PR, Films and Fantasies

As requested: How to… get some work experience

Posted on: June 19, 2010

I was asked by a few students about the art of getting an internship or any kind of work placement so I thought I should share a bit of my experience.

Rule number one, actually the ONLY rule, is networking. When I first heard this I was really skeptical as I am totally not the type of person who would go round a room with a huge forced smile, introducing myself to strangers and pretending I am very interested in meeting them. However, after my first events in the business I realised that it’s not so hard to get a conversation going and that most of the persons you meet are actually curious to know as much as possible about you. Whether they are students from other universities, young or senior professionals, you have something to learn from everybody, a do or a don’t.

My first face to face encounter with a communication job was back in 2007 during my first year at uni. I obviously did a lot of internal and external comms both nationally and internationally as a scout president but I basically followed my own rules in that so it doesn’t qualify as “a job”. So my first official internship was in an advertising agency shadowing an art director. It was really fun as I learned a lot about Photoshop and Corel, I’ve been to a few photoshoots and I actually got to work on a flyer and a catalogue. That was when I realised that advertising was NOT for me. At least not the building process. Anyway, I got the placement through a friend of my father’s (happy Father’s Day daddy!!!) who found out I was studying PR and thought I could use some sort of experience. So I think that the best way to start is to ask around family, friends, friends of friends and find somebody that would allow you to see how things go inside. If you are a nice person and they know you since you were in dippers, you score!

After that I could say “I have a bit of previous experience in an agency” so that’s how I got to Pleon Romania (aka Ketchum Pleon now). I basically sent my CV and a short letter to their HR team sometime in June 2008 and BANG, 7 months later I got an email inviting me over for an interview 🙂  I spent almost two months there, in and out, joggling school and work. It was purely amazing as that was when I finally realised what PR really meant and how you are suppose to do it. I think that as an intern, although most of the time you do basic stuff like media lists, research, phone calls and emails, the important part is that you get to see what the people around you do and how they react. So I used my time at Pleon as wisely as I could… Once again it all started with an e-mail.

I got on the internship program at IMAGE PR after submitting an application form I found while simply wasting time online. I was just looking for PR agencies in Bucharest and there it was. The interview was very relaxed and after a few weeks I found out that I was selected out of a few hundreds of applicants. The time with IMAGE was very productive as I had each hour planned meaning that I got to do various things for different clients: research, brianstorming, pitching, presentations and many others. Despite the obvious professional benefits, I think that the best part of it was meeting the teams as they were such amazing people. I still keep in touch and I am proud of having been part of the family even for such a short time. So, conclusion: try to know your field and check if they search for interns… then APPLY!

When I moved to the UK I was absolutely terrified that I won’t get any chance to enter the PR world. I heard that my English colleagues found it very hard to secure placements and that the uni, although requires 4 weeks of professional practice, offers you nothing. So, as a first step I volunteered to be the CIPR student rep for my university. That proved to be a wiser decision than I thought as I got to go to so many events around the UK where through “networking” I got my first British placement with McCann and I planned another in-house experience. Again, take advantage of all opportunities and get out there and get involved!

As I am always hungry for more, in March-April I started to apply to summer internships (yes, so long ago as all the best ones are out in Spring). I Googled companies and emailed the ones that interested me. I had a look through my PR Weeks and other PR related websites or publications and picked various tips about agencies that I used in my cover letters. For example prizes they won (which worked very well!!!!), new clients or departments and many others. I had quite a few positive replies (even one from BBC’s Drama department) but I didn’t want to spend my entire summer in the UK so I had to chose the best options. That’s how I got to Taylor Herring where I will spend a month in September. So… be a bit creative when e-mailing agencies!

I am currently with PHA Media (as I said over and over again), on a one month internship which I won in the Wanted Super Intern competition organised by another CIPR Rep I met back in October. The funny thing is that I had emailed PHA back in Spring and they told me they were booked for the summer… they only had to meet me to be dazzled (so modest!)  🙂 Again, I simply said YES when she asked me if I was interested… Things are going great and I am absolutely thrilled about it as I get to experience for the first time the best celebrity and personal PR in the UK (which my colleagues handle) as well as the fashion and lifestyle clients I am working on. But more about it in a future post as I think I never wrote so much for this blog 🙂

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