Google works in mysterious ways. Even though I have an in-depth understanding of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) it’s still fascinating to see which blog posts continue to draw in web traffic after a few years. It’s the beauty of blogging – posts act as personal memories attempting to give public advice. Once you’ve kept a blog running for a few years, there are certain posts that keep producing results time and time again.
Out of all the 300+ posts on this blog, one of the popular is ‘How I landed myself a Graduate PR Role’. Written in June 2012; once a year when the Red Consultancy Graduate scheme is running I usually get two or three messages from hopeful applicants asking for advice. Of all the posts on this blog, that post from 2012 was probably my most honest. It talked about personal ambition, bad experiences whilst job hunting, and it seems THE INTERNET enjoys it. Even Google seems to know that it was a brutally honest post.
That post about job hunting was followed up by ‘Now an Assistant Account Executive at Red’ – a happy time, but god. That agency marked the worst period in my working life. In the words of a typical break-up, “It’s not you, it’s me” – seriously. Jumping into London agency working life was tough, as all my previous work experience had been from Cheltenham where the pace of life is much slower.
So, if you’re a student who reads this blog and are going to start out working in a city based PR agency, here’s some advice (and sorry if it’s a bit black and white):
Stop romanticising about PR
I’ve lost count of student blog posts and social media profiles that somewhere say ‘love PR’ or ‘PR 4 ever’. There is nothing wrong about being passionate about the industry, and believe me, you’ll need to be passionate about your job to remain productive. Just don’t lose sight of the realities of starting out in PR for the first time – it’s bloody difficult. Some entry level roles are heavily admin based, may not include client contact and will put enormous amounts of pressure on you hitting close deadlines. Most of the time, it can be a shit place to be. A far cry from the jolly social media activity that exists around the industry.
A competition of contacts and knowledge
As I continue working in the PR industry (although I would now call myself a digital marketer / reputation manager) it’s obvious that there are three types of people who step ahead in agencies (they are usually a mix):
- Contact driven sales people
- Knowledge driven business development people
- Client management juggernauts
In order to reach bigger salaries you need to prove your worth to your agency and constantly refresh your knowledge. You have to offer something to your agency others are not able to, and in the tougher agency environments, protect your job role against internal competition. Which of the above are you? Have you invested enough time in your abilities to be the best?
A way of life
Working in an agency is a way of life. Already in my career there have been moments where I’ve had to leave for work at 5am, not returning home until the early hours of the morning the next day. When you sign that contract, you agree to serve clients to the best of your ability. This occasionally means unsociable working hours and being constantly connected to your agency’s work network to monitor emails. If you want to work in social media, then the role is even more intense – there are usually rotas in place to ensure social media activity is being managed effectively.
I would argue the above points aren’t a negative way of looking at things, they are true. What I haven’t talked about is the array of reasons to work for a city agency. Such as the ability to work across a range of different clients, gaining knowledge about multiple industry sectors, career ladder progression and evening entertainment. All of the perks though are grounded on the reality that succeeding takes a lot of hard work, that’s way more intense than university.
I’m aware everyone has different experiences of agency working life, especially those who work outside of cities. The above is just my personal advice and not a reflection of my current role but instead the path I had to personally take so far.