Landing your first PR job

Getting a job when you finish your PR degree can be tricky. Here, our newest staff member, university graduate Bill Hansen, offers up his tips.

With universities across the state coming to the end of another year, graduates of public relations degrees will soon start their job hunt. That’s where I was 12 months ago, and in the time since graduation I’ve faced all sorts of challenges and surprises. Here’s what to expect when looking for a job and some advice for those now completing their studies.

How my university degree led the way

When I first started university in 2017, I intended studying journalism, but in my first year I attended an elective class that made me fall in love with public relations. From there I decided to study both.

My course was helpful in developing my skills and understanding of the main ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ when it comes to PR and journalism. My lecturers were experienced and caring, and I made connections with other students while studying topics like ethics, media relations, strategic writing and social media tactics.

Prepare for the real world with internships

If I could go back a few years, the one piece of advice I would tell myself: complete as many internships as possible. There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom, but an internship offers invaluable experience that prepares you for the real world and adds to what might otherwise be a bare résumé.

My first internship was in sports communications at Deakin University. In this unique role with its Elite Athlete Program, I met and interviewed a broad range of sports people, created web content and drafted numerous stories for the newsletter.

I decided to try journalism during my next internship and was lucky enough to secure a one-week spot at WIN News Western Victoria. During the week I shadowed broadcast journalists on stories they were producing for the nightly bulletin, before preparing my own version of the story which was then reviewed by the chief of staff. On my last day of my internship, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to jump in front of the camera and have my first story go to air.

When the week ended, I successfully interviewed for a casual reporting role and continued to work as a broadcast journalist while finishing my studies.

Securing a PR role

Graduates face many challenges when trying to land a job in their field, let alone those seeking their first job during a pandemic.

Six months into getting the job at WIN News, COVID-19 hit and all casual staff were furloughed, leaving me without a job in my field. That’s when I decided to chase my dream of moving into PR, and the tough slog began.

The world shut down with no one knowing when or if we were ever going to come out of this pandemic – as a result, no one was hiring. This continued for a long six months until I finally began receiving a few opportunities. I never heard back from some interviews; others were reluctant to put me on due to my lack of PR experience. In two instances I was down to the final two in the selection process, but due to my background in journalism, the job was given to the other candidate.

It’s not what you know..

In January this year, a former university lecturer I kept in contact with put me in touch with a bright, bubbly woman running her own small business, a PR agency in Melbourne.

When I first chatted to Christina, I uncovered an incredible opportunity to work in a small team of professionals, with a range of diverse skills and backgrounds, not to mention more than 20 years of PR experience. I must have said something right, as she took me under her wing.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Surprises on the job

The first thing that caught me by surprise was the range of clients we work with and the tasks we perform for them. We might work with SeaRoad shipping logistics on the launch of a new ship or the not-for-profit, community-owned Indigenous organisation, Bamaga Enterprises, in Queensland’s far north. The diversity of clients has helped with my development in all facets of PR.

Variety of work and great team = enjoying your job

No two days are ever the same at CK PR and the variety of work we complete keeps me on my toes. One day I might be drafting and pitching out media releases, the next could be designing a website or preparing content for social media posts.

The people I work with are also great and I couldn’t ask for a better team. I look up to them and, although they may not know it, they are all my mentors. Each has their own areas of specialty – Amy has excellent design skills, Justin is an award-winning journalist and CK has 20 years of PR experience – and I’m grateful to work with such energetic and fun professionals.

Challenges you face working in PR

Constantly adapting my writing style to suit a range of clientele can be a challenge. One media release could be written for parenting journalists about a client’s school holiday activities and the next could be about a travel client targeting business sections and publications.

Another test has been building relationships with journalists during a pandemic. With limited events and opportunities to meet people face to face, there are few, if any, chances to get to know them on a personal level and gain an insight into the kinds of stories that interest them.

The five year path

This is a tough one because, if you’d thought about this five years ago, who would’ve thought we would be here right now? But I know I have a long way to go and a lot of things to learn to become successful in the field of PR.

Right now, I want to focus on being the best I can for CK PR and our clients, and continue to develop my skill set. I would like to think that when travel around the world resumes, an opportunity somewhere overseas – Europe, perhaps – could be a possibility, but until then I’ll be focusing on my professional development.

Five tips for PR graduates

So, here are my main tips for PR graduates heading out into the world.

  • Do as many internships as you can. The networks you develop and the experience you gain is invaluable.
  • Hang in there. It’s a crazy world we’re currently living in and hunting for a job can be stressful. Eventually, though, you’ll land something amazing.
  • Keep in touch with your networks. Whether it’s lecturers, classmates or professionals you met during your internship, you never know when you might run into them. A LinkedIn profile is a great option for maintaining connections.
  • When an opportunity arises, grab it with both hands. It may not be what you’d planned, but you never know what can happen.
  • Never take a university assessment lightly – you never know when you may need to use it in the real world and grades can make a difference when it comes to getting a job.

Anything we’ve missed? Let us know what other tips you might have. 

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