Placement’s, or work experience if you prefer, are a helpful means of proactive learning during study, or I would say even essential in the current economic climate. Employers are much more interested in what you’ve done, not simply what you’ve written an essay on.
As part of my PR degree at Leeds Met we are assessed on a submitted portfolio of real experience, so for us placement opportunities are a fantastic way to gain that relevant work for real clients and learn the industry on the job.
Recently however there seems to be a lot of speculation around the topic. Not only is there the whole; paid / unpaid debate, but the issue of applications as well.
It seems that other PR students have set a pretty bad reputation for us, sending out impersonal, uninformed and sometimes really negative emails to apply for work experience. Every PR practitioner I’ve come across so far has mentioned the poor calibre of applications and offered advice on how to approach people for placements, which a lot of the time I feel are simply common sense.
For example, the reoccurring pointer I’ve found is, not to address your email ”Dear Sir/Madam”. Well, its just polite to at least know who you are talking to. It’s easy to research -in particular - a PR agencies employees; most have a profile, or at least a picture and job title of each on their company website.
So, I’m all for us student’s being offered advice to be more creative when trying to secure placement opportunities and stand out amongst the dozens of other ”I need work experience for uni” emails. But I can’t help but feel that a lot of agencies expect just a little too much. I found one company’s advice before applying for an unpaid placement there asking for us to be offering them new business clients, campaign ideas for their current clients, and to get ourselves coverage in three different types of media in the space of a month. A little extravagant?
My own story to securing my position involved a lot of hard work and creativity, but the application process itself was all great experience, and the end result was a paid position in a creative agency. An incentive to work hard for.
Two Birds One Stone created the ‘Student Apprentice’ as an interview process for positions within the company. Here was the process:
- PR students, and design students from both Leeds University and Leeds Metropolitan University were given the chance to express their initial interest via an email application form.
- Successful applicants were then asked to prepare a speech and take part in an interview process which was recorded by Met TV.
- 15 of us were then arranged into groups of three, and given a brief. We were asked to come up with a PR campaign for a real client: King of Shaves.
- This was then judged by a panel and the winning team given the opportunity to be part of the TBOS team
The panel was made up of the two founders of TBOS: Adam Burns & Gerard Savva, plus Nathan Lane - the managing director of Ptarmigan Bell Pottinger and Becky Edlin - the creative team leader at Magpie. Shane Castle - Marketing Director of King of Shaves and Alex Epstein - BBC Apperentice 2010 contestant, also sat on the panel.
So as you can see, it was a lengthy process but each stage was amazing practise for each applicant. Not only did I practise writing and presenting a speech, interview techniques, being in front of a camera, networking with industry professionals, preparing a PR campaign from a brief and pitching to a client, but at the end I managed to secure a paid position in a fantastic agency, and I’m continuing to learn a lot through my experience here.