Back in the Swing of Things

HELLO!

It’s been 8 months since my last post (shock horror), where my brief blog hiatus has turned into an extended vacation.

A lot has been going on since my last post, so before I start getting back into writing “proper” posts, I thought I’d let everyone know what I’d been up to in the last year.

I stopped blogging earlier this year after I found the pressure of my final year and having a family and work obligations too much to contend with all at once. Third year was a lot more full on that I thought it would be, and I didn’t have the luxury of taking any enjoyable PR modules, which meant extensive reading around 20th Century English Literature for my dissertation.

Thankfully, I managed to graduate with an overall 2:1, and here is a lovely photo of me and fellow PR graduate Arianne Williams to prove it.

13600210_10157312220700713_1425626294610252148_n
One of us will need to go home and change.

In the lead up to graduation I also got my first proper PR job! I had been doing some freelance work for 2B Communications based in Newcastle, and they decided to offer me a position post-graduation.

I couldn’t have asked for a better first role. As well as being really nice people and understanding of my childcare needs, everyone is really knowledgeable about the industry and North East media and I feel like I am learning something new everyday.

Another major milestone that passed this year was Penny’s first day of school. A big step and one that wasn’t without some tears (mainly mine). I’m sure you’re already bored of seeing photos of everyone’s kids in their uniforms so I won’t post one here, but if you follow me on Instagram you can be nosy and check it out.*

With 6 hours a day free from mammy duties and a part time job to fill most of it, I decided that I wasn’t busy enough (anyone who has followed my blog previously will have probably gathered that I like to be on the go constantly). I therefore decided to become a fully fledged masochist and enroll on the MA in Public Relations at the University of Sunderland. Well, my need to keep out of trouble isn’t the only reason, but I feel my decision to continue my education in PR is another post entirely (so stay tuned).

So get ready to read a lot more about my journey deeper into the dark realms of PR theory, how my career is living up to the expectations I had when I began this blog, and why I should just give up on sleep entirely.

 

* I lied.

14199660_1085442834837735_7013266308050002314_n
#sorrynotsorry

 

 

 

What To Put On Your Graduate CV

It’s getting to be that time.  The panic of rejoining the workforce as a qualified PR practitioner is starting to set in, and the casual job hunting has begun.

Last year I organised a workshop with Sunderland Futures, to get advice on what we should actually be putting on our graduate CVs.

As I’m in a particularly generous mood today, I thought I’d share the top 5 tips I picked up from the session.

1. Don’t mention the term ‘CV’

If you’re applying for a job the person reading your CV is going to know what the document is, especially as you will have CV in the file name. Titling the document with CV is stating the obvious and also taking up valuable space on the page.  Which leads me to…

2. Keep it short

Your CV should be 1 side of A4 paper, 2 sides at an absolute maximum. You should be able to include your relevant experience concisely to leave the reader wanting to ask you questions about it and thus invite you to an interview. Of course it’s all about balance, you also need to make sure that you include enough to let the company know that your qualified for the role.

3. Don’t include your personal details

The organisation doesn’t need to know your address. They’re probably not going to write to you to invite you for an interview, it’s outdated. Similarly, ‘references available upon request’ is an adequate substitute for the names and contact details of your references. If the time comes that the company needs them, they’ll ask for your most up to date ones anyway.

4. Tailor your CV to the role you’re applying for

If you’re applying for a job in PR the company doesn’t need to know that you’ve got your 25m swimming badge (unless they’re based on a boat, in which case it’s a good skill to have). Make sure the information you include is directly relevant to the job that you’re applying for, you can even mirror the language and the terminology in the job specification so there’s no doubt in the reader’s mind that you’re perfect for the role.

And finally….

5. Always include a covering letter/email

If you’re sending out your CV the person receiving it should probably be told why.  As well as telling the company which job you’re applying for, it gives you a chance to tell them what’s in it for them. Organisations that receive a lot of CVs won’t even read them if the covering letter isn’t relevant. It’s your chance to show the company that your serious about the job by researching them and putting yourself forward as the best candidate.

There were so many other things I could’ve included, such as checking the spelling and grammar, or making sure your email is addressed to the right person. However, these 5 things  have helped me the most when writing my CV and I hope they’ll help you too.

Please feel free to comment or tweet me with your own CV writing tips.

 

 

Long Time, No Post

These last couple of months have been very hectic, and I’ve just realised that it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything.  I thought I’d write something briefly to let everyone know that I’m alive, well and very, very busy.

As my fellow students will know, April and May are some of the busiest months in the academic calendar.  After an intense period of essays, exams and assessments I decided to take some time off to spend with Penny and actually clean my house.

Side note – I’d had zero time to do the regular cleaning jobs during my exams and it actually got to the point where one day I asked Penny to sit down and put her shoes on and she said: “no mammy, the floor is too dirty”.  True story.

Penny cleaning the floor herself
Penny cleaning the floor herself

However, me being the workaholic type character I’ve turned out to be, this hasn’t been the case.  On the days when Penny is out of the house at nursery I’ve dedicated my time to gaining some industry experience by pitching in at some local PR agencies, taking driving lessons and working on a project at university for the incoming freshman.

Although I’m still prioritising my time with Penny, I haven’t been able to do all of the little jobs that I’ve been putting off for ages. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish my spring clean before third year starts in September and the real work begins.

(Don’t worry, I’ve found time to clean my floor)

Do Kids and PR Really Mix?

As second year coming to a close there’s been a massive buzz around campus about work experience and placements.  With having a two year old, I’ve been really worried about re-entering the workplace after my degree is finished, even the thought of a placement is making me nervous.

In order to put my mind to rest I thought it would be a good idea to speak to some people in the industry, to talk about their own experiences and hopefully get some good advice when it comes to working in PR when you have kids.

I have been lucky enough this week to be able to talk to not one, but two PR professionals about life, kids and communication.

Jonathan Ward

@Fauntleroyesq

Jonathan Ward - lecturer and freelance PR pracitioner
Jonathan Ward – lecturer and freelance PR pracitioner

Jonathan Ward co-founded the North East PR agency Publicity Seekers, but took a step back after having his youngest daughter (now six).  He now teaches Public Relations at the University of Sunderland and completes his own freelance PR work.

What was the hardest part of having kids and working in PR?

There were lots of challenges having a young family.  When we were setting up Publicity Seekers it was very tricky to develop a new business and juggle family life, but it was a case of priorities.  Family has always come first to me so it wasn’t hard to make the right choices, it was just a case of finding a good balance.

Were there any other aspects you found difficult?

There were days when the nature of the job and long hours meant there was some friction at home, especially while we were still getting into a routine.  There was also a lot of pressure, having a background in journalism meant that it’s engrained in me to meet deadlines.  Sometimes these could be unrealistic and at times Sam (Lee) had harsh expectations, but it was just because she didn’t understand what it was like at the time and we were both under a lot of pressure trying to get the agency off the ground.

Do you think it is the same for both men and women?

It depends on their individual drives and priorities.  Family has always been the most important thing to me and ultimately why I quit the business.

So why did you take a step back?

I found myself checking emails and social media on my phone when I was meant to be with my family.  There was one time we were having a walk in Castle Eden Dene (a local beauty spot) and I caught myself checking my phone, and it made me think about what I was doing.  I’m fortunate that I was able to get a teaching position and complete my own freelance work, it gives me loads more flexibility and means I have a decent balance between my home and work life.

.

Samantha Lee – Publicity Seekers

@PublicitySeeker

Samantha Lee - Managing Director of Publicity Seekers
Samantha Lee – Managing Director of Publicity Seekers
Sam has worked in PR for over 10 years after a successful career in Sports Journalism.  She co-founded Publicity Seekers and continues to work full time running the agency following the birth of her 14 month old son – Billy.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since coming back to work?

I only took 4 weeks off after Billy was born, with running my own business I didn’t have the luxury of being able to take a lot of time off.  If anything, having Billy has made me work smarter.  I’ll say to myself, “Do I need to be doing this?”, and it’s become a case of managing my time effectively and being more productive when I’m at work.  I make a lot of to-do lists now and have started meditating on a morning to clear my mind and focus on my priorities for the day.  I only get to see Billy for 2 hours on a morning and 2 hours on a night, and I don’t want that time to be interrupted by work, checking my email or social media.

So, would you say that you value your time at home more now?

Definitely, work can wait. It’s all about being present in the moment.  I had to learn that if there’s a choice between picking up toys that he’ll just pull out again tomorrow, or spending time with Billy, that the toys can stay on the floor.  I even get up and do work between 5 and 7am now, so that I can spend extra time with him on a morning.  Jonathan (Ward) would laugh because I used to be such a night owl, my routine has completely changed.

What would you say your biggest sacrifice has been when it comes to work?

I have to think hard about the benefits of attending evening events, because now I have to get a babysitter.  It means that I’ve missed out on a lot of networking events, but to be honest I didn’t always capitalise on these as much as I could have. Now, I have to make it worth my time and make sure that it’s worthwhile.

What benefits have you seen from working in PR and having a baby?

I don’t think I’ve seen any yet. It helps that having my own agency makes my day quite flexible, sometimes I  haven’t been getting to the office until 9 or 10am. It’s definitely made me work smarter and in the right frame of mind.  I’ve been reading a lot of motivational books, such as The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey, to help me get into the right mindset.

After speaking to both Jonathan and Sam it has put my mind to rest.  I’m facing the same challenges as they were, as you can tell from my previous posts on time management. It’s reassuring to know that a career in PR with young kids can be possible, and that it’s just a case of working smarter and finding the right balance.

Client Management – The Parenting Way

This week has been a tough one.  Penny has been sick, nothing serious I might add, but a sick two year old is hard work no matter what the illness. Aside from feeling a fundamental lack of inspiration that comes with sleep deprivation, I have had to meet a high list of demands to get her to complete basic functions like sleeping and eating.

Poorly Penny looking after Minnie
Poorly Penny looking after Minnie

After several days of running around, chasing down lost teddies and bribing Penny to take her medicine I started to think about how dealing with a sick toddler can be similar to managing a difficult client.

I know that I’ve already written a post on the PR lessons you can learn from a toddler, however,  this list expands on some of the topics I touched on in my previous post and incorporates some of the things I’ve learned since we set up our own agency.

1. Choose your battles

If you don’t agree with your client about a particular course of action, sometimes you have to just give in.  Even if you explain your standpoint to them, your client may not always understand or agree (no Penny, Minnie Mouse won’t fit in the tumble dryer).  You have to remember that you work for them, and if that’s what they want to do then sometimes you just have to let them (providing its not illegal or unethical, I’m sure if Minnie Mouse had a say in it she wouldn’t be pleased about being shoved in the dryer). If it works out then great, but if it doesn’t then they might be more likely to listen to you in the future.

2. Don’t be frightened to ask for clarification

Sometimes you can be given the vaguest set of instructions and have to decipher what on earth you’re supposed to be doing.  Today it was, “Where my boat?”. The fact that we don’t have a boat didn’t even enter my mind.  After several repetitions of “my boat, mammy!” I presented her with her Peppa Pig boat (it made sense to me, being the only boat in the house), only to be met with screams and tantrums.

The offending Peppa Pig boat.
The offending Peppa Pig boat.

Instead of asking for clearer instructions I guessed at what my ‘client’ wanted and ended up wasting my time and theirs.  Which leads onto my next item…..

3. Asking the right questions

It turns out that the boat Penny was referring to was, in fact, the washing basket.

Happy Penny in her boat.
Happy Penny in her boat.

I only managed to figure this out after extensive questioning.  Instead of asking “what boat?” over and over and not getting any answers, I changed my tack and my questioning technique.  “What do you do with your boat?” “Where did you have it last?” Which made me realise, if you still don’t have the answers you need to do your job, question around the subject until you have a better understanding.

4. Don’t set unrealistic expectations

I learned this lesson the hard way.  Penny likes to play dress up and pretend.  Sometimes she likes to dress like a fairy.

Penny as a fairy
Penny as a fairy

So, thinking I was playing along I started saying, “Wow, what a lovely fairy, are you up in the sky?”  It was then that she got very upset because even though I confirmed that she was indeed a fairy, she was unable to fly.  My point being, if you set unrealistic expectations then your client will undoubtedly be disappointed.

5. Enjoy the moments when you’re on the same page

A moment of smiles before the next problem arises.
A minute of smiles before the next problem arises.

In the brief 10 minutes that you and your client come to a mutual understanding, take advantage of it.  You might be in the rare situation where you get on with all of your clients and everything is rosy most of the time, but realistically, differing opinions and egos can get in the way.  When the calm comes after the storm take some time to enjoy the peace, you’re only 5 minutes away from the next tantrum.