“Why were you drawn to a career in Public Relations?
I’ve always been known as creative. It’s a quality that’s part of my identity and has certainly allowed me to grow organically into my role joining BlueSky Education as a Social Media Executive.
I was certain my life would take me abroad – and I worked at every opportunity to go. When my university offered me a semester in Kazakhstan and another one in Hong Kong, I already had my suitcase packed. For a few years the university and education bubble allowed me to bounce between various locations and schools, and I loved every moment. Later on, I was teaching English as a second language when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and lockdown began. Within 24 hours I had gone from interviewing for more permanent English teaching positions to frantically scrambling for a flight home to the UK.
I always felt sure a career in journalism was what waited for me after graduation. Having a degree in English Literature with Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia under my belt, it’s probably no surprise I love writing and telling stories. Aside from academic writing, during my time at university I threw myself into student journalism, broadcasting and copywriting. Any given day could see me switching between vastly different styles of writing and subject matter. I loved the variety and it kept me interested in every piece of work I took on, my career path therefore seemed clear.
What actually is public relations? This is the most common question asked to me when people find out what I do for a living. It’s ironic that the public relations industry could actually be terrible when it comes to its own PR.
The key to career happiness is to follow your childhood dream, new research has revealed.
I’ve been with the BlueSky education team for just over a month now, and it has been a learning experience to say the least. Coming straight out of university, in which I studied a pretty non-specific degree (History), I didn’t really know much about PR – especially Business School PR.
I’m Jonny Stone, and I’m leaving History in the past and looking forward to a new exciting career in public relations –
I was adamant when I was 18 that journalism was the career for me. I absolutely love writing and had a keen interest in current affairs and journalism combined these two.
Since graduating, I have spun around in the world of recent graduate life as violently as I could have, frantically flitting from one career area to the next trying to find my ‘passion.’
In honour of mental health awareness week, we at BlueSky are keen to raise awareness around the common - but perhaps not as sufficiently discussed - issue of mental health at work - and why it’s vital that businesses today address this.
Having finished university with a degree in Politics & International Relations from the University of Manchester in 2015, my career path following graduation has been somewhat varied to say the least.
As BlueSky Education approaches its tenth year, we take a look back at some of the greatest moments we’ve captured on camera in the last decade.
I am proud to call myself a feminist. And by feminist, I mean I believe in equality between genders – there’s no bra-burning, man-hating, tunnel vision going on here – just a simple desire for a level playing field.
As Russian tourists flock to Salisbury Cathedral and Theresa May accidentally summons ancient demons with her dance moves, the oldest Millennials begin to turn 40. It’s an absurd time to be alive.
Okay so a career in public relations might not be as glamorous as Samantha Jones in Sex and the City makes out, however I’ve come to learn that there is so much more to PR than planning parties. Below I have summarised the top three reasons I love my job as a PR person.
Most people don’t understand what public relations is. Part of the problem is that it varies so much across different industries – from working in product PR and sending out samples, to organising huge launch events, to sticking your head inside a research paper and condensing it into a press release – it’s all PR. The purpose is pretty much always to promote something or someone, raise the profile, get seen, be talked about. To this day – and despite half a decade at this very agency – my parents still aren’t totally sure what I do. “The stereotypical “PR? Oh, so you just push out press releases then?” or the equally demeaning “PRs spend their time lunching, getting drunk and talking b*ll*cks” perspective,” is something that particularly irritates our Head of Practice, Kerry Ruffle. “Yes, PRs will distribute press releases, but it’s only a small part of a job which takes a great deal more creativity and forethought to do with any degree of success. “A press release, when written intelligently and used correctly,” she says, “is still an incredibly powerful tool. The problem is too many misinformed, time-pressed or plain lazy media professionals do not take the necessary time to write a release which considers who the intended audience is and what information would be most relevant to them, set it out clearly and concisely and, finally, actually send it to the right people!” As for going out and getting drunk all the time – if that’s true then we’re doing it wrong! Sophie O’Sullivan, Account Executive here at BlueSky, agrees. “A popular misconception is that PR provides a glamorous lifestyle consisting of no real work - only attending events and partying. Stereotypes like this have come into people’s consciousness because of characters such as Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, a PR who stated that, ‘’I don’t believe in the Republican party or the Democratic Party, I just believe in parties.’’ It's an opinion that’s rife among many of those who speak to our team. Kate Mowbray, Senior Account Executive, has had people think that she just goes to events and hands out free products to bribe journalists. Peter Remon, also a Senior Account Executive on the team, has had to battle the suggestion that PR is all about social media and he spends the whole day using Twitter. Really though? We spend our time interviewing fascinating alumni and pitching their stories of success, from setting up companies worth millions to changing whole industries. We dive into complicated research papers and craft short, sharp press releases. We arrange meetings with journalists all around the world, from Sydney to Singapore. We help target markets for student recruitment. We develop effective social media strategies. We offer expert advice on the business education landscape, and so much more.
I studied English and Linguistics at Nottingham Trent University and my time at university is something I will never forget. Although cliché, I had an excellent time – growing both academically and personally throughout the three years. Although these subjects are certainly not a prerequisite for a career in PR, it does equip you with transferable skills which are key to being successful.
Hard-nosed, cut-throat consultants. Thick-skinned, full of false charm and selfish arrogance. Is that what you think of when you imagine a PR professional? Do you picture PR agency directors barking orders and waiting for hot coffee from shaking interns? I hope not because, personally, I think it’s rather cool to be kind in this industry. Perhaps it’s my Millennial attitudes surfacing. I’m all for doing good by people. I want to work for people who care about me and I want my colleagues – as well as my clients – to know I genuinely care about them. After all, I have only seen it produce positive results. If you know that you are valued and feel like you can make a difference to someone’s day, then you simply perform better. It’s about making that extra effort to pitch until there’s a ‘yes’, to research a country’s media until you understand it’s entire landscape, or to get up extra early to speak to someone in another time zone. Those are the actions of hardworking teams who want to achieve excellent outcomes – and it can be nurtured by kindness. By listening to everyone’s ideas, by creating a space where you don’t feel as though your job is on the line because the traffic was bad and you were five minutes late. Despite our sector’s somewhat harsh reputation, kindness is a feeling that’s woven into our culture here at BlueSky Education.
The inevitable question people ask when you tell them you’re studying for a degree in English and Linguistics is: ‘So, are you going to be a teacher?’
I’ve previously written on the reasons why I believe that PR professionals won’t be replaced by robots, and it seems that recent research from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) confirms my suspicions.
As one of the 51.9 million following Donald Trump on Twitter, his April exchange with Kanye West left me baffled – and not just at the meaning of ‘We are both dragon energy’.
Are you demanding and competitive, or patient and relaxed? Cautious and formal, or sociable and enthusiastic? Even if they are opposites, all of these traits are positive – so bringing these personalities together can make the most impressively effective PR teams. But how can you do it in your own company? Take a look at ‘Insights Discovery’ to see how people have dominant characteristics. It’ll group personalities into Cool Blue, Fiery Red, Earth Green, and Sunshine Yellow. We are all unique combinations of these colours. This psychology tool helps to understand strengths and weaknesses, communication style, approach to problems, and value to the team. By building teams with people spread across these personality types, you’re more likely to create high-performing groups. While people don’t fit perfectly into a segment, it’s easy to see what traits they are lead by. I’d say that I was largely Fiery Red – being rather strong-willed and purposeful – with a good dose of both Sunshine Yellow and Earth Green. When I look at other members of the BlueSky team, it’s easy to pick up and admire Kerry’s Cool Blue characteristics of precision and logic, Peter’s Earth Green traits of patience and relaxation, and Kate’s Sunshine Yellow qualities of enthusiasm and spontaneity. Bringing these individual traits together here at BlueSky have built a strong, productive team. With our differences come rounded decisions, considerate teamwork, and a broad focus. While those of the team who lean towards Cool Blue might tend to focus on problem-solving, the Fiery Red workers look to results, Sunshine Yellow focuses on interactions, and Earth Green looks to maintain harmony. It’s simple to see why it works.
Working with business schools on day-to-day basis, you learn about the incredible array of courses that they offer. With some specialisms like luxury attracting very different profiles to finance or perhaps entrepreneurship, I wondered what our team would be interested in studying.
Unless you’ve been hidden under a rock for the past week you’ll have heard of H&M’s recent marketing campaign which saw a young black child wearing a hoodie which reads ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’. And in the days since the backlash has been huge – not only has the fashion brand lost celebrity endorsers, but huge swathes of customers have also pledged to boycott the business. The H&M fiasco is not the first time a global brand has come under fire for seemingly racist campaigns. It was only recently that Pepsi was widely criticised for its ad showing Kendall Jenner appearing to end racial tensions with a simple gesture – offering a can of Pepsi to a police officer! So what’s going wrong for these brands which have colossal marketing and PR teams behind them in order to prevent such disasters? Outrage marketing Many believe that what we are seeing is simply an example of outrage marketing – a deliberate campaign to anger people which creates a buzz around a particular brand. And if that was the intention it can’t be disputed that it has worked – the company has been trending online and everyone is talking about it. And while the general sentiment towards H&M is negative, the brand is certainly in the spotlight. It remains to be seen whether the saying ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ rings true in this instance.
Back to school I still remember how I felt when I went to big school for the first time.
Starting a new job felt eerily similar to my first day at university The early starts, the meeting new people, the opportunity to learn new things. However, this time it was all without a fresher’s week before-hand sadly.
‘You know what will make our meeting more productive? Buzzwords!’ exclaimed the millennial, accustomed to throwing disruptive innovation around the boardroom. ‘Buzzwords??’ cried the Generation X, lean leadership guru as he planned his exit strategy. Tracey, MD of BlueSky PR, agreed with this 110%. She thought it was quite a unique idea. Not totally unique, you understand, just a bit. ‘Well let’s just be clear about one thing…” started Chris Johnson. But before he could finish his thought process, Kerry had shelved his discussion. ‘I think the really important point is that we touch base on how to leverage buzzwords to their best effect.’ ‘GAME-CHANGER!!’ cried Steph Mullins. She always overused that phrase. ‘This is hardly a game,’ commented Steph King, who instinctively distrusted ballpark figures. Ian wanted to contribute, but he had run so far up the flagpole that he was struggling to circle back. Adrian, the voice of reason, having to shout a little for Ian, chose this moment to ask a very valid question. It was a no-brainer, really. ‘So, at this moment in time, I just wanted to check that everyone is going forward. Because I’m not sure our diversity framework covers Time Lords.’ Over in the corner, Belinda was pouring herself a strong and stable drink.
Pinning down the exact qualities that make someone a success in PR is a hard task. Some bloggers don’t bother to delve deeper than the obvious; organised, good communicator, able to multitask. But I’m not sure that goes very far in demonstrating why you would be a great PR, rather than just a good employee, or the PR skills you have to offer. Then there are those who are oddly specific, or even philosophical about the task, perhaps romanticising their own qualities or copying directly from their own CV when they recommend that you are able to synchronise swim and own at least one Blue Peter badge. So what makes this list any closer to the truth? Well, I have decided to focus not on what will make you a successful PR, but what a career in PR would be unsuccessful without.
What do you get out of a degree in journalism that’s most useful when starting your career in PR? How to write How to conduct an interview The demands on a journalist How they like to be pitched to What they want to read about Considerations beyond the written word How to write The first and most obvious thing a journalism degree teaches you, which is essential for a career in PR, is how to use words effectively. You learn how to condense a story into a short pitch. When writing a press release (which is a bit of an art form in itself) you have a better understanding of how to write an opening line that will grab attention, whether it’s a headline for an article or the subject line of an email. Learning how to write is absolutely crucial in PR.
You probably hadn’t heard the name Charlotte Proudman until this week. And if you still haven’t it’s a sure sign you don’t read the news – she’s been all over it following the apparent ‘sexist’ LinkedIn message she received from solicitor Alexander Carter-Silk. You may sense that I haven’t particularly warmed to her. So what are the facts and why has she got under my skin?
In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by now, we would only be working 15 hours per week. Though, Keynes never said what we would do with all that leisure time. He was an aristocrat, he would probably want us to write poetry, dance and play the violin. Keynes once said “My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink more champagne”. Sadly enough (or quite fortunately), his prediction never came to life. But why exactly is this? His logic at the time made a lot of sense; the economy will grow, employees will become more productive, technology will aid all aspects of the work life, and so on. It made sense that in such a wealthy economy people would work less. He was wrong. In an episode of NPR News’ Planet Money, economics Harvard professor Richard Friedman explains why Keynes got it wrong; Human beings are competitive Keynes did not take into account that we are competitive by nature. This characteristic has been bred in humans for centuries, from when the first gatherer and hunters went out to hunt, to these days. We have competitiveness our DNA. Whether we compete with others or with ourselves, we always want more. The way we feel about work
There’s no perception you should be more aware of than your own. All it takes is Googling a name to get an insight into your character or about seven seconds on average in person before someone has summed up a judgement of your character. Having joined BlueSky PR this week it’s fair to say making a strong first impression has been something of a priority, as it would be for any new starter! These three tips are yet to fail me when in the pursuit of creating a positive perception: Awareness of Your Online Image Have you ever Googled yourself? If not then you should probably open a new tab and do that now, it really is that essential! It’s now a given that your potential employers may do some online research to find out aspects of your life that your CV may not discuss. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing, in fact there’s a great opportunity to use this to your advantage. For example my LinkedIn profile is currently being used and abused to showcase any past activities that may be of interest in a professional context. I have a First Class Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree, just over a year’s worth of experience in the communications field and also work with a charity supporting women in male-dominated industries. These are aspects of my life I’ve made a point of being visible online to help shape a positive perception.
Which degree is best for a career in PR? There’s no definitive answer. The PR industry benefits from variety – BlueSky PR certainly does! Languages, humanities, social sciences. We’ve graduated from an array of subjects, and our diverse experiences have all helped us in our careers. Take BlueSky’s Natalie Bishop who graduated from the University of Sheffield in English and Philosophy. She says her degree taught her there are always alternative ways of phrasing something. This helps Natalie in PR today, like Steph King, Head of Recruitment Practice at BlueSky, who learnt how to express things clearly and concisely from her Bachelors in Politics from the University of Warwick. “I also learnt a fair amount about drinking,” she said, “something that many people think is a prerequisite of working in PR. Sadly the days of taking journalists for boozy lunches are a thing of the past… in most cases anyway!” Regardless of topic, prioritise communication skills Going from student seminars to working lunches, Bruce Callander, who graduated from Newcastle University in Sociology and Politics, said: “You need to be able to communicate effectively in PR, obviously. Most of my course was seminar based and having regular discussions and debates helped to develop my communication skills. “Generally, I think you need to like learning about things and taking on knowledge – though I’m not sure if that can be taught!” As well as Bruce and graduates from the likes of politics and philosophy, BlueSky counts journalism, law and business alumni in its ranks too. Ian Hawkings, Head of Education Practice at BlueSky, holds a degree in Business and Management with Finance. He says: “I learned about business from a variety of perspectives, but where it has helped me in PR is to be able to see the business case for PR – and how it fits into a company’s overall strategy. This is helpful when working with clients to identify how they could use PR and communications to hit their strategic targets.” What about a degree in Public Relations?
I’ve recently started watching Game of Thrones after months of being told how good it was, how much I’d like it and how much I was missing out on by not being a regular viewer. Well, everyone was right – it’s amazing. Any fans don’t need me to tell them that the combination of power struggles, violence and dragons is practically unmatched on TV. However, while developing an unhealthy fascination with the series, I’ve also noticed a few key lessons that all businesses could learn from. Build strong pipelines – Nobody liked Joffrey but at least he held King’s Landing together. He may have been utterly loathsome, evil, tyrannical and plain awful, but he did at least carry himself like royalty. However, his replacement Tommen is nothing like that and is, frankly, a poor excuse for a King. Can you really imagine him organising a defence against a siege or charging into battle? The Lannister family didn’t necessarily have a choice, but businesses do, and failing to build effective pipelines leads to poor leadership succession. We all know what happened to Apple and Disney after their leaders initially departed and the same thing could be happening to the house of Lannister, which is currently teetering on the brink. Surround yourself with good people – You may think you can run everything, but the truth is, to be successful you have to delegate and that means you have to trust those around you. Robb Stark (RIP) made that mistake and we all know what happened to him. Tywin thought he was surrounded by people he could rely on and ended up being slain on the toilet by his own son. And as a result of that, Cersei is now surrounded by a small council made up of in-laws and relics who can’t offer any valuable advice. If you want to be successful, you have to build a good team around you who can offer additional guidance and tell you when you’re heading down the wrong path.
Last week, the media was hit with articles professing to know the “10 toughest interview questions” of all time, rendering offices everywhere pensive, interviewers inspired, and jobseekers mildly nauseous. We all like to think we’d be ready for any interview, poised, brimming with knowledge and somewhere on the spectrum of a highly caffeinated cross between Legally Blonde and Rain Man. So how do potential employers catch us off guard? How best to respond to questions designed to catch you out? And, when the going gets tough, “WWBSD?” What would BlueSky do?
With it being Halloween it seemed to make sense to do this week’s blog on a relevant and often terrifying subject. That’s why I’ve asked the BlueSky team for their worst, scariest or weirdest interview or employment experiences: Tracey – “When I was in recruitment some of our interview rooms had sofas. One of my candidates was early so he was shown into the interview room to wait for me. When the allotted appointment time arrived I entered to find him fast asleep. I thought he had passed out but it turned out he just had the mother of all hangovers. He was actually a good candidate and later secured a role, but he wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders that morning”. Vickie – “I once went to an interview where the interviewer discovered he hadn’t booked a meeting room and they were all full. As a result, we ended up having the meeting in the only room available – a storage cupboard! After 20 minutes perched on a box of paper in a very small windowless room, I felt highly embarrassed leaving the cupboard to many amused looks from the rest of the staff. I can only imagine what they thought!” Kerry – “Not long after I left university, I applied for a job online as a ‘copywriter’ at what was described as a new local publication in my home town. I was invited to interview, and attended on three separate occasions because the first two times I showed up the boss had forgotten he was meeting me. When I finally sat down with him in a dingy room of a rundown office block, he spent the first 15 minutes talking about himself and his wonderful hugely successful career. He then went on to tell me I’d actually be cold-calling for ad sales for a publication that was little more than a glorified monthly newsletter. I’d be paid per ad placement, but wouldn’t be paid for the first month whilst I learned how to use the phone… I made my excuses and left.” Steph M –
It’s been an interesting week for British women. Not only has the Church of England voted to allow women to become bishops for the first time in its history, David Cameron’s reshuffle has doubled the number of women in Cabinet to eight. This has seen an influx of articles that insist progress is forging new pathways like never before, yet others that argue change is still desperately needed and, in a way, they’re both right. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that gender equality is a topic that remains high on the news agenda – inextricably connected to issues of diversity and leadership – and that’s why the headlines this week were littered with “women bishops” and “women MPs”. Headlines like these simply won’t stop being front page news while female representation remains so low. Essentially, the issue here stems from the lack of women in leadership.
Working in a content-heavy industry I tend to make extensive notes and scribblings. Last week I was working on a press release and looked down to my notepad to see the phrase ‘blood donors for cats’. I had no recollection of writing this and it wasn’t relevant to anything I was working on but it caught my eye and I had to investigate further. It turns out that this was related to the program, Supervet on Channel 4, that my colleague had watched that highlighted the true power of social media. Supervet The program had reported the story of a cat that had been hit by a car and was in desperate need of medical attention and crucially, blood. Not being a feline aficionado, I questioned whether there was a large enough pool of cats that are willing to become blood donors, but after sending out a Facebook post, the vet received three responses (from owners) while the surgery was taking place. In any other circumstance it would be impossible to contact such a wide network of people immediately and seek help. But by harnessing social media the vet was able to get hold of the right type of cat blood, which I imagine isn’t readily available, and ultimately it went on to make a full recovery. Stephen Sutton And this isn’t the only example of social media being used for real good. Stephen Sutton made the news recently for raising over £4m for the teenage cancer trust at the time of his death on May 14th. This incredible achievement wouldn’t have been possible without the networking potential of platforms like Twitter, Facebook & Google + and their ability to transmit messages to truly global audiences and raise awareness. #bringbackourgirls We’ve also seen the #bringbackourgirls hashtag that has helped to alert the world to the plight of more than 200 kidnapped school girls in Nigeria. While millions of people read the stories in newspapers across the world, it was only through social media that the campaign was really able to get going and build up support that was impossible to ignore.
Last week my sister, who is still a student, walked into an interview room for a summer job – she was completely terrified. She rang me up to say she had got the role. It came as a surprise – I could hear it in her voice, as she said she could not answer some of the questions that had been posed. I guess we all have moments of self-doubt and perhaps the younger and less experienced we are the more we feel the stress of a job interview. But sometimes we’re good! And we should own it! Perhaps all job interviews are just as important but the real clincher is the first interview into your future career. The job you dream of doing and becoming exceptionally good at. You want to get that one right, leave an impression and make sure you get the call with an offer. I have read numerous blog posts claiming that the majority of first interviews are unsuccessful for various reasons. So I was also curious to find out how the first job interviews went for the amazing people I share an office with, and what advice they would give to someone attending their first interview. Tracey Barrett ‘’ My first job interview was for Bejam, the frozen food retailer (now Iceland), as a management trainee in 1983. The interviewer asked me to sell them the ashtray sitting on the desk (yes you could smoke in the office in those days). I threw it out of the window and said “You haven’t got an ashtray have you?” I got the job! ‘’ Ian Hawkings ‘’ My first proper job interview was for a well-known recruitment firm- they did a standard interview for about 30 mins and then took me onto the sales floor, gave me a bunch of CVs and made me cold-call candidates….while they watched and listened. It was terrifying. ’’ Kerry Gill ‘’ The most entertaining story I could tell you about would be from one of my first interviews after graduating. I’d applied for a position advertised as a “Content Writer” at a local newspaper. After submitting my CV, a cover letter and a few examples of my work, I was invited for an interview at the office. When I turned up, I realised the office was two rooms above a pub on the high street… not a very encouraging start! When I walked inside, the place was in complete disarray. The walls looked grubby, some of the ceiling tiles were missing, it didn’t smell great and there was stuff everywhere. The staff were all my age and paid me no attention at all when I arrived. When finally someone did notice me I introduced myself and said I was there for an interview. After a few blank looks the girl gave me a scrap of paper (ripped from another person’s CV) to write my mobile number on as the boss wasn’t there. She told me to come back later, not giving a specific time. ‘’ Foolishly, I did go back. I actually met the boss this time. He guided me into his office (a small room with bare walls, a disproportionately large desk, a chair and a small plastic coffee table strewn with books) sat down and proceeded to tell me that I was going to flog ad space over the phone for unheard of local newspapers all around the Midlands. Cold calling for minimum wage, with an unpaid trial period to “test my abilities”. Needless to say I turned down the job offer when it came two weeks later! '' Stephanie Mullins’ first real interview was similar to mine; we both interviewed for the company we work for now. We both have some good stories to tell but perhaps some other time. For all it’s worth, I would advise you to expect something different in your interview – I sure didn’t and it took me by surprise. When Adrian Barrett interviewed me, one of the questions was: ‘’what country had lost a war but came out of it wealthier than when it joined?’’ My reaction: straight face. My answer: ‘’In all honesty, warfare is not one of my strongest points.’’ (By this time I was wondering whether I was still being interviewed for a PR role). But I was able to mention some of the ongoing wars and I proved that I had some knowledge of the war related news stories. I understand the role of that question now.
Rush hour traffic, an overflowing inbox and the working week ahead. Yes, it’s Monday again. But did you know, you might hate Monday because of a PR stunt? ‘Blue Monday’ was a name given to a date in January to be the most depressing day of the year – and it was all part of a publicity campaign. It was included in a press release by the public relations agency appointed by Sky Travel. My colleague, Alex Dobocan, said: “Blue Monday came about as a PR stunt but it seems to have had success and made us all regard Mondays as… well, depressing. “Whilst we all dread endings and we could agree they are never all that pleasant, when it comes to ending a week we are more excited than anything! So why are we not treating Monday as any other start? - An exciting time to make things happen, to plan and to conquer.” Monday: the day we love to hate Taking this positive attitude, and inspired by a paragraph on Tumblr, I’d like to tell you a little more about these Mondays that we love to hate.
As a woman who took a relatively lengthy career break to care for my children, I was interested to learn about the launch of a new scheme by Credit Suisse in London to help senior professional women re-start their careers after taking time out of the workplace. Dubbed the “returnship”, the Real Returns programme is the first UK example of an idea which has been gathering pace in the US over the last few years. The scheme involves returners taking on CV-worthy projects that draw on their existing skills and experience and being paid accordingly. It’s effectively putting a toe back in the water of the corporate world, allowing women - who have perhaps lost confidence in their abilities - the opportunity to prove that they’ve still got what it takes to succeed and that it is actually possible to juggle corporate life and a family. 70% of women fear taking a career break This story really struck a chord with me personally, as believe me, when you’ve been out of the corporate world for a good few years, the prospect of going back is a daunting one indeed. Once you’ve jumped off the train, it’s very hard to jump back on. In fact, a recent survey from London Business School shows 70% of women fear taking a career break. Nagging doubts about whether you can still do your job, whether you’ll be up to speed with new technology and how you’ll combine a working day with the working day you usually put in as the primary carer are more than enough to put you off even looking for a role. Female brain drain I know of far too many professional women –experienced, bright, capable and very well-organised – who have never returned to work after having a family. Not only is this a great loss to the professional world and the wider economy, but it’s also a personal loss for these ladies. All of that brain power, time invested in studying - in most cases for a degree or professional qualification – not to mention years spent climbing the career ladder, potentially sidelined for a future of domestic drudgery or a low-paid job for which they are massively over-qualified!
I am not a career adviser and whilst I cannot tell you what to do, I can tell you what I did and how it worked. I am writing this blog for undergraduates from all backgrounds who might need an inspirational speech or some guidance. Here are three ways to get the most out of your university years and potentially the great job you want. Network. A lot I think I spoke with more people during my university years than I have spoken with in my entire life. For real. Being at university is a great opportunity to meet people (d’oh). But just think about it! Not only have you got your peers (who one day might be influential) but you also have the academic staff, non-academic staff, and external speakers at various events. Interact with as many people as you can without being judgemental – the son of one of the cleaners at my university gave me an internship. I met my best friend by making small chat at the cafeteria and I have this great job today because everyone knew I was looking for one. It’s great to have a network but you have to know how to use it too! So, if you are offering something or are looking for something, make sure everyone knows it! You’d be surprised how fast the word gets around. Be the best you can
A bit tongue in cheek this but those of you of a certain vintage will remember a song called Time After Time by Cindi Lauper. There was a great parody of this called I'm Billing Time which was aimed at the Legal Profession but it also resonated ( just a little bit) with me. Not with our lovely current clients I hasten to add but a few organisations who never became clients over the the years who haven't quite got what we do. So all together now - to the tune of Time After Time: Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick and think of you Caught up in your campaigns insomnia is nothing new Downstairs at midnight - its coffee time Read a briefcase of documents - I'm billing time Sometimes you call me up and beg me for free advice You're stealing from me and wondering why I'm not nice My mind, my time... are my merchandise Don't make me say this twice If you come to my office or call my phone - I'm billing time If you stop me at parties to whine or moan - I'm billing time
I should start by apologising to everyone for trying to redeem myself through this blog post. I promise that by the end of it there will be some food for thought. So bear with me. Yesterday, myself and a couple of my colleagues attended a training course on how to create effective presentations led by David Josephs. The aim of it was clear. At the end of the training we were given the task of putting together a three minute presentation on a desired topic. This was going to be a competition (so I put my warrior hat on). We can present on anything? My chance to make everyone fall in love with… a fairy-tale (my friends will know this is very typical of me). There I was, a very competitive 5’5’’, well rounded, glasses on, PR professional presenting on… A Never Ending Story (Michael Ende). I was poetic and confident and had the perfect story to tell. I was also ranting, did not respect time and LOST.
The unpaid intern debate is back in the news this week with announcements that HMRC will be probing the exploitation of interns in the PR industry. This comes on the back of reports that, of the 100 firms reported by Intern Aware, an incredible 10% were either PR agencies or companies advertising PR roles. Now forgive me for potentially going off on a rant here, but is it really necessary for PR – and indeed any industry – to use unpaid talent? In my view, if an individual at any level, and regardless of their background, is doing work for a company which it deems necessary, that person should receive payment for their services. Yes an intern will require a level of training and perhaps even more hand holding than someone with more experience would, but they can also prove invaluable for the business.
As it is International Women's Day - and never one to shirk controversy, I thought this may be an apt post for today. It was prompted by some interesting research I came across from one or our business education clients which suggests that women are under represented in high paying jobs not because of discrimination - but because they are not applying for them. Professor Roxana Barbulescu, of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, says “Women are taking themselves out of the running for certain jobs. When they evaluate different possible career tracks they already have the assumption that their applications may be unsuccessful. This is combined with a preference for jobs with better work-life balances and a lack of identity with more stereotypically masculine jobs, such as you may find in the finance industry. In a sense they pre-empt what they think the employers’ decision will be, and opt-out first. ”
I'm sure most of you are aware of the story about Adam, an unemployed graduate who has blown his last £500 on a billboard ad with a huge picture of himself and a link to his website employadam.com. The Telegraph reports that, "The 24-year-old from the Isle of Wight is yet to be offered his much sought-after first job in television production." Now don't get me wrong - I am all for innovation and enterprise - and I really do hope he gets the job that he wants but.... His on-line CV says nothing about what value he can add, and what his previous experience has taught him about the industry he is interested in - it's a wasted opportunity. He says he has sent over 200 CVs but that it is difficult to get across his talent on paper. So why not have a blog with examples of his work and send that instead? Where is his LinkedIn profile? Why isn't he linking in with media production professionals? Why isn't he joining relevant LinkedIn groups and engaging with industry professionals?
For a long time, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not there is sexism in the media. The treatment of Meghan Markle and the press’ ability to turn a blind eye to Boris’ antics when they chose not to with Theresa May has brought this issue to the forefront once more.
I was talking to a fellow business owner the other week and he was bemoaning the fact that he couldn't afford to put a decent employee benefits package together. "It's so difficult to compete with the big guys when they have their gym memberships, private healthcare and big employee engagement programmes." I asked him what he did to engage his employees - he said "well nothing - as I've said, I can't really afford it." This surprised me. I'm not going to pretend I am some great benevolent employer but there are lots of small things a business can do to make their employees feel valued and engaged. For one thing we always buy a birthday present and a card for our staff, we buy ice creams when it's hot; we are really flexible when it comes to people needing to come in late or leave early and when our four graduates passed their induction we bought them chocolate Olympic medals. We also invited then all to dinner the day before they started so we could all get to know each other. We close for Christmas week and give away a few extra days of holiday rather then making staff take it out of their allowance. We also give staff £50 when they join to buy a picture for our meeting room - so that there's a bit of everyone's personality in there - as well as something to remember people by if they leave.
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