So, in two weeks time my placement will be over. In three months time I will be back at University. There is so much to say about it I am not sure where to start but I will say I can hardly believe I am going to be a full fledged, beans on toast eating, creased clothes wearing student again.
It’s only been (well, just over) a year but my eyes have been truly opened to the world of PR, client management and the day-to-day role of being a PR practitioner and I must say, I love it. I have been given some amazing opportunities, responsibilities, training and have been taught by the best.
Although I was lucky enough to get a placement in an agency who work across international clients and who pride themselves on their dedication to develop their interns, it has taken a lot of hard work, dedication and enthusiasm and I have only had a year to do it. In fact, that is a very important point. If you are heading on to placement as a second year student then always remember – a year is not a long time. At all. Which is why it is so important to make the most of your time there, and here are my tips to do just that:
Embrace it Coming from two years of University, it’s a big change. Even if you have done short term placements during University like I did, it’s still a massive difference (hopefully.) As soon as I begun, I was treated as one of the team and given achievable responsibilities and challenges across a range of clients as any other Account Executive. This may be scary at first and you may start to doubt whether you can do it at all but make sure you embrace the experience and remember why you are there. You have one year to learn as much as you can so make sure you throw yourself into the role and make the opportunity to do just that!
Do the boring stuff Everyone has to do it. It’s what keeps the company ticking over and is the foundation to ensure a client account runs smoothly. Reports, filing, photocopying, scanning, clippings, agendas – they are all part of the daily grind and as much as there will be boring stuff, there will be super exciting stuff too. It is actually really important to learn how to do these tasks effectively so that when you hit a new job, you will know the ins and outs of providing clients with update status reports, agendas and progress reports for meetings and how to generate a solid report for the end of the month.
Don’t be afraid to speak up Or in other words, use your initiative. In most placements, you get as much out of them as you put in so never be afraid to ask for an opportunity or to offer creative input for a client campaign (no matter how silly you may think it is.) Your colleagues are going to be super busy and they can’t, as much as it may be annoying, be thinking about what you are doing all the time. As well as ensuring you are offering full support on Account Managers or Seniors workloads, ask to attend that event or send across creative ideas for a client pitch you overhead the team discussing. What have you got to lose?
As well as having the confidence to do this, make sure you have the confidence to speak up if you feel unhappy. You have the same rights as any other employee and if you feel bullied, exploited or uncomfortable in a task you have been asked to do then never be afraid to talk to your reporting manager. It is in the company’s interest to make sure you are happy, motivated and producing high quality work and at the same time, you do not want to walk away after a year feeling as if you have achieved nothing.
Be professional at all times OK, essentially your a University student. But while your on placement, you are (and should be treated as) an employee and therefore a representation of the company and its practices. If you are offered the opportunity to be client facing on some accounts (talking directly to clients, attending client meetings, working closely with them) then you must ensure that you are professional to keep clients confident that the quality of the work before you started will not be compromised. Make sure you dress appropriately (forget turning up to Uni in trackies, scruffy hair and last nights make up) and if you suffer bad hangovers, do not go out the night before a meeting (you’ll only fuel the stereotype). Until you are confident, watch carefully how other experienced members of the team talk to and manage the client and the press.
Ask questions Again, another thing us interns can sometimes be afraid to do. If you have a load of changes on your press release but no explanation why, ask for feedback and ask how you can improve things next time. It’s time consuming for people to continually change all the press releases you send them so by improving your strengthening your own skills and making life easier for everyone else.
Practice your weaknesses This year is all about gaining as much skills and knowledge as you can to best prepare you for future employment following graduation. If you know you have a lack of experience in event management, explain that and ask to be involved and see the planning and management of event from start to finish. Practice your writing through press releases (with feedback!), or even feature article or case study writing if you haven’t had an opportunity to do this before.
Keep a diary Daily, weekly, monthly – whatever! You will probably have to do a reflective assignment for University throughout the course of your placement so this will be handy to refer back to you and use as an appendices.
Monitor your coverage Remember trying to scrape together some form of coverage for your first year porfolio? Well this year you will not be short, so make sure you keep tabs on everything you write and all the coverage it achieves. It may be a bit of a pain but you most certainly won’t be thinking that when you have a huge portfolio to take to interviews!
Contacts It’s absolutely true that sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. During the course of my placement I have been lucky enough to have been put in front of and develop relationships with some of the top journalists in the industry and it is important that you keep your relationships with them ‘alive’ and take note of their details so you can utilise these in the future.
Keep in touch Stay in touch with the company – you never know what might happen after graduation! 🙂