This is what the end of a workout looks like for me. Red, sweaty, certainly not what you’d see on Instagram, but very happy. This picture is the very start of my fitness journey.
If you’re looking for super glossy fitness inspiration then this series of posts may not be for you. But, if you want a very real fitness journey that’s (hopefully) motivating, then stick with me because it starts here.
I’m going to be sharing my journey, including my work outs as I move from not fit to fitter!
I went on a pretty long journey to get where I am today and a key part of that journey was sending myself back to university to do a PR Masters in 2014. I’m hugely passionate about PR and feel that the wonderful education Southampton Solent University gave me was an important contribution in my progression. It’s given me wonderful opportunities and still does.
One of those opportunities happened at the start of February 2016, I was invited to attend the CIPR hosted Meet the Professionals event, to represent my current company Lee Peck Media.
25 media professionals attended to offer help and advice to current students in the creative industries at a speed-networking event. Yes, this is a bit like speed dating, all the professionals stay seated while every 10 minutes the students rotate around the room.
I spoke to lots of students across the evening and even managed to network myself a little.
Lauren Witty, the current Wessex CIPR student representative, did an excellent job at getting a large mix of regional professionals to attend. 25 in total – the best turn out in the events history. It was easily double the size of when I last attended this event in 2014. Congratulations Lauren – your hard work paid off!
Laura Bradley, one of the students who attended, has written a great blog on her site The PR Girl with five key points that she took away from the event. I am always interested to see what people find notable and the advice they gain from these kind of events and whether that information was useful or not. It’s great to see that Laura’s experience was very positive and the key points were useful ones!
Obviously, I am now on the other side, so I thought I’d give you my five key recommendations from the Meet the Professionals event. These were the most popular things that I said in response to students questions that evening:
Be brave – This isn’t easy. It’s daunting out there but be brave, professionals and companies were once where you were. We all start somewhere.
Grow a thick skin – You are going to get some knock-backs, but it’s time to man up and be more elephant! Learn what you can from these experiences, can you get feedback? As soon as you can pick yourself back up, dust yourself down and keep going, your opportunity is out there. No, seriously, put that Ben and Jerry’s down and grab yourself a Kleenex – you can do this!
Never stop learning – Don’t be afraid to enrol yourself on courses, speak to your peers, ask for advice or shadow a colleague. The industry is evolving all the time, but don’t worry there are many ways to keep your skills together including your CIPR membership, you tube, the infinite resource that is Google, online courses, local colleges and universities.
Find a way – If it’s your dream industry or company and you’ve tried and failed to get in through a direct application can you get another job with them and then side step in to what you want? This could be an option. I did, so can you!
Dig the journey – Unless you are the luckiest so and so, and if you are count your blessings, don’t worry if your journey is the path less travelled. Don’t worry if it takes you longer than others to figure out where and what you want to do, you will learn so much that will contribute to your future, more desired, career (and life in general).
Here’s a selection of my tweets from the event:
Thanks to everyone involved – I hope to see you there next year!
Almost exactly a year ago, in 2014, I was a student and I graduated from the PR Masters degree at Southampton Solent University.
One year later and the situation had reversed, rather than sitting in the lecture theatre ready to take notes, I was the one giving the talk. Talk about a one eighty!
I was invited back to speak about the way PR, advertising and marketing are starting to merge together to form a hybrid and to explain the necessity of having a wide skills set that cover these fields.
This blog is what I took from the conference, my perspective and what I found valuable. Livi Wilkes, from Solent PR, has already shared all the golden nuggets of information about employability in the following two blogs, which are definitely worth a read:
My journey has been a long one, with many experiences which has contributed to where I am today. it sounds cliched but it’s true. That experience wasn’t invalid, I just wasn’t aware of that until recently. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?!
I think, for me, it was also important to show other people who are about to enter a creative industry that the path isn’t always smooth and straight. It’s not easy to open up about struggling. I had tried so hard to get in to PR through various means and although at times I felt I was never going to get there or that I was on the wrong path, I never gave up. So coming back to my university and being able to relay my journey and where I am now was really exciting.
When I was there I met one of the 2015 graduates from the PR Masters and she shared her feelings with me via Twitter, and it was a reminder of how powerful face to face interaction and social media can be. Remember that you aren’t alone, it’s ok to be ‘lost’ sometimes and to take the road less travelled. Not everyone is living that glossy life they so readily portray to the world on social media. Not everything comes easily. Most of the best things don’t come easily. Trust your intuition.
Catherine Sweet, my wonderful lecturer and mentor, opened the conference by explaining the changes in the industry and why they were important. Her career in PR/Marketing/Advertising/Marketing/Politics is incredible and she has topped it off with lecturing at Southampton Solent University passing on her knowledge.
Steve Woodgate, Solent University MA Graduate and Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, who was the first guest speaker advised the attendees at the conference to ‘be a squirrel, gather nuts of knowledge’. This struck me like a lightening bolt. I had been a squirrel, foraging, learning and gathering nuts of knowledge along my journey.
A varied set of skills will make you more robust and ready for any future roles.
He also identified four sub-sets of characters within the creative industry:
Steven said you would predominantly be one of these characters and that it would be helpful to identify which one you were so you are able to identify your strengths. I completely agree with him, identifying your strengths is very helpful but I think that some people may cross these sub-sets.
The last major thing I took from Steven’s talk was that he said:
“Digital is more significant than the industrial revolution. We just don’t know it yet.”
I was up next and I had to rapidly overcome my public speaking fears (and the monster cold I had!).
I used my journey, examples of other people journeys and current client work to show just how important a varied skill set is and what I had learnt along the way. The time flew by and soon I was back in my seat not knowing what just happened, hoping it went ok.
Thankfully I had some positive feedback after the talk and some really lovely tweets!
Following my talk was Dr Emma Wray, the new head of PR and Communications for Southampton Solent University. She was engaging and told us about her incredible experience (just ask her about working at the BBC during the Olympics!) and the changes she is seeing to the PR and communications industry and how we can adapt to survive them. Emma also had some top tips for those about to enter the creative industries…
Caroline Barfoot, from Solent Creatives, concluded the talks with a focus on getting work experience and freelancing. She drew attention to this years John Lewis Christmas campaign and it’s multi-faceted nature. She also made the point that ‘at the heart of everything is the consumers. Products only work if the consumer wants to use it.’ This phrase is great to take with you throughout your career, remind yourself of it to keep you focused and critical when working on projects.
After the talks the conference was divided in to two to debate current PR topics. I helped panel the debate which questioned the valued of earned and shared media. It was really interesting to see what a cross section of the current university students studying creative topics and a number of business people thought. It was concluded that there is value in a combination of the both earned and shared media. A lot of emphasis and importance was placed on being critical of the source.
It was a great day and I was honoured to be invited to take part, honoured to be able to give something back and honoured to represent the company I now work for. I am lucky to work for a company who can see the value in giving back and leading the field. I am extremely thankful to Catherine Sweet for believing in me and guiding me through my Masters and to Lee Peck Media for giving me the opportunity to work in PR and to experience a converging career!