Readers of this blog have asked for more information about job prospects, and several have specifically inquired about opportunities in the United Kingdom. So, I sought the following guest post from Richard Bailey, Senior Lecturer in Public Relations at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. Richard provides a bullish forecast for PR jobs in the UK, and he offers some sound career advice. Richard also blogs at PR Studies: http://prstudies.typepad.com
You don’t need me to tell you about the state of the economy, but let’s just say that we’ve learned a lot in the
Our graduates are now entering a world in which businesses are shedding staff, the public sector is facing a pay squeeze, and costs and inflation are rising. That’
A front page story in the
It looks like that to me, too. I’m frequently approached by employers keen to gain access to the best graduates: I have this conversation much more often than I do with graduates struggling to find suitable work opportunities. The buyer’s market has become an ‘appliers market’.
It’s not just about demand, but performance, too. We’ve just assessed 73 PR students completing full-year work placements in the
Of course, there’s no news in students being keen and diligent and averages can mask some problems. There are employer
But highly capable students and excellent job prospects for PR graduates? There’s still something surprising in this given the state of the economy and the rapid expansion in higher education that has meant more and more graduates entering the job market. (It’s not just public relations graduates applying for graduate-level roles in PR, remember.)
Why the good prospects, when you’d assume that times might be tough for graduates? I think there are a number of factors; so let’s review some of them.
The PR sector
It’s a recession-proof business, to some extent: PR isn’t the law (you need lawyers in the good times, you also need them in the bad times), but it’s not that far different. Though some overall marketing budgets may be cut back in a recession, PR can benefit from a shift from advertising to other promotional techniques. PR jobs in the public and not-for-profit sectors are less likely to be hit by cuts arising from economic uncertainty. And the senior advisory role, concerned with reputation management and long-term relationships, becomes even more important when times are tough.
New recruits bring new techniques: Many employers are keen to recruit today’s graduates, believing that these ‘digital immigrants’ will have a more instinctive grasp of new channels of communication and opportunities arising from social media. Older practitioners are often most comfortable doing what they know: old-fashioned media publicity. There’s still a role for this, of course, but it’s not the future. So when employers sometimes criticize students or graduates for their poor writing skills or lack of media knowledge, they’re revealing an old understanding of the role of the PR practitioner.
Yet, in the student sample I mentioned earlier, employer
The educational sector
What gets you out of bed? You’re young, often away from home and you’re among friends. It’s fun to be a student. Lectures, tutorials and assignments can often seem like a distraction from the real business of being a student. Many struggle to motivate themselves and gain poor grades as a result. Compare thi
Abstract reality versus real reality: Those demands of teamwork, deadlines, clients, projects are very real. The more you ignore them, the larger they loom. Compared with this, university teaching is more focused on the longer-term. Critical thinking, problem-solving and reflection will be assets in your career, but they won’t necessarily help you solve the next immediate challenge. Millennial students often find this frustrating: ‘don’t ask me all these questions – why don’t you just give me the answers!’
There’s a world of opportunity for graduating students, but they should expect competition. Getting the first break is often the hardest thing. So here’s my advice on preparing for a key interview:
- Research the company thoroughly. Read websites and blogs, check news reports (often available via Google News) and sound out experienced people in your network. Lack of research can be fatal at interview.
- Analyse your skills. Think what you can offer an employer now, and be ready to show evidence. Writing skills, presentation skills, web design, successful media relations activity, event or project management can all be useful. But they’ll also be assessing you for your managerial potential: have you managed people, projects, budgets? Are you results-orientated and ambitious? Do you have a positive attitude? What have you done or what have you got to set you apart from other candidate
s with similar resumes? This i s where your sporting, musical or voluntary activities can be useful.
- Answer their questions: You will often be asked why you want to work there. Your answer has to be specific to their business, not a general ‘I just want a job’ – so that’
s why you should do your research.
If you’re a job-seeking graduate: good luck. If you’re an employer, please let me know whether graduates are meeting your requirements. If you’re a graduate working in public relations, how does your degree qualification help with the work you’re now doing? Please join the discussion and help solve the puzzle of our graduates’ success for me.