client base?

– Have they got an employee training programme? This will be your first paragraph. Then go on to explain why THEY should hire YOU.

– What are your skills and qualities? Look at the checklist of skills that the company ask for, make sure you repeat this and back it up with examples from your work experience, saying that you have a skill is NOT ENOUGH.

What makes you different to every other candidate? What can you bring to that company to make you worthwile?

If you are completing an online application form, give yourself 2 -3 hours to complete it. Do not rush it! They can be very long and require a lot of detail so take your time.

4. Make use of your placement office

If you are a Leeds Met student you will be well aware of the placement office available at the university, and i’m sure most other universities will have a similar system. Make use of this! Make sure the members know your name, and know your face. Take your CV in there and ask them to look over it. Ask them about upcoming placements – so you can prepare yourself. Everytime you write a cover letter, or fill out an application form take it to the placement office before you submit it.

5. Interview

If you get an interview, well done! Thousands of people apply to every placement so to be chosen for an interview is a huge achievement. This is your one chance to shine though, your 5 minutes of fame to convince everyone of the PR superstar that you are. Interviews are SO important, do not research the company for 5 minutes the night before.

– Research the company back to front, have some key facts about the company history, work that they have done, stuff that has impressed you. You may not be prompted to provide this information, but it will look good if you can slip in a few facts in your answers. Don’t overdo it though, a company may not like it if you appear to brown nose.

– Have an example for EVERY answer. It does not have to be PR work experience, it can be when you worked in Sainsburys during school or when you went to summer camp. For example if they ask “How do you feel about working in a team?” Dont’ just say..”Fine.” Say, “I am very passionate about working in a team and feel I can play a strong team member as well as team leader. This was demonstrated when I was working as a sales assistant at Marks and Spencers. We had to complete team activities throughout the year….” and continue to detail the example.

– Be yourself! Interviewers are human as well, not big scary men in suits. Just smile, be friendly and try to relax. And ask questions at the end!

6. Work hard!

Once you have your placement, work hard to impress them – it will all pay off! Lap up the experience, it is a huge learning curve and will serve you well in your final year for your dissertation and portfolio and when you graduate.

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