23 April 2007

I liked their first album, but they sold out….

News reaches us that Millets has sold out of Eurohike rucksacks, which can mean only one thing.

Those with pallid complexion and rising inflection are off on a well-earned 12 month round-the-world trip to recover from three years of burning a hole in their parents’ savings. A 2:2 from a second rate former-Polytechnic doesn’t come cheap these days, even when you can only drink a half pint of weak cider before puking.

But the poor unfortunates that didn’t have to surgically remove a silver spoon from their mouth before smoking their first joint, on the other hand, will have to forgo the pleasure of irritating the locals in Indonesian. Debts, and a wardrobe that would feel at home in Sue Ryder, means they will have to get a job and it’ll probably be a rude awakening.

Aside from having to be somewhere by 9:00 in the morning, the biggest shock is likely to be the horrible realisation that their degree is little more than an unconfident tap at the door of employment. Being widely regarded as a pain in the arse that’s going to need training is usually a bit of a surprise as well.

Although TWL is as utterly ambivalent towards fresh graduates as anyone else, it is quite an intimidating transition from the left-leaning Thespian environment of tertiary education to the high-pressured for-profit-only mindset of office life. So, for those that are considering a career in PR, TWL offers a couple of pointers:

1. PR is long-hours, hard work and very pressurised
2. With that in mind, salaries feel lower than they should be
3. But it’s a challenging, fun, young industry and rewarding in many different ways

Without a bit of nepotism, fresh graduates are likely to start their PR career in an agency.
Those early years scar you for life, so keep your fingers crossed you end up somewhere at least half-reasonable.

The big agencies break you in gently, provide a more structured environment and some decent training. There are also lots of other PR people to learn from, so at least some of them should be good (they will be the really busy ones that still make time for you - those that are just really busy are bullshiters, and those that spend lots of time with you because they have nothing else to do simply aren’t very good). The large agencies are better at the strategy side of PR and have clients you’ve heard of. But if they talk too much about client relationships, the agency probably isn’t very good at getting results.

Big agencies also molly-coddle their clients, so don’t expect to do anything too important for a while. And be careful about getting pigeon-holed as a general office junior, otherwise you’ll still be on £20K in three years.

If you like a sink or swim environment, small agencies (5-15 people) will give you fantastic levels of responsibilities and – if it’s a good one – put lots of effort into on-the-job training. You’ll be sharper at selling-in stories and media relations, but you’ll rarely get a chance to do any proper strategy or planning and you’ll have a jumble of two-bit clients that expect the Earth for their £7.40 a month retainer.

Mid-size agencies, as you might guess, are a mix of the two. Try to make sure you join one that has the best of both worlds (good strategy, strong media relations and decent clients), as a mis-mash of all the worst bits will have you changing career before Christmas.

Ultimately, of course, you probably won’t have a choice. Just getting a job is tricky enough so don’t be too precious. You’re only in your early 20s, you won’t get to retire until you’re 70. You’ve got plenty of time to carve out a career. Truth is, it’s only work and it’s not really that exciting. In fact, are you sure you can’t scrape together some cash and go round the world for a year….


weaselboy said...

you forgot to mention that the graduate will also be unexpectedly confused when the first agency night out reveals the double sided coin that is free booze.

on one side of the coin there is lack of limb control, a little bit of sick and never ending whispers about you getting your cock out at the bar

one the other side of the coin, well there's free booze. for 50 years....

Anonymous said...

Ironically, I know of many people who decided to travel the world after a few years in PR - strangely, very few of them ever went back into it upon their return.

I'm sure there's a message for us all there somewhere...

Matt said...

Are you sure graduates think that deeply about the company they join? Client service, training programmes? I dunno. I remember when I was taken on as a fresh young grad I took the job because a) it was the only one I applied for, b) there was a really nice pub over the road that seemed to be embedded into the agency's culture, c) they told me it was all about getting the job done, not how long it takes, so I had visions of bunking off at 4pm having ticked off my to-do-list, d) they closed the office between Xmas and NY every year and took the whole company skiing, and e) they had had a beach day the week before and were all sun-burned.

Those are more the criteria for grads, don't you think? Although I guess times have changed.

My only other advice would be to look at the age profile of the agency you're joining. PR is a young person's business so if there are too many old gits then they are clearly on the take. Are you joining as part of a 'graduate intake' of, say, three or four? That's ok, but if you're the only one - or maybe one of two - then you are there as cheap slave labour. So beware.

Rajiv said...

That was insightful.

Anonymous said...

>>"Are you joining as part of a 'graduate intake' of, say, three or four? That's ok, but if you're the only one - or maybe one of two - then you are there as cheap slave labour."<<

so let's get this straight:

two grads = cynical exploitation..
three grads = genuine commitment to training..