What a PR degree won’t teach you…

Flickr – tanakawho

My Tuesday started in the bleakest of ways yesterday, after a late night emergency visit to the vets for my beloved little kitty and a hefty price tag to go along with, I have been feeling more than a little sorry for myself.

And then look what comes along to brighten my day:

Official proof I’m a charmer!

My lovely mum always told me that manners cost nothing, and she also told me a smile can travel lightyears.

I’ve never personally met Richard, and it never crossed my mind that I HAD to thank him for his kind words – that’s just something that should come naturally, no?

Flickr – viZZZual.com

Being friendly, polite, positive and personable is something so incredibly important in any career. Nowadays (thankfully) it’s rare to find a boss who continually cusses, is ungrateful for your contributions and couldn’t care less about you as a person – no one gets terribly far with a bad attitude or bad people skills.

Unfortunately, being a nice person isn’t something that university will ever teach you, it’s something that comes with life experience. While I’m only 20 years young I do feel as though I’ve seen a lot of working life, especially so in the last four months here at Creo.

Working in the real world has made me realise that there’s so much that a university degree can’t give you…


Flickr – Sharyn Morrow

Being polite, remembering to say please and thank you, removing cuss-words from your vocabulary and respecting others (either above or below you in seniority) is either something you’re born with or something you can master. Looking down your nose at anyone isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you’re not getting jobs you apply for, maybe check your attitude, are you overly-confident? That can come across as arrogant and rude – both a big no-no!

Remembering where you’ve come from…

I personally find humility a really lovely trait in a person – although some people take it too far and only fish for compliments – always remember where you’ve come from, even when you’re at the top one day. The people who are your juniors are in the position you were in once, so remember to treat them with respect. Be a normal human being, don’t let power get to your head when you’re trusted with new tasks – you’re trusted, so don’t blow it with overconfidence.

Client care

Flickr – Jason Theodor

University will never teach you how to deal with someone aggressive, someone rude or someone who’s quite frankly a *cuss-word*. Unfortunately, the world is full of these people and you’ll inevitably meet them when you start dealing with clients and suppliers – just remember to remain calm!

I’ve personally dealt with situations that have become heated and legal action has arisen as a result, the best thing to do is be professional – what you do and say in situations like these will stick with you for the rest of your career.

Dealing with difficult people is a real part of the job, you need to be confident and diplomatic in confrontational situations. Just think before you speak, ask yourself:

Are you within your legal rights to say what you’re about to? 
Will saying it affect your reputation as a PR practitioner?
Will saying it lose you business, either now or in the future, with valued clients?

Another customer care issue you will come across: those who ask too much.

Flickr – Vic

Sometimes deadlines creep up on you from nowhere, but sometimes it’s from a panicked client who’d forgotten a deadline and requests your help with a few hours to spare. And, with a charming and ‘happy to help’ attitude, you, of course, accept. 

I’ve found that sometimes clients ask for more than is specified on their agreed timeline of work, but you should always be happy to go above and beyond with extra tasks. After all, busy means business! 

It can be difficult to hold your tongue when someone is being rude to you, and understanding how to be diplomatic only comes with time.

Flickr – quietlyurban.com

The most important this to take away from this is try to be charming! Positivity, humility, manners and consideration of others – it will all help you cement yourself in people’s minds that you’re a lovely person, and that’s something to be really proud of.

You can read Richard’s post about the importance of being charming here.


6 thoughts on “What a PR degree won’t teach you…

  1. Your post was interesting, but I beg to disagree. The PR degree at Solent University DOES teach these things. Humility, charm, how to deal with aggressive people, with people who demand too much-all of the above you mentioned. We work with live client briefs from the first year, and we support the “soft skills” that help our students prosper. Maybe that’s why our students rate us the Number one in the country for student satisfaction on any PR degree. For the second year running….

    • Thanks for your comment! University courses cover things like this I agree, and at Sunderland we also work with live clients and have to deal with issues like this from early on,
      but I think stepping out into the real world where the title of being a student no longer covers you for mistakes and criticisms makes it an entirely different challenge for people to face,
      Goodness knows clients I’ve worked with during my studies at Sunderland have been difficult, but I’ve found expectations are lowered for students, as soon as that safety blanket is taken away it’s a different game

  2. These are all important traits to build whilst studying at University. The real world can be tough, and especially at the start of a career a business’ core focus will be to build new staff. This often means taking criticism (which isn’t always constructive), learning from mistakes and being honest. Certainly from a client handling perspective, if an individual lacks any of the traits mentioned in this post then they should never be in a client facing role. From a personal perspective the main challenge in the real world is coping with stress, especially if you work for an agency. Yes, University is stressful at times but is nothing compared to delivering to real-world PR programmes and managing the grind of life. Excellent post Jess.

  3. Here’s the next thing to note: it’s rare for blog posts to spark conversations (we tend to go to Twitter, LinkedIn etc for these) – so well done for hosting this interesting discussion among former students who are now practitioners, students and lecturers.

    I stand by my original post: I don’t think university should be charm school – but just because we don’t teach somethings doesn’t mean a student shouldn’t learn it!

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