The value of work experience

It’s likely that everyone, at some stage in their life, has had their ear talked off by someone about the value of work experience when it comes to PR. For me, it was every single one of my lecturers. Each new subject I started came with a long speech on how important it was to get work experience in the industry before we finished our degree. After a year of this my brain started to automatically switch off whenever someone even mentioned the word ‘experience’.  It wasn’t until I walked in the door of one of my second year PR subjects that my perspective changed. My PR lecturer opened the first lecture by saying that if we didn’t have a solid year and a half of work experience under our belt by the time we finished, then no company would hire us. Well, that certainly caught my attention.

Although I feel the lecturer slightly over exaggerated in terms of no career prospects, I have to say getting work experience was one of the best decisions I ever made as a student. It gave me the opportunity to actually put the theory I learnt at university to use, not to mention develop vital skills in the media relations field, which you can only gain through practice. For those who are still unconvinced, here are my top five insights into the value of work experience.

1)      Real world experience teaches you necessary industry skills. Real world experience includes learning how to liaise with journalists (who can be scary but this skill is vital if you want to get any results for clients), write media releases (have you heard of a successful PR practitioner who can’t do this?) and effectively communicate with actual clients (not hypothetical university clients). When I started work experience at Ignite PR last year I had no idea how to pitch a story to a journalist; this just isn’t something you can be taught in a lecture. Now I know how to pitch, I consider this a necessity if you are planning on a future in the public relations industry or really any industry that involves dealing with the media.

2)      You get to work on a range of different projects. Work experience adds a whole new dimension to the term ‘popularity’. Everybody wants you on board their project for the extra support despite your lack of practical skills. This means that not only do you get moulded into the perfect PR technician but you also get to work on a variety of different client projects. This contributes even further to your knowledge base and level of expertise.

3)      It offers networking opportunities. Working in a PR company (or any company for that matter) is a fantastic way to meet professionals in both your industry and other related industries. Building a basic network of contacts will certainly give you a leg up on the career ladder and this network will only grow as you advance. It’s all about who you know!

4)      Looks great on the resume. The skills you can gain from doing work experience are the main motivator to go out and work for free, however an additional benefit is that it looks great on the resume from the perspective of potential employers. With thousands of other fish swimming around in the same pond, employers are likely to remember the fish that has an extra fin (or in this case, practical experience in the field) above all others. Having work experience under your belt gives you a strong advantage in the hunt for a job.

5)      Possibility of permanent work. The best outcome you can hope for in doing work experience is being offered a permanent job at the end of it. Although this isn’t a guarantee, if you work your hardest and prove yourself valuable to the company they may find it hard to let you leave after your time is up. Even if there is no job offer at the end of it, be assured the company will think of you when there is a job opening in the future.

This is only a small snapshot of the benefits work experience has to offer. I hate to sound like my lecturers, but it really is important to get work experience in the industry. The only way to realise its true value is to put your name out there and get your hands dirty. Thanks Ignite PR!

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