PR Students and Deadlines: a battle with yourself

Students. From freshers brimming with enthusiasm to third years slowly comfort-eating themselves into oblivion – every student knows the pain and stress of university deadlines.

I’d like to argue that most freshers by now, as we have reached December and lots of presentations, project deadlines and essay hand-ins are now on the horizon, have had most of that enthusiasm knocked out of them, and are well on their way to reaching the mindset of us third-years: please, just let it be over.

Of course, I only speak from my personal experiences and I only refer to 95% of students, there are those who astound me as they hand work in over a week early – oh to be that enthusiastic would be marvellous.

This isn’t to say I’m unenthusiastic about my education – quite the contrary – I attend lectures, engage in discussion (when I’ve had enough sleep the previous night) and my work is always on time. The state of mind I’m referring to is that which all students face when deadline week looms, when there are simply too many papers and too many books and any small ounce of enthusiasm is quite quickly drowned.

Flickr – Hartwig HKD

I’m not entirely sure about other universities, but here at Sunderland it seems as though deadlines group together like a mob, waiting just around the corner to beat that enthusiasm out of you, and you have to battle desperately to avoid falling into the blackhole of a mental breakdown.

Before I receive any hate mail from those studying astrophysics or something of the like – I do not believe this is any harder for PR students than anyone else – what I do believe is that this battle is a different story for those of us studying PR.

Arts vs Science

As PR revolves around language, communications and ideas and interpretation, we PR students face the same challenge as all ‘arts’ students do – we are never quite right. 

Flickr – Steven S

I almost envy my friends who study sciences and maths, who walk away from exams with 98% in the bag or even the full 100%. But for those of us who study the arts, where every point you make is down to interpretation, we aim for the 70%s and even the occasional 80% – but 90% and above? That’s a fantasy land.

In our essays, exams, presentations and everything we do there is always something more we could have done, or a different route we could have taken. But there’s only so much you can say in a 2,500 word limit or a 10 minute presentation.

Why we struggle with ourselves more than the science students is because we don’t have a right or wrong answer. We have to figure out a solution and justify our butts off with every single point we make. I’ve always been a person who can find an answer for everything (although I rather dislike people who can do this, it’s incredibly annoying), so I don’t struggle to justify my points, it’s the fact it takes twice as long to figure out a founded solution than to use a formula. There’s no formula for the arts. 

But that’s what makes the arts such a wonderful thing. There is no right or wrong and everything is down to interpretation. Maybe I will appreciate this more when I’m not being scrutinised for an extra few percent of a grade…

Time management

With any deadlines there is no doubt that being organised and having time planned in to tackle the workload is invaluable. And as I’m sure most public relations practitioners will tell you, being planned and organised is vital to success.

But for us PR students it’s a different story. We’re still finding our feet with our future profession. We’re stuck in the middle between the skills of the real working world and the naivety and inexperience of student life. 

We are organised when push comes to shove, but as far as university deadlines go, a lot of students will leave things to the last minute, and that’s something most of us haven’t outgrown yet.

We sit from 5pm the day before the deadline until 2am the next morning making sure we hit the deadline and all the while regretting we left it until last minute, and promising ourselves we will never do it again (never happens). Our thought process is similar to the stages of grief:

Denialit’s not happening, I can’t do it, it’s too late, I’ll never get it done
Angerthis is stupid, there’s no point in this, I don’t need to know this when I’m working
Bargainingmaybe I can get an extension because I’ve been working all week…
Depression I’m going to fail this year and work in McDonald’s for the rest of my life
AcceptanceIt’s only one essay, only one grade… McDonald’s isn’t so bad.

I like to tell myself I work better under pressure. Or at least that’s a lie I tell myself at 2am on deadline day. There’s a certain camaraderie that happens between those of us still left working from 1am, we share words of encouragement and help when each of us have questions. But more often we share inspirational and funny memes to keep each other going (some of my favourites are included in this post).

Dealing with deadlines is a battle for most, but PR students are stuck between student life and our professional life and we’re facing the uphill battle of being a student of the arts. We don’t have it easy but it feels so good when we finish at 4am and get those precious few hours sleep before the 9am lecture the next day.

quickmeme.com

PR Day to Day: Changing from a student to a professional

Again I find myself apologising for my online absence, it’s been a whirlwind of a summer working full-time at Creo, and now that the final year of university is looming into view, I’m actually excited by the prospect of getting back behind some books *nerd alert*.

fickr – Klaus M

I have to say thanks again to Richard Bailey at Behind the Spin, for reminding me about my blog via Twitter this morning. With a mountain of scrawls on my to-do list for work I rarely get the chance to scroll down far enough to catch a glimpse of the note: “Must blog this week!” – oops.

flickr – banspy

While one mustn’t complain about being busy, because busy means business, it’s been a summer where I’ve perhaps forgotten the obligations I have to myself while the world of work takes over. I’d like to be able to preach to all students that living and breathing nothing but PR is the way to go – but let’s all remember (myself especially) that there’s an important balancing act of work vs. life, in order to stay sane!

Moving into the world of work…

Well, it’s certainly a daunting prospect, it even was for me and I was desperate to get away from the university libraries and endless essays. There’s always the worry of the fact you won’t impress or you won’t fit in, or simply that it’ll be so different from uni you won’t have a clue what you’re doing.

The important thing is to breathe. Just take a second to think – “these people liked my CV and interview enough to hire me in the first place”. As far as impressing with your skills, nobody expects miraculous eureka moments from graduates, just ease yourself in until you’re comfortable, and then start being brave with those nut-case ideas – remember, someone initially thought of meerkats to sell insurance, nut-case sometimes works!

flickr – JD Hancock

As a junior account executive or PR assistant, whatever your first title, you won’t be given mass responsibility, so there’s no need to worry all that much just yet, find your feet first. 

Perhaps that’s why I’m excited to go back to university. As a final year project I’m expected to find two clients and produce two campaigns to meet their real-life needs – and the creative juices are flowing. Hallelujah, there’s no creative barriers before I’ve even got out of the starting blocks!

When moving into the world of work remember to make time for yourself. I’ve been over-excited and keen to impress so I’ve taken work home with me in order to open up work hours for bigger and more creative projects. Bringing work home shows dedication, but for me, it’s become a habit, perhaps a bit of an addiction – I feel like a spare part just sitting at home doing nothing.

flickr – Giulia Geraci

It’s important to remember that you’re a person too, not just an employee. Remember to make time for family and friends – and from personal experience, some TLC for your car. Being a person is why you’re good at PR in the first place, so don’t lose yourself among all the media reports and press releases of the working world.

Remember to keep time aside for what you love, for me that’s reading, baking and blogging. Sadly, my current Game of Thrones book has been acting as a paper weight, my waistline has notably shrunk (although I should be pleased), and I’ve replaced my time to blog with time to catch up on extra work. This will all be changing!

Congratulate yourself on getting a job – it’s not easy! – make an effort to shine, but remember you’re a person, and your life is what feeds your personality, and that’s what makes you so great at what you do.

flickr – Arielle Nadel

A Bit Of Online Etiquette: A thank you to the PR industry

I have a confession… I never wanted to start this blog.

Flickr – Frank Gruber

It happened because of a module I chose at uni and I wasn’t terrible enthused by the idea of blogging about a course I wasn’t even sure I particularly enjoyed.

But now I’m so glad I did!

I’ve always been a keen writer, even if it was just daft short stories, I find something therapeutic in typing out the voice in my head.

Not only has this blog helped me to keep sane with regards to my course, but it’s got me noticed – and that’s a really bizarre thing for a bog-standard, average 20-year-old.

Flickr – John Sutton

It’s lovely to think my rantings, ravings, complainings and whinings have been appreciated by some out there, and even better that people have told me they can relate! Maybe I’m not crazy…

So, I owe a very big thank you to those who have shown support, those who have appreciated my work and those who have helped me along the way.

Firstly thanks to my lecturers at the University of Sunderland – Chris Rushton and Diane Green have put up with my, let’s say, “ambitious” and “keen” attitude. I’ve learned a lot in the past two years and this blog wouldn’t exist otherwise.

Thank you to the wonderful Louise Robinson, there for me when my faith was feigning and a mentor who is an inspiration. I start an internship with Louise on Monday at her new consultancy Creo Communications and I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck in to some great projects with the guidance from a true pro!

Next, a thank you to Ross Wigham, getting to guest blog on his blog was such an honor as well as a confidence boost – the first time I thought this blog wasn’t all for nothing.

Thank you to Anne-Marie Bailey, her guest lectures were so helpful and inspirational. She blogged her way into great jobs and her tips are (hopefully!) helping me do the same.

A gigantic thank you to Richard Bailey, editor of Behind The Spin magazine – choosing me for the top PR blogs of the week 3 times was honor enough but winning the #bestPRblogs was incredible. 

Yes it’s all helped with my confidence, but it’s all helped with my networking too – there’s a few people out there who know my name now and I couldn’t be more thankful for the support I’ve received.

I’m so glad I’ve stepped into an industry that seems genuinely supportive and everyone seems so happy to see others succeed.

In Need Of Inspiration: Live It – PR: Stepping out from behind a desk

Like most university students, I’ve had many times when I’ve lacked motivation to get out of bed and write yet another essay on my industry. It can seem all worthless without the inspiration to move forward. So where do you find inspiration?

Flickr – zsrlibrary

Throughout my first year I found myself contemplating whether I had made the right decision with choosing PR as my future. While I decided to stick out first year, initially it was only to see it through and possibly switch courses the year after.

Getting into second year I had hoped something would begin to light the fire underneath me again, but a few months in and I just couldn’t seem to find a big enough match to restart that metaphorical fire – I’ve written a million essays in my lifetime, media and ethics were nothing new to me and I had quite frankly given up on quite a few classmates on them ever pulling their weight in group projects.

There were many phone calls home to my mother umming and awwing whether I should switch courses. Then I was being asked to find a placement week for my course… not the best thing when I was pretty sure I couldn’t entertain the idea of PR for much longer. So I asked a former guest lecturer (remember how I said they’d be invaluable to you – always stay in contact if you can!) if I could shadow her for a week to try to make my mind up.

I owe my new-found inspiration and motivation to this lady, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Not only has she saved me another £8,500 worth of student debt, but she re-instilled my faith that PR is the exact fit for me. I’d become so wrapped up in essays and time constrained assessments that I had lost sight of what I was working towards.

Dominoes day in the office was an especial highlight of my week

This lady is Louise Robinson, at the time working as PR Director at Press Ahead Media and Communications in Sunderland. Louise had been a guest lecturer on social media in my first year and volunteered to help with an internal communications project with our year.

Louise is such an inspiration to me because she was in my exact position not that long ago. And to see the success she has made of herself so far is the exact motivation I needed – that could be me one dayShe continues to inspire me as she has set up her own business and I hope to work with her again one day soon.

My great thanks to the rest of the staff at Press Ahead too, what was meant to be a simple shadowing week was an amazing work experience week. They planned their diaries so that I was involved in as many different aspects of the job as possible – meeting news clients, working with photographers and overseeing photo shoots and filming. Even the days I spent in the office working on news releases and reports were really interesting – sorry uni, but far more interesting than essays.

I’m now more certain than ever that PR is right for me. And while I may not enjoy the essays and hours spent in the library, I now have a vision of what I’m working so hard for.

So if you’re finding it difficult to get out of bed and attend lectures or bother to do essays before the night-before, then I highly recommend finding a placement. If you’re having similar doubts to the ones I had – whether PR is really for you – then try out the real deal rather than what you’re taught from books.

The real world is far different from sitting behind a desk in the library. And it’s amazing.