While the most auspicious (read: proactive / darn right talented) among the recent crop of aspiring PR professionals are sitting comfortably in jobs and looking optimistically to the future, the majority are on the look out for vacancies, taking whatever experience they can get on route.
I’ve managed to get involved with a couple of projects (one is in the pipeline) recently where I can lend my, albeit limited, PR and marketing expertise.
Today, I had a two hour chat with people from the Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People (mouthful I know!) about implementing a new brand identity, a new website and an online strategy, in the wider context of giving the business a complete overhaul.
Without doubt, I can’t do this all myself and I wouldn’t want to try, but what I can do is contribute ideas and give a fresh perspective.
I find this kind of experience challenges me in a completely different way to traditional work experience and here’s why:
Good work experience in a PR agency or in-house allows you to develop the technical skills that are essential at the start of your career (e.g. writing good copy / communicating effectively with the media), but working as an external consultant requires strategic thinking – linking communications tactics to strategy and business objectives.
I believe the majority of skills I have gained studying public relations at postgraduate level have been strategic (e.g. planning campaigns, writing reports and conducting research) rather than tactical and will be more useful in years to come rather than at the start of my career.
My advice would be that developing creative thinking skills at an early stage will allow junior practitioners to progress more quickly and successfully from a technician role to a management role. Of course writing skills are of primary importance in the industry and that’s what may land you a job, but that alone won’t get you far.