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Things I learned from my year in industry

As many of you will know, I have recently completed my year in industry working as a regional communications intern. Many more of you will know that I had a BALL.

I was working in a role in an environment I loved, with a team I loved, for an organisation I loved.

Here I reflect on some of things I’ve learned in the last 12-months.

Read and write. Then read and write some more.

The joy of working in such a diverse organisation is that you have to read a lot, and write a lot. This year, I’ve read articles on articles and as such my writing has improved enormously.  I’ve written for so many different platforms; from press releases to blogs to magazines, my days of writing jargon-filled sentences are long gone.  My world-view has exploded in size. I’ve learned about the challenges people living overseas are facing and it’s been an honour to be able to tell the stories of the people here in England who are playing their part in helping ease these.

Level up

It’s so important when you’re starting out in your career to put yourself out there and learn new skills.  Think you have something to add? Share it. Speak up in meetings. People will soon flock to you as they’ll know you’re reliable and have value to add to a task. While you’re doing this, you’ll be learning, building connections and improving your skill set.

Tenacity is key

The regional media landscape is changing, and sometimes a small-time local story won’t quite cut it. It makes me sad that print media is declining, but the rise of digital brings new challenges and opportunities.  Developing meaningful relationships with journalists is more important than ever with the time constraints they are facing.  If your story doesn’t quite make it, don’t take it personally but look to see how you can make it more relevant to the publication you’re pitching to.

Don’t sweat the small stuff (but sometimes do)

I’m a perfectionist, and I can’t deny it.  I take great pride in putting out high quality work, and sometimes this means I sweat the small stuff.  I think it’s good to have high standards but you must be careful that you don’t get too hung up on the small stuff. Take time outside of work to do the things you love, see your friends, and create a really strong work life balance.

Learn and reflect

Sometimes life in a full time job can be so fast paced that it’s hard to take a step back and reflect on the things you’ve picked up.  But in my opinion, reflecting on what you have learned is such an important part of the process. It solidifies your learning and allows you to become self-aware and see the areas you can improve in. I think this is why I’ve enjoyed writing essays about my experience, as it’s forced me to stop and think about the skills I’ve developed over the past year.

Overall, I feel that my year in industry has been so valuable and completely re-affirmed my career goals. If you’re a second year on the hunt for a placement, don’t give up!

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‘You are special’

This year, I returned for the fourth time to Lourdes, my third as a helper, on HCPT’s annual Easter pilgrimage.

Group 216, one of hundreds of family groups across the UK and the world, took eight wonderful children on the trip to celebrate this year’s theme: ‘You are Special.’ And what a week it was!

After four months of family meetings, regional days and families kindly letting us invade their homes, the time came for us to hop on the plane and head to Lourdes.

It’s hard to explain the pure joy that comes with HCPT’s trip to Lourdes to someone who hasn’t lived it without sounding like a crazy person.

At Easter, the streets are an explosion of vibrancy, with the colourful group uniforms (though apparently, our hat wins the ‘most distinguishable’ award – make of that what you will), and wherever you are, there is music in the air. There is so much love around you – between helpers, children and even pilgrims who don’t have a clue what they’ve walked into – that it dissolves any anxiety or challenges that you may be facing in your life; giving you the strength to overcome it on your return home.

But first and foremost, the children are at the centre of the helpers’ week. Our motivation for going is to give them an unforgettable, often life-changing, experience, bursting with fun.

The children sing songs, drink the world’s yummiest hot chocolates, play with parachutes in the sun, see bears at the animal parks and go on trips to the mountains. This fun is balanced with learning about the story of Bernadette and Lourdes, reflecting and especially this year, with the theme being ‘you are special’, being reminded of their strengths and how important they are.

We light candles for our families back home and on Thursday, groups from across the world come together for Trust Mass which takes place in the enormous underground basilica and was this year hosted by the ASPCG (the American branch of HCPT). On Tuesday, HCPT groups unite for the torchlight procession – a hugely special experience for all involved.

I have written a similar post on my return from Lourdes for the past few years, but that’s because I want to spread the love of HCPT Manchester and Group 216.

So what can you do?

HCPT Manchester fundraises all year round so that the families of the children who go to Lourdes don’t have to pay. So, if you’re in a position to contribute financially, please do.

If not, you can simply spread the word… tell everyone you meet about the brilliance of HCPT!

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Tired of being tired.

Disclaimer: this is definitely more of a negative, and indeed personal, post than I’d usually write. I usually try and communicate the positive elements of my life, but the last week has been an incredibly difficult one.  It’s a fact that writing helps me; it makes me feel better by making sense of the situations I find myself in.  

I’ve written before about some of the challenges that come hand in hand with living with chronic illness – and I’m only half sorry to say that I’m doing it again.

I thought about keeping this piece of writing to myself, but if I can help one person by sharing my worries and concerns then that justifies itself to me.

Day to Day. Year to Year?

Last week, Facebook’s ‘On this Day’ feature reminded me of a post I had written on Facebook seven years prior. It was thirteen-year-old me expressing how unwell I was feeling and asking for advice. Depressingly, when this notification popped up I’d just had to be driven home after my fatigue had worsened so much that I literally lost control of my body for a short while thanks to the wonders of Tourette’s. How do you explain that one?

When my illness takes hold of my body – usually suddenly and without warning – the physical symptoms are bad enough.  But when the additional worry of not knowing what your future holds hits, panic can set in.  I’m realising that finding ways to deal with that worry is just as important as taking time to focus on physical rest and recuperation.

It truly frustrates me that not a single part of my life is left untouched by this illness, even when I’m ‘well’: relationships, work, family life, education, even friendships.  And there is no rule book or how-to guide that teaches you how to approach being twenty years old and too sick to make your tea or make enough sense of your thoughts to form them into a sentence, or even just to walk in a straight line.

So, more often that not I choose to apply an extra layer of makeup, stay quiet and troop on.

But it can feel like I’m living two different lives.  The public Rosie, who is energetic and enthusiastic and throws herself into everything, and the private Rosie, who quietly works away behind the scenes so that public Rosie can survive.

Answers on a postcard

A few weeks ago I attended a clinic at the hospital for another health issue I have. I was told me that, on paper, I was the ‘healthiest person in the clinic.’  While I’m obviously grateful there are no immediate threats to my health, the slow burn of being unwell day in, day out takes its toll.

The fact there is no blood test result to explain why I feel so awful is another challenge. Because with that lack of reason, comes a lack of hope. How can doctors help when they don’t know what’s wrong?

Each morning, I don’t know whether I’m going to wake up and feel okay, wake up and feel okay for a few hours then crash, or whether my whole day is going to consist of feeling unwell.  Then you must throw in the question of how long will it last to the mix; will it pass in a few hours, a few days or a few weeks? This unpredictability is the worst to deal with.

Since I was just eight years old I have lost my grasp on ‘normality’. That’s more than half of my life – including a large chunk of my childhood and the whole of my teenage years – impacted by how debilitating this illness is.

Keep on keeping on

Today, I’m choosing to let private Rosie have her moment.

I’m allowing myself this little blip, and letting myself acknowledge how i’m feeling but I refuse to let myself wallow in it.  I pride myself on living a busy life, and living it well.

I am lucky that my health has improved to the point it has, and I know that I so many people are fighting their own battles, but as I say – if one person approaches their unwell friend with a clearer view of their life or is reading this and thinking ‘gosh, I know what she means’ and feels less alone for it, it’s a job well done.

 

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A letter to myself: 18 reminders for 2018

New year is a time for reflection.  But this year, instead of looking back over how 2017 went for me, I would like to look to the future. 

So, here are 18 reminders, notes to myself, for 2018.

1. Do not feel the need to constantly compare yourself to other people. People live different lives. You’re doing yours in your own way.

2. Your best is enough. Don’t burn yourself out. Try to find ways in which you can better yourself without having to sacrifice looking after yourself.

3. Persistence and tenacity are great attributes to have.  Don’t be embarrassed to keep trying. That’s a skill which can transport you to great places!

4. Saying no to something once in a while isn’t a failure. It’s okay to take time for yourself.

5. Be assertive and say what you feel. Don’t hedge around an issue, but go into everything  you do with a kind and polite attitude and you won’t go wrong.

6. Be brave enough to put yourself out there.  Be open to the opportunities that you might not otherwise grasp, you never know where they could lead.

7. Always look for new opportunities for learning.  You’re surrounded by people and things that can teach you so much about the world.

8. You don’t have to fill in every silence. Reflecting and composing yourself before you speak is okay and often earns you more respect. Don’t babble.

9. Work to continue fighting for the things you’re passionate about. Don’t let others misconceptions about something make you doubt yourself.

10. Your biggest critic is yourself. Don’t add unnecessary pressure onto yourself.

11. You don’t have to be three hours early to everything.

12. Surround yourself with the people who lift you up. Keep your family and friends close, and don’t sweat the little things. Life’s too short.

13. Don’t get too caught up in worrying about things before they happen. What will be, will be.

14. Work hard, play hard. This will be your final year as a student. Concentrate, knuckle down, but have fun too.

15. Don’t panic if you’re not well. This is normal for you. Stay calm and take time to recover.

16. Don’t feel the need to justify everything you do.  Have conviction in your own decisions and opinions.

17. Do more exercise! You’ll feel better for it.

18. Mistakes will be made. That’s okay.  But always, always learn from them.

Happy new year.

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How to stay curious whilst working

I would say that I have always been quite a curious person.  I’ve always wanted to find out more about the people and things around me.  But more recently, I’ve found that my interest in the news, in the industry and in the motivations behind people’s actions is essential when beginning a career in PR.

Since I began working full time on my placement year, I have found staying curious more challenging than when I was a full time student.  I think it’s important to keep looking outwards, finding more opportunities and blogging through the year.

Here are my tips for keeping up to date with the industry.

1. Download news apps (or just read the news!)

It’s hard to be able to pitch to journalists if you genuinely don’t know what stories are making the news.  Downloading news apps is a quick and easy way to scroll through the days headlines. You even get a notification when a big story breaks.  Even just spending the time it takes you to commute to work keeping yourself up to date on the latest headlines makes you a more well rounded individual generally, as well as putting you at an advantage if you’re ever applying for future jobs.

2. Read books

This might be considered slightly more strenuous than downloading a news app, and I am currently working to practice what I preach, but I think books are such a vital way to learn.  Whether they’re professional, industry related books or you’re simply reading a short fiction tale, by dedicating just a small part of your day to reading you’ll see endless benefits: better grammar, a wider vocabulary, and a broader knowledge base to name a few.

3. Follow industry professionals on social media

We’re all guilty of having a quick scroll down Twitter in our spare moments, and I think that Twitter particularly is a perfect way to absorb key industry news and influencers.  Like #1, this is a relatively pain-free and simple way to keep up to date with the industry. Often, professionals will link to articles they have seen, which will be followed by a thread of healthy debates.  I personally find that, even if I haven’t reached out personally to these professionals, simply by following them from afar I am able to learn a lot.

4. Blog, blog, blog

Like I say, I’m currently in the process of trying to blog more, but I’m very aware that blogging is such a great tool for sharing opinions and opening debate.  It’s really important to do this, and I’ve found that through my blog last year I made connections with many other PR students and professionals.  I think we’re lucky to work in an industry that is so fuelled by passion, and I don’t think we should take that for granted. Write about your opinions, share your views, post your pictures.  It makes you think.

5. Don’t become complacent

Finally, I think that being aware of opportunities that are coming your way is really important.  For me, being on placement has been a brilliant opportunity but I am also acutely aware that it isn’t going to last forever.  As students, we must show that we are interested, engaged and actively trying to find our feet in the world of PR.  That’s what will get us jobs in the future and set us apart from our competitors.

Have you experienced the shift from student-life to work life? How did you find it? 

Let me know or follow me on Twitter

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Discovering my passion for communications

I’m in my third year of working towards my degree in Public Relations and often, to this day, when I explain what I am studying I am met with a look of blankness or a simple exclamation of: “Oh, I didn’t know that was a degree!”

But how did I get here?

From the very beginning

I’ve always been a lover of words. Since I was tiny, I have been intrigued by the act of writing.  From as young as just a few years old, I would sit at a desk with my Grandpa as I practiced how to hold a pen and trace dot-to-dot letters. Fast forward a few years, and I began to write stories and poems, and each year at Christmas and on birthdays I would receive book after book.  I loved escaping to other worlds. One of my favourite childhood books was Inkheart, a tale of a man and his daughter. Whenever he read a story out loud, someone from the book would be whisked out into the ‘real’ world, but when this happened, they were replaced.  His daughter ended up living in the alternate world, which sums up how I felt about books. I could become absorbed in them.  The opportunities that came with stories were endlessly fascinating to me.

Further education… What next?

After I began my A-Levels, like many others I didn’t really have a clue what Public Relations was, so why would I do a degree in it? (I am intending to write a blog about the lack of PR careers advice in the future, too.)

I was lucky in that I knew that my passions lay in the third sector, but was also very aware that working in fundraising wasn’t for me.  At that point, fundraising was a hobby of mine and I decided that I’d prefer to keep it that way.

I fell into PR quite by accident.  I was attending a parliamentary reception with Meningitis Now when I met one of their PR and communications staff.  The charity had just gone through a merger and Nic had smuggled me in a hoodie, which meant I then got talking to her about her role: branding, writing, reputation management. I loved writing, I loved meeting with and talking to new people and I was passionate about the third sector. I decided charity PR was the perfect fit.

I finished my A-Levels in English, History and Sociology, attended many open days and made my decision.

I was heading to Leeds Beckett to begin my degree in PR.

Creativity and business – an unusual mix?

Since I began my studies at Leeds, I’ve been actively trying to put myself out there.  In my first year, I emailed pretty much every charity in the city to try and find some work experience and was over the moon when I got a response from a national charity called Heart Research UK.  I volunteered there for a day a week for the next year, helping out with writing digital copy, press releases and organising events.  It was such a formative time for me and brilliant experience which motivated me to achieve to the best of my ability, both through academia and practical experience. I’ve had many other placements too, including in a digital agency.

My degree has provided me, so far, with a strong theoretical underpinning of PR which I think is necessary in order to see it as the strategic function it can be, whilst the experience I’ve been completing alongside it gives me the practical skills and attitude needed to succeed in a career in PR and comms.  I am a strong advocate for undertaking placements where possible while at university and feel that they shouldn’t be undervalued.

I’m currently on a placement year that I love, which is providing me with new, challenging opportunities on a regular basis and the need to reflect for my university essays is allowing me to consolidate my learning and grow as a communicator.

It’s such an exciting time to be at the beginning of my career into communications, an industry that I’m already growing to love.

How did you get into PR?  Let me know by commenting, or follow me on Twitter.

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The life of an intern – four months on

It’s been a while since I last wrote a post, and I’m ashamed of myself for slacking but I am hoping to get myself back in the game over the academic year, even if I’m not at uni.

This post is going to be about my year-in-industry so far.  Basically, I’m just going to gush about how much I’m enjoying it.

I started at the charity in May, and it’s flying by. I can’t believe that I am over four months in, which leaves only eight months remaining. I remember so clearly getting the call to say I’d got the job and not quite believing it.  There was a lot of excited pacing outside LS6 in Hyde Park that night!

Before I’d even started, I felt as if I’d hit the jackpot with the role, but since May I have grown to love my job, and the organisation itself, more than I could have imagined.  I have learnt so much already, and I feel the experience is shaping me in many ways.  I am learning how to develop myself professionally, including the way I conduct myself both in person and over email.  I’m honing in on my interviewing skills by speaking to the widest variety of people imaginable.  I am loving being able to develop the practical skills needed in PR/communications, especially learning how to pitch to journalists and having the freedom to decide on my own stories.

But another side to the job is that I’ve started to discover just how big the world really is… I feel as if before I started, I was aware of what was happening in the world, but didn’t truly feel it. But the nature of the organisation I work in, and the passion of the people I work with, means that I have developed a more compassionate and empathetic approach to people from all walks of life and a wider world view in general.

Not only this, but the stories I work on and the volunteers I work with are truly inspiring.  I’ve found that the volunteers we work with are just such great humans; extremely humble, compassionate and often creative individuals in their approach to life.  Getting coverage and recognition for these people gives me a real kick.

I’ve been getting involved with campaigns (we all know I love a good campaign), met with refugees who have stories so humbling it makes you hug your family tighter and heard cracking stories of love, hope and passion.

So onwards and upwards – here’s to the next eight months! I’m so grateful for this opportunity and glad I decided to take the plunge and take a year out of my studies.