On her last day at Clearsilver, our lovely intern Emily reflects on work-based placements for the PR professionals of the future.
Why work-based placements are so important for students
As university students, lecturers are always telling us how beneficial work experience within the PR and Communications industry is to enhance our studying experience. As a second year student at Leeds Metropolitan University, I now know why.
Although university has cemented what Public Relations really is and the topics around the field of PR, by gaining work experience I have been able to support the theory I have learnt by putting it into real life practise.
At University, it is compulsory for us to create and maintain a ‘Portfolio of Experience’, showing all the work we have achieved from previous placements. This opportunity has allowed us to show future employers our past experiences by showing evidence. It also gives us a chance to explain what we’ve learnt, and what path we want to take in the future. Most importantly – in a competitive job market like today it is vital you can impress from day one.
Here are my top reasons for getting involved in work-based placements:
- You learn things you never would in the classroom
As simple as it sounds, you learn about how to behave in a professional environment. Every office is different but when it comes to being polite, ensuring you are always completing tasks to the best of your ability, and occasionally offering to make a brew, you need to ensure that you create the right impression.
Not only do you get used to a 9am-5pm and how to interact with colleagues and clients, but also how a business works and communicates in general. Meetings, telephone calls and emails will enforce the need for communication within an office and will also help to build your interpersonal skills and confidence. Not forgetting organisational skills and time management. Students – when was the last time you set an alarm for 6.30am?
- It really is the best way to learn
Yes, your degree is priority and you must always try to attend lectures and complete assignments before deadline. But, making the time to complete work placements allows you to discover parts of Public Relations you never would have before. Before completing work experience I never knew that social media management sites or database sites that allow you to create media lists existed.
I have also learnt the importance of SEO (search engine optimisation) and how much research can be involved for just a small project. Every day you learn new skills and it really puts into perspective the work involved.
University may teach you theory, the history and future of PR and all about communications, but once you step into a professional organisation, that is when you really learn about the industry.
- It is fun and enjoyable
You might consider entering your first work placement as a bit intimidating, or dreading the early night before each day in the office , but students remember – everyone you work with does this every day, so put a smile on your face and have a laugh! You colleagues want to make your experience worthwhile, and are therefore always there to offer help and guidance. Importantly, I have learnt that they won’t hate you for asking questions, and sometimes it is better to query a problem you have rather than sit at your desk clueless.
- Helps you to get a foot in the door
I mentioned earlier the personal and professional skills you develop, from gaining confidence to knowing how to master Microsoft Excel. Everything you learn at your work placements really will benefit you in the long-term.
A 2.1 or even first in your degree is no longer enough for you to secure a job, employers are now looking at your experiences and skills, showing experience is needed to help boost your employability. Not only this but it can also help to ensure you have chosen the right industry and whether this is the path you want to take in the future.
Work experience and placements are an amazing opportunity offered to students to develop new skills and enhance their learning. It is vital that you put the effort in and take every chance you can to learn on the job, which will show in the future you are passionate about PR.