Saul O’Keeffe – PR Executive @Saul_Eskenzi
PR is a notoriously competitive and popular career path for graduates. There’s any number of ways people manage to get on the PR ladder, but as a graduate with little or no experience, it can seem a daunting task.
The reason I chose PR was because I knew how to write and research new subjects quickly, as well as being an easygoing person who doesn’t mind being out of their comfort zone on a regular basis. In short it was a career path where I’d get to test my skills to their limits, while having a real chance of career progression. But the difficult thing is getting that foot in the door, then through said door and on the first rung of that butter-coated ladder.
I had never worked in PR before – I’d never even worked in an office before. So how did I get a job in PR? Some of it was down to skill, some of it to luck and a large part of it was just patience and hard graft.
My experience comprised of charity projects with the Houses of Commons, a degree in political science and a few years working as a violin maker’s apprentice. Speaking to my rivals at job interviews, it was clear that competition was tough and knowing how to build a cello probably wasn’t going to impress someone who wanted me writing press releases and scoring media interviews for their clients.
So I did what everyone in my position did and applied to as many roles as I could – but saw no success. I then tried applying prospectively to companies where no positions were advertised, again without success. Consistently being told I had to do an internship first or hold a PR degree was somewhat disheartening. Then I got some excellent advice – build a strong relationship with a recruiter and be as open and honest with them as you can. Tell them your true likes and dislikes and where you sense your weaknesses lie. That way, they respect your honesty and know how to find the right position for you.
The recruiter then suggested I look at tech PR. It fitted my goals as the industry moves fast, requires consistent effort and creativity and enables me to learn about an area where I had little working knowledge before. It felt like the perfect challenge for someone looking to cut their teeth in PR. I’d had a couple of interviews by this stage and was starting to learn what PR directors are looking for in their teams. It was not long after this conversation I was off to my first tech PR interview – and luckily for me it was at a company where I felt instantly at home!
So my path from university to Eskenzi was hardly a doddle, with some disappointments along the way and interviews that were a complete waste of my time. There were 3 main lessons I learned on my journey into PR:
- Make sure you’re applying for PR in the sector that’s best for you – play to your strengths and ask for career advice about where you need to be.
- Blanket applications do not work – trust me. Be focused and targeted rather than throwing the whole pot of spaghetti at the wall.
- Do not be daunted by rejection or failure – it is all part of the learning experience and it is something to be relished rather than regretted.
So good luck in your applications! One final thing: do not feel pressured into working for free just to get “experience” – experience doesn’t pay the rent! If you work for free, you’re conceding your time isn’t worth any money, which is just not true. Right?