There is something unnerving about the ‘lost generation of youth’ headlines this week, and not just because of the bleak picture they paint. By my estimation, this narrative is at least two years old and doesn’t look set on changing. In fact, I remember participating in a stakeholder debate on this precise topic in late 2009. The only major change since then is the coalition government; that and perhaps, an acknowledgement that it will take longer for the UK to climb out of economic doldrums, making fast growth and job creation seem a distant dream.
Any discussion of youth unemployment, however, is futile without discussion of skills. You can argue that the ‘UK skills crisis’ narrative hasn’t changed much, either, when you consider the dearth of highly-skilled talent in areas like advanced sciences and technology. However, it should make one question whether post-grads understand that they’re competing (or will be competing) in a global market for talent. This was one of the main axes of the roundtable discussion and one of the most interesting points to consider when thinking about the labour market of the future.
Over the course of my career, I’ve had numerous conversations about whether jobs like marketing (including PR) could be offshored to a lower cost base, like India. Before, it sounded alarmist. A year ago, I was told it’s already happening – albeit to a very small degree.
None of these things should be a deterrent for anybody wishing to break into the PR world: it’s a rewarding and infinitely interesting career path. But good opportunities are few, and the way you think about yourself as a candidate today, should have some things in common with how you visualise yourself and your career in the long-run.
Here are my top tips on preparing yourself for the PR long-game:
1. Listen well: sometimes it’s better to listen to what your audience is really asking, rather than jump the gun and dispense a prepared answer. This can be true for job interviews, team meetings, or casual networking. When in doubt, ask for clarification and use that information to respond from a position of strength.
2. In the words of a friend and ex-PR, “To assume makes an a** out of you and me”: when you’re just starting out, it takes a certain bravery to ask someone (especially a client) to make their point or request clearer, or utter the words, “by that, do you mean...?”. Just do it, because not doing so, could be a lost opportunity to anchor your relationship.
3. Consult with conviction: in my view, consultancy is less about bringing problems or issues to light, but being an early warning mechanism, with the ability to make sound recommendations, consistently and with conviction. There’s really only one way to get there and that’s through experience, making work experience a valuable foot-in-the-door.
4. Be interesting. And interested. If you are to survive and quite possibly thrive in the PR business, you need: a body of knowledge that spans high-brow to low-brow; to be au fait with everything from OK! to Eureka!; and go from naught to having an opinion about the Bank of England base rates to memory card speed ratings, and so on.
5. Get international experience, however you can: one of the great benefits of working at Firefly is that our clients operate in far corners of the world, giving us great exposure to how PR works in other markets. You don’t have to relocate to do this, but if that’s one of your career ambitions, factor it in your future-term planning now.
The world of PR may be small, but your outlook need not be.