At University and interested in PR / Comms? Do a Placement!

We strongly recommend placements (a year spent working for an organisation as an employee between your second and third years of study).

They are an opportunity to gain real and up to date industry experience and a reference whilst being paid.

Why consider a Placement?

There are now PR-specific qualifications (CIPR and PRCA for instance), but even those that include an apprenticeship component are unlikely to have the same day to day involvement in the industry as a placement.

Most employers prefer hands-on experience to skills training, so a student of Journalism, English or History with a good placement reference will be able to compete with other Candidates with more specific qualifications but less actual experience.

Things to Bear in Mind

Opportunities for placements are not always widely publicised, so be sure to enquire with your university careers team.

Do be prepared for a rigorous application and selection process, because the company involved is taking a chance on you and need to be as sure as they can. In the short term you will have more commitments to juggle, so do let your lecturers / tutors etc know what you are doing. They should be supportive, and may even be able to offer you some advice.

Do also be aware that most agencies are located in major cities (notably London), so do some research on what your potential living expenses and travel expenses might be for any roles you are interested in.

What are the Benefits?

Improve your Prospects

Experience is always an advantage in any industry, but Marketing, Public Relations and Communications can be particularly hard to break into. Employers are always going to favour Candidates with at least one year's real experience, and if you have worked in a relevant sector that is even better.

We have secured some Candidates fantastic positions on completion of their degree based on their performance during a placement; some are even offered a role by their placement employers at the end of the year. Imagine completing University knowing that you have a job waiting for you.

Test the Water

There are a wide range of disciplines and specialisations within the industry. A digital / social media role building and managing a community will demand a different skill set and experience to a more traditional role writing editorials for print B2B trade journals. Many agencies are 'full service' (meaning they cover all types of PR); others will lean to certain disciplines.

Spread your Wings

Many placements involve relocating (sometimes even abroad), giving you a chance to travel and experience far more than a new job. The change in living arrangements can lead to new and like-minded housemates, colleagues and friends. The experiences and perspective this brings can be as rewarding as the placement itself: contacts made in this way can grow into long-term professional relationships.

Make Contacts and Network

In PR, the major players stay up to date with their competition, and people do move around as their careers progress. So a placement is more than a name to drop: if you're a good team member, then people will remember you - and you never know where that can lead. The industry thrives on happy workplaces as much as new talent and fresh ideas, so this is an opportunity to demonstrate your personality as much as your skills.

Get Paid

In some sectors - healthcare for instance - £30K pa is not unheard of, but most are not that lucrative: consumer-related sectors typically pay £15-20K.

Get a Solid Reference

At the end of the year, even if you conclude that the role you had (or even the PR / Comms industry as a whole) is not for you, no one is going to think any less of you. If you have applied yourself properly you will get a reference that is likely to help open the door to any other graduate role you are interested in. But if you do decide that this is the industry for you, then you'll have given yourself a big leg up, and you might be interested in our advice on taking it further.