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 They’re probably not going to write to you to invite you for an interview, it’s outdated.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.




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


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


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.

How Social Media is Ruining My Life


This week I’ve been conducting a little experiment.

After realising that I had too much on at the moment, I had to sacrifice something to manage my time more efficiently.  While toying with the idea of scrapping personal hygiene altogether and researching how often we actually need to bathe as a species, I came across a shocking statistic.

Britons spend 62m hours a day on social media – that’s an average one hour for EVERY adult and child

(Courtesy of The Independant)

This equates to one hour for each man, woman and child in the UK.  Now I don’t know about you, but an extra hour for me means time for breakfast before my bus on a morning, or more research for my assignments.

So I took it upon myself to ban the use of Facebook and Twitter for one whole day.  That’s right. 24 hours without the use of social media.  Here’s what I found.

6:30am  Opened my eyes and instinctively reached for my phone, before remembering I’d deleted my apps and wasn’t going to be social today.

7:30am At the bus stop now and instinctively reached for my phone again.  Instead I looked on the newspaper websites for updates.  For all I knew at this point the world could have ended overnight and my bus wasn’t coming.

8:30am Arrived at the library and actually managed to resist the temptation to log in.  Instead, I took my coffee to a table and re-read my notes for the upcoming lecture.

10:00 Actually understood the content of the lecture due to my efficient reading skills.  Go me!

2:00 Entered into a seminar where during the group discussion other students were sat on their phones.  Not really that helpful. Ended up discussing the finer points of English theory with myself or anyone else that would listen.

4:15 Waiting for the bus.  This is where I would usually be sat on Facebook. Instead I’m just a bit bored.

5:00 Arrive home and get to spend time with my daughter Penny.  I happily set down my phone without looking twice to see if I had any notifications.

7:00 Penny is in bed now, time to tidy up and make tea.  Without spending time on my phone I get things done much faster than usual and get to enjoy a nice glass of wine before….

10:00pm Bed.  My phone goes onto charge and I’m not lying in bed scrolling through my newsfeed.  I think it’s the fastest I’ve ever fallen to sleep.

After a not very eventful day I came to the conclusion that I don’t need to constantly be attached to my phone.  I realise that in the PR profession social media is one of the most useful tools we have, however, it does have a tendency to take over.  I feel that in spending the day without it I’ve managed to get a whole lot more done, but realistically I can’t spend every day like this.

The reality is that in this industry, social media is necessary. We need to keep in touch with our publics, and keep our eyes peeled for the latest trends. It’s also a great medium for reaching loads of people at once.

So, I’ve decided to limit myself. I get to check my news feed for 10 minutes every 2 hours. This way I get the best of both worlds. I save my time not having to scroll through the same stories every time I log in, but I’ll still get a chance to find out what’s going on while I wait for the bus or if I need a break.

After all, anything is good in moderation.

Selling You – Personal Branding in PR

Personal branding was a term I originally associated with celebrities or people working in the design or music industry. However, with the expansion of social media there has been an increase in stories about employees being fired for their online content, or sometimes even failing to get an interview after a quick Google search.

Obviously this is an extreme example
Obviously this is an extreme example

Now more than ever, employers are using social media to research potential candidates.  Which is why in an industry like Public Relations that deals with reputation, your personal brand can be the difference between getting an interview or being passed over because of the content you choose to share.

Maria Elena Duron describes your personal brand as “your unique promise of value.” She points out that you need to work out what you want to promise your clients (and employer) and consistently represent this, both online and in person.

I must admit that prior to studying PR, my online presence was virtually non-existent.  I had a Twitter profile that I didn’t use and my Facebook newsfeed was full of cats playing the keyboard.  However, now that the second year is upon us and phrases like “placement” and “professional connections” are being thrown into the mix, I thought it was time to speak to the professionals to see what exactly we should be doing online.

Charlotte Nichols from Harvey & Hugo PR agency (@harveyandhugo) was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had about what PR agencies are looking for in their potential employees.

With more emphasis being placed on the importance of social media than ever before, how important do you think it is for PR practitioners to have their own personal brand online?

It’s vital. In today’s world it’s no longer optional to embrace the power of an online presence for any business. But it’s equally important for the leaders and team members of business to have the same level of excellence in their personal online brand. In many cases – they are the business.

When hiring a new employee do you look at their social media before you give them a job offer? 

Absolutely, we search in Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Blogging sites….everywhere and anywhere.

How important do you think it is for students to start establishing an online presence before they start job searching? And why?

Again, vital. Start a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, tweet. Firstly this demonstrates that you know what you’re doing on social media and can use these tools which is important for a job in PR, secondly it gives us an insight into your knowledge and how you conduct yourself which can be positive and negative.

Have you got any hints or tips for students looking to establish an online presence?

We post regular blogs on social media updates and guides to use various platforms, so reading them will help. Share work experience and blog.

After speaking to Charlotte, it’s clear that I need to take advantage of social media to promote my own brand (once I figure out what it is!) and make myself stand out from other applicants.

To help me do this I’ve compiled a list of top tips for promoting yourself through your personal branding.

5 Top Tips:

1. Play to your strengths – Think hard about the skills you already have and choose the one that will make you stand out the most to form the foundation of your brand.

2. Be yourself –  It’s too hard to maintain a façade and employers will find out when you’re with them for 8 hours a day.

3. Get yourself out there – stay active on all social media platforms, start conversations and make contacts.

4. Consistency is key – make sure you stay true to your brand, otherwise employers or clients may get confused messages.

5. Take it with you – remember to represent your brand in person as well as online.

*Special thanks go to Charlotte Nichols of Harvey & Hugo*