Why I had never considered a career in PR

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Lucy Wollam
Lucy Wollam

This is an article by Lucy Wollam.

Had a friend not arranged a placement in a communications department for me over a year ago, I would most likely have built a career in teaching, law or recruitment, like so many of my peers.

Throughout school and university, I never considered a career in PR simply because no careers adviser, website or organisation ever presented it as an option. As a consequence, I had no idea what it was or what it involved until I was actually experiencing it.

In that respect, it seems that I wasn’t alone. According to the CIPR’s Future Perspectives survey, 70% of 14-16 year olds that were questioned were ‘unfamiliar with what a career in PR involved’ and 9% thought that PR was synonymous with celebrity image management.

PR in schoolsIt was for this reason that I welcomed John Owen’s article on the PR Week website which explained the CIPR’s plans to put public relations firmly on the careers map. This CIPR initiative will work alongside the established PRCA apprenticeship scheme, and the PRCA and PR Week joint initiative to crack down on unpaid internships, to make our industry a better one for students and graduates.

Measures will include sending CIPR volunteers to engage with pupils, providing careers packs for advisers and educating through workshops. Steps like this will give students the opportunity to hear first-hand what a career in communications entails, which in turn will allow them to make an informed decision and give them the tools to begin a career in communications if so desired.

This is imperative in maintaining the high calibre and number of candidates that are entering the industry, and in addressing the gender and background imbalance that is much discussed amongst senior industry figures.

However, educating students about the industry is only half the battle. Giving those students the necessary experience to hone their skills is also essential. I have been fortunate enough to secure paid placements and work for those who have been passionate about passing on their knowledge, but I am well aware that this is not always the case.

My experience so far has served to teach me just how difficult it is to get a foot onto the PR ladder, even when equipped with passion and basic knowledge. Graduate programmes are relentlessly competitive, work experience often comes with a waiting list, three-month internships require more than a basic foundation of experience and entry-level roles seem to require at least 6 months’ experience.

I understand that our industry requires a breadth of skills and a tenacious character. I am also aware that taking into account the current climate, a job must be earned.

However in my opinion there could be more options available to those, like myself, who are starting out and desperately need that first introduction or extra experience which is why I was so pleased to read about the work that the CIPR, PRCA and PR Week are doing.

Training those that are just starting out may be time-consuming, but it does provide invaluable experience for those on the receiving end and following that, it is up to those of us that feel passionately to prove it, and to work hard to succeed in a challenging and ever-evolving industry. Once the industry with its own self-confessed reputation problem can bring itself to the forefront and compete with other well-trodden career paths in offering those necessary first opportunities, the benefits will be enormous both to the individuals and the PR industry as a whole.