If I could turn back time...
Posted on April 27, 2018
Spring not only marks the start of brighter evenings, warmer temperatures and striped culottes with wedged espadrilles (have you seen RoCo’s latest window display?), but it also brings with it the opportunity for new beginnings.
For many people, school is drawing to an end and they are tasked with making the BIG decision on what career path to take. For others, university is coming to close and they are about to embark on working life.
If you’re in this position, we thought we’d help you out and provide some advice to prepare you for that new beginning. To do this, we asked the folk of Clearbox about the three things they would tell their post-university self about working life / life in the PR industry.
Away you go, team…
1) You’re about to get incredibly busy and you will remain so for the next 50+ years. The change of pace will make you cry yourself to sleep for the first six months and then you’ll become acclimatised and you’ll soon be addicted to the adrenaline. Remember the stress you had about writing 10,000 words for your dissertation? If you’re going into PR, you’ll probably write this much every day. Some days more. Harden up, get your head down and enjoy it.
2) If you want to go travelling, experience the world or get anything out of your system, now is the time to do it. Otherwise you’ll end up swallowed up by your career and you’ll never do it. Don’t worry about a year or two of travelling and a gap in your CV - you’re seeing the world, expanding your horizons and becoming a more cultured and creative person.
3) Get a pension. It’s never too early to do this and, believe it or not, you’re not going to be 21 forever. The earlier you start paying into a pension, the more fun you’ll be able to have when you retire!
You’ll never know happiness again like those three-month summer breaks in uni...
1) Working in PR is a lot more interesting than studying it in uni - you’re working on new projects for different clients all the time, coming up with creative ideas and meeting new people along the way. You get to finally do the work you spent three years learning about!
2) The news agenda affects everything you do in a day, whether it’s a journalist having space to cover your story on the day of the royal wedding, an event you’re planning that will clash with the World Cup, or drafting content ideas that will be relevant to your target audience. You don’t really listen to your lecturers when they tell you to read the papers, but following the news every day is a big part of the job (yes, even the sports news)
3) The working world isn’t as scary as you expect. Find yourself a team that loves snacks and Spotify playlists as much as you do, and you’ll be alright.
1) Coffee is your friend. It will never let you down.
It’s hard to elaborate on that. Whether it’s the accompaniment to a casual chat, an excuse to grab a few minutes of fresh air as you run across the road to order, or they’re just being given away for free on a Tuesday, coffee is something that keeps the working day and offices all over the world ticking over. I ♡ coffee.
2) Don’t ever lock keys and camera equipment in the car. Ever.
Be prepared and focused on what you’re doing, because if you let it slip you could be stood in the rain with an increasingly annoyed person you were supposed to be chatting to and sheepishly explaining that you’ve let the ball drop. It happens now and again but keep those occasions to a minimum.
3) Get everything in writing.
Whether it’s a brief on a piece of work, confirmation that something is approved or a commitment to carry out a job get everything in writing. It covers your back and the backs of everyone else involved in the unlikely event that there’s a dispute further down the line. Thankfully though, like keys in cars, that hardly ever happens.
Claire (the one from New York)
Hindsight is 20/20, especially when looking back on the things you wish you knew at 21. Entering the workforce after university is one of the most exciting next steps you will take in your life. That said, it is also full of scary firsts. If I were to go back in time and whisper key pieces of friendly advice to myself, I would probably say the following…
1) You will make tons of mistakes and typos and you will feel terrible about yourself. That said, it is not about the mistakes, it is about how to handle yourself and learn from your mistakes that matters. Don’t take criticism about something you didn’t do well as a personal attack, but as an opportunity to grow.
2) Savour every moment - the good and the bad. In the early years of your career, you will learn so much, so soak up as much information as possible and feel grateful for opportunities to challenge yourself. Even when someone frustrates you or does something that you are shocked by, take it as a learning experience!
3) There is no such as thing as "having it all" and anyone that says they have it all is lying. It is a made-up concept to make women feel bad about themselves, so don’t add that to already long list of worries in your life.
At the end of the day, be kind to every person you meet. Try your hardest, even when you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing, and don’t be afraid to take risks - this is the time in your life when you have everything at your feet, so take a leap!
1) Work hard and carve out a career doing something YOU love - not what someone else tells you they think you should do. Going into a job you love each day is a much better alternative to spending your days counting down the hours to 5pm.
2) Drop any egos, there’s always going to be someone better than you and you can learn from them. And be kind, always be kind to everyone you meet.
3) Time is precious, and you can invest in it or waste it. When I find myself wasting time stressing or worrying about the tiny ups and downs of a working day, I revert to the 5-Year rule and ask myself “will what I’m worrying about matter in five years?” 99% of the time, the answer is usually no.
Claire (the one from Bangor)
1) Studying does not finish when you graduate.
You’ve spent the past three or four years studying, reading and learning and it's not surprising that most people fancy a break from the books the moment they graduate. The first tip I would give myself, is to keep striving to learn more, to continue reading around your subject area and to keep digesting information. The landscape, especially in marketing and PR, changes so quickly that if you don’t keep pushing yourself to learn, you will get left behind.
2) The first job out of uni doesn’t define you.
This is a big one and is something that I think every final year student should have engrained into them. It’s incredibly rare to find people that end up in their dream job straight out of university. Usually, graduates will take a slightly meandering path through a few different roles first, where they’re able to build up their skills and their contacts before moving into something they’re truly passionate about.
3) Build a network
Go to the events, create a LinkedIn profile, talk to everyone. You never know who you might be sitting beside on a plane or having coffee with at a networking event and how they might shape your career decisions later in life.
My number one piece of advice is that you simply must LOVE what you do. I couldn’t imagine doing a job that I didn’t love, we spend so much time in work that it is vital to at least enjoy, if not truly love, what you do. I believe when you are passionate it really shows in your output and its contagious! #SpreadTheLove
Secondly, don't ever be afraid to ask questions no matter how silly you think the question is or how senior a position you hold, just ask it! Learning doesn’t stop when you leave university / college.
And lastly, take time out to reflect. When I first started out in my career I operated at 100mph, many would say this is still the case but I assure you I have slowed down (a little). Thankfully, I learned early on the importance of taking time out to pause and reflect on decisions and actions I had taken. This time out allowed me to really consider if what I said or did was the right thing and if it created the outcome I was hoping for. It also allows me to consider how I might better deal with situations in the future.
1) Always be respectful
Whether you’re at the bottom of the ladder or the top, it’s wise to treat people as you’d like to be treated yourself. Be courteous, kind and respectful to everyone from the man who sits on reception for night duty to the CEO. In short – don’t be a dick. Unless you work in an office where 90% of the staff call Oasis ‘a classic band’ – then it’s acceptable to go to war with them.
2) Don’t let the door hit you on the way out
When the time comes to leave your job, do it the right way. Work hard until the end. Don’t leave and assume that you’ll never meet anyone from your old company ever again. That’s a really bad mistake to make – leaving your job and being an eejit about it WILL come back to haunt you, I promise you. Also, don’t ever apply for and accept another job in attempt to get more money from your current employer. Backfire potential: 10/10.
3) Print stuff out when proof reading
In the spirit of including something practical…you’ll spot mistakes quicker on paper. Don’t ask me why. Don’t get offended when people change your work. Learn from it. Proof everything – but don’t proof your own work, get someone else to do it. I once sent letters to five Premier League football clubs asking for work experience, but I left the L out of the public in public relations. One of them replied, to be fair. Oh, and buy a thesaurus. I know they’re online now, but that doesn’t look nice on your desk, does it?