It’s not what you know, but who you know

This is an article by Adele Roberts.
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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?

Seeking work experience: Adele Roberts

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.


  1. I kind of agree with Adele as most of my placements have come from contacts, but those contacts have come from hard work networking and putting myself out there. Also, a phone call is much better than an email, as we all know with public relations!
    Pitch yourself on the phone to stand out from the crowd! I think doing something ‘outside of the box’ will always get you noticed too.

  2. Adele Roberts says:

    I agree that email isn’t the best way to approach a company for a placement; but sometimes its their requested method of communication.
    I’d much prefer to make a phone call to ask about possible placements and opportunities as it does show your willing to think outside of the box (the inbox that is lol) and it gives a potential employer something to remember you by as well as starting a bit of a dialogue before emailing or further contacting them.
    Thank you for the comments though.

  3. ‘Think outside the inbox’. That says is all: well put, Adele.

  4. I do agree with Adele on this one, but I also think that there are more than enough opportunities out there for those young and aspiring students who wish to enter the field of PR. I didn’t know anybody in the industry when I trying to land my first job, but I considered that a challenge, rather than a hindrance. Like all industries, who you know is important, but I truly believe that in PR, what you know is a true match. Good things don’t come to those who wait, but to those who want something so bad they cant sit still!


  1. […] The frustration is based around an article i read on Behind the Spin. For those that dont read it, you really should as it showcases the best and brightest coming through into the PR world at the moment. The article that got me was called ‘Its not what you know but who you know’. […]

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