Work experience – arguably the best way to learn your chosen career. Throughout my first year of university I was told time and time again by tutors and guest lecturers how important gaining work experience is. The question is how do you get it?
Over the last year I have spoken to so many students (and graduates too) about the difficulties of getting a placement; they have told me stories of sending countless emails that have sadly had a tone of desperation as prospective interns try to sell themselves to a PR company or consultant in the hope they would be considered for a period of unpaid work experience (how strange that we have to work for free in order to later get work that we will hopefully be paid for).
Unfortunately we rarely heard back from these emails, which in itself is slightly demoralising.
Even on the odd occasion when a reply is received the consultancy will often ask for a CV. Yet at the beginning of your career you won’t have much PR experience on it, so you try a covering letter describing your personality and work ethic in a few paragraphs.
I can imagine the recipients of the emails receive countless requests to do a work placement, many from people with more experience in the PR industry then we beginners currently have, but we all have to start somewhere.
As aspiring PR professionals we need to begin building relationships and networking in order to be successful in the world of public relations.
However, researching PR consultancies and emailing them begging for the chance to work for them for free in order to better educate ourselves doesn’t seem to be a successful trend when it comes to actually getting the work… So what’s the next resort?
We all know somebody who knows somebody; so we need to use these previously made contacts in order to get forward in this competitive world. This past summer I had managed to make some contacts that helped land me a placement through recommendations. After being recommended I received two placement offers at two different consultancies in London.
After speaking to a number of students at different levels I heard mixed experiences of what it is like trying to get work experience or a placement, some good, some bad. However, they have all come out feeling like it would have been a lot easier if they had known someone who could help them get their ‘foot in the door’.
This leads me to the conclusion that no matter what you know, if someone isn’t willing to give you the chance you can’t advance in this industry. It’s difficult for a potential employer to identify who is and who isn’t worthy of a placement (especially as the competition is so fierce) as they don’t know the person behind the application.
It’s not a case of what you know, but who you know.