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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.

 

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Busy bee – A hectic few months!

Since finishing my second year at Leeds Beckett life has been, as ever, busy.

In May, I started my life as a working woman and moved back home to Manchester. It’s been lovely to spend time with my family and have the perks of living at home, and having started my placement year I’ve fallen in love with what I’m doing. It’s completely reaffirmed what I want to do with my life, working for a charity in communications.  I’m already learning so much from what I’m doing, those I’m doing it with, and also by overcoming the day to day challenges of full time work.

As much as I’m loving work, I’ve been trying to live by the motto work hard, play hard.  Moving home always had the potential to feel very different after mainly living in Leeds for the last two years, and so I’ve been trying to make the most of my time back in Manchester by going on mini trips around the UK, getting back into my home-based charity work and catching up with friends.  Often I’ve been combining all three into one!

At the end of May, I helped out at the Believe and Achieve Trust’s Ladies day, which is something the committee have been working on for a good while now.  I’m happy to report it was a roaring success, though my waitressing skills are questionable, and the fashion show, music and afternoon tea combo worked wonderfully.

Believe and Achieve's Ladies day, a hive of activity!
Believe and Achieve’s Ladies day, a hive of activity as you can see!

I then got to catch up with my old-time-bestie Lauren which is always a treat. We met as young teenagers who had no shame about our weirdness, and to be quite frank I don’t think we’ve changed enormously (though we don’t care to admit this often.) Obviously there is no photographic evidence of this as we talk pretty much constantly whenever we get together and so have no time for photos, but we called in to the Manchester International Festival teepee and had a very wild lemonade as we put the world to rights.

Next stop: Carlisle! I travelled to Carlisle for my annual summer trip, and this time we even ventured as far North as Scotland.  I feasted on homemade tablet and other Scottish goods, and went in an old toy museum which I’m not sure I’ve quite recovered from.  Some of them did not look very fun!  We didn’t let the weather stop us and took to the water of Moffat on a swan-shaped pedalo, which was the most fun I’d had for ages. Our driving was not up to standards and we ended up heading face first into trees a fair few time.s I think the man who was working on the lake enjoyed it more than we did (which was a lot), purely for the human interaction as we travelled through the rain in style.

I then needed a rest.  The exhaustion from the previous few weeks hit and when my absolute knight in shining armour, Hanna, heard of my illness while happening to be in the area, she came to my rescue with a 6 McNugget meal. Forever grateful.

My most recent endeavour was an abseil off Peel Tower in Ramsbottom for the Believe and Achieve Trust.  Standing on top of a tower in the middle of the great outdoors really helped me to recuperate (though I have discovered muscles I didn’t know I had!) and I had a really lovely time. The highlight was not dangling over a wall, but instead watching Laura’s recovery back to her true glory as the day went on.

I have quiet hopes that July and August will be a little less busy to give me some time for rest, but I doubt it. And everyone knows I love it (not so) deep down!

 

 

 

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Twenty.

I have a feeling that this year is going to be one that is full of positive changes and new beginnings for me. In fact, I’m barely a month into being twenty and my gut-feeling is already being proven right.

Being nineteen has been good to me… I finished my second year at university, zip-wired at 100MPH through the skies, helped host a parliamentary reception on behalf of Meningitis Now, won a prize for PR-ing, returned to Lourdes and have been constantly surrounded by some of my favourite people in the world.

It’s also been full of the smaller things that makes life good:  ordering milkshakes on a Monday night to get me through the stress of watching three series of Broadchurch in a fortnight, spending time with some of my best friends,  having the time to be nap during the day (thank you student life), seeing my favourite musicians live and laughing until I cry at my sister’s weirdness.

Being twenty feels more refreshing still and I’m hoping that the goodness of nineteen stays with me.  I’ve no doubts it will come with its ups and downs and its own challenges, but I’m determined to make it a brilliant one.

 

 

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The Claire Mascall PR Prize

In March, I found out that I had been lucky enough to win a scholarship in the form of the Claire Mascall PR Prize. As a result of this, I have spent the past five weeks completing my placement in Leeds Beckett’s communications department, as well as being awarded a bursary towards the cost of this.

The prize giving was included in the celebration of the 25 years of PR anniversary event and it was a real honour to win the prize, for which three students from the Leeds Beckett PR/PR and Journalism courses were chosen.   I’ve really loved my placement at Leeds Beckett so far and I have no doubts that the skills I have learned there will stand me in good stead for my industrial placement year and beyond.

Set up in memory of Claire Mascall by her husband Graham Rimmer, the prize celebrates her legacy as a pioneering woman in the PR profession which to me, makes the prize all the more special.

Claire Mascall’s achievements are a huge source of inspiration to me as a young professional, and woman, entering the communications industry.

 

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Come to the Water – Lourdes 2017

I have just returned from my third fantastic week with HCPT Group 216 in Lourdes and the energy, joy and kindness that radiates from helpers and children alike never ceases to amaze me.

This week I have danced and sang my heart out to songs about frogs, been a tiny part of a procession made up of thousands of candles, plaited a lot of hair, hugged baby goats and most importantly, helped to give 8 young people the time of their lives.

It’s hard to describe the Lourdes experience to people who haven’t been there. Jade and I describe it as a bubble, where your troubles and anxieties from home are filtered out and all that matters is making sure that the young people in your care are having a good time. It is a time for contemplation, but equally so for fun and laughter.   It is one of the most exhausting, busiest weeks of my calendar year but I love every minute!

To help to visualise some of the things we do, I thought I would write a little diary explaining what we do while we’re in Lourdes. If nothing else, it will help me to remember the experience in years to come!

 

Saturday

Early morning! We meet as a group to head to the airport, give out hats, eat sandwiches at ridiculous hours of the morning and colour in.  We jump on the plane which is chartered and so full of HCPT groups, and have a tasty aeroplane breakfast. When we arrive we have a little time to unpack then walk down to the grotto, and say our three Hail Mary’s to start off our pilgrimage.

Sunday

Easter Sunday means the Easter bunny has visited the children! Chocolate eggs, uniforms, party invites and cards are left outside their rooms which all goes towards making the trip more memorable and exciting.  We then walk through the grotto for the first time and have our first cafe stop. A cafe stop is where your group goes to a cafe, often with other groups, to sing and dance to songs and chants and getting a milkshake or soft drink.

Also on Sunday is the Easter Sunday mass which is run by HCPT which the groups that have already arrived get the opportunity to go to.  On Sunday night this year, we had our fancy dress party. I dressed as Mickey Mouse!

Monday

This year on Monday we went to Hosanna House, which is a HCPT owned building not far from Lourdes. This is where we got to cuddle baby goats and little bunnies! We had a lovely picnic in the glorious sun while members of our group played the guitar.  After we’d spent the morning there, we went on a walking tour of Lourdes where we got to see the underground basilica (huge!), as well as the places Bernadette lived and the museum. We then had another cafe stop (you will soon see these are a key part of the Lourdes experience!) and had mass with another group on the prairie as the weather was so lovely. We played with the parachute and some of us played football and skipped.

Tuesday

We were very lucky on this day to have mass in a beautiful church called the Crypt. During mass, musicians from our groups play different instruments, as well as the children who have maracas and tambourines, and it’s a really lovely experience that we can all share.  As the weather was still lovely (yay!) so we spent the afternoon on the prairie again, playing music and taking part in games.  That evening, we all lit our candles and took part in the torchlight procession, one of my favourite parts of the week. It is a deeply moving and magical experience, and one that you really begin to feel a part of something big in.

Wednesday

Trip to Gavarnie – a little town in the mountains. Singing our hearts out on the coach on the way there, but snoozing on the way back.  Heading to Gavarnie means a really chilled out day with mass, music and bubbles!

Thursday

On Thursday we start the day with the Trust mass, which is an exciting and fun experience. We all paint each others faces and watch performances from central services groups. In the evening we go to a different hotel for a party with the other groups from the region.

Friday

Friday is usually the day where the pilgrimage begins to be wrapped up.  We throw our worry stones, along with the worries of home, in the water, collect our holy water and enjoy our final few hours with our group!  We walk through the grotto one final time, to light our group candle that we have previously decorated with ribbon and stickers, as well as pictures of people who have joined us in 216 before, those we’ve lost, our friends from home and drawings about the things we are thankful for.  We then light our own candles and take a moment to think about our fantastic week, and round off our pilgrimage with another trio of our Hail Mary’s to ensure our return.

Saturday

Flying home is always an emotional experience, full of very mixed feelings.  After being in the ‘Lourdes bubble’ it is often so hard to adapt back to every day life, where no-one randomly bursts into song and random bags of sweets aren’t offered to you at every opportunity.  Despite this (and the tears!), I think deep (deep) down (down), we’re all grateful to be able to hop into bed and return to our real families.

I am so grateful for all of the opportunities being in Group 216 has given to me.

Bring on 2018!

#RatherBeInLourdes

You can find more information about HCPT Manchester Region here, and HCPT here.  If you are in a position where you can, please consider donating to help towards giving more young people this opportunity.

It really can change lives.

And finally, Lourdes is one of my favourite things to write about. You can read the other things I’ve written about Lourdes here and here