There’s something horribly age defining about being asked to speak to students about how to get a start in their career, like noticing policemen and doctors are starting to look younger.
At the same time it was also a huge and irresistible honour to be part of an event at one of the best PR courses in my home university.
Getting Hired and Getting Ahead was set up by Stephen Waddington and brought together a number of practitioners to talk about their experiences and offer advice to some Newcastle University students.
Big thanks to the other speakers Becky Beaumont, Amy Maughan, Gill Stephenson and Tudor Tamas whose presentations really hit home with me (and hopefully with the students as well).
So, here’s a very brief synopsis of some of the tips I offered to the current crop of Newcastle students on getting hired and getting ahead.
It’s one of the current political and managerial buzzwords but despite this it still rings true. Think of all the successful people you know and the thing they have in common is authenticity. If you try to copy others too closely or be something that you’re not, people will see straight through it. Be yourself and settle on your style to make the most out of any role.
Another part of being authentic is having your own values, sticking to them and doing what you say you’ll do.
#2 Personality goes a long way
At some basic level people will have to like you (or at least not actively dislike you) at work. Communications is a largely a service industry and a people business so the ability to influence at all levels is vital.
#3 Know your USP
What is it that sets you apart from the competition? It’s now a hugely crowded field so what else can you offer? What extra skills can you bring to the table?
Think carefully about what your unique selling point is and what you could offer to prospective new employers. What are you great at and what is it that you’re not so good at?
This goes without saying. There’s never been more opportunity to build your profile, learn or connect with people online. Don’t rely solely on this though, you still need to do somethings in the real world.
#5 Always deliver
Sounds obvious, but often overlooked. You can never have enough ‘doers’ focused on results.
#6 Be resilient
When you’re representing an organisation, particularly in the public sector, the criticism can feel personal. It isn’t, but that often doesn’t make it feel any easier. Remember it’s a job not a religion.
#7 Don’t make predictions and expect the unexpected
“I don’t make predictions…..and I never will” is one of the most famous football quotes to ever grace the airwaves and one that I’ve hijacked several times. Despite the unintentional comedy value there’s more than a grain of truth in there.
Making predictions about your career and what direction it might take is something that current PR students should be very wary of. The speed of change is so relentless that the skills you learn now might very well take you in a completely different direction in the future.
You need to balance the ambitions you have now, with the need to be flexible and find the right space in a crowded and complex media landscape. Too many people (myself included) start out planning for some imagined future that may never come, so make sure you are operating in the ‘here and now’ and developing the skills for the comms workplace of tomorrow.
Don’t make predictions and expect the unexpected.