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

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Why I Won’t Do Well In PR: character assassination

After 6 months working in the industry, I feel like I’m finally starting to map out the stepping stones of progression I’ll need to conquer to get where I want to be in my career.

Flickr – Mike and Annabel Beales

As I’ve addressed what a good PR needs and what difficulties there are to overcome in the industry, I thought it’d be a good idea to look at the other side of the coin – the qualities about me that mean I might just struggle. This goes on the premiss that knowing your downfalls means you can grow as a person – I’ll try to anyway!

As a personal therapy, and in an effort to help others who suffer from my afflictions, I’ve documented my downfalls and my plans to improve.

So, here goes, the assassination of Jessica.

Stresshead

Flickr – bottled_void

Or as my mother likes to call me, “mardy cow”. In truth, I only earn that nickname when I’m driving, something about someone cutting me off just really grinds my gears (terrible pun intended). It takes very little to put me in a tiz, although I normally tiz-away in silence. I’d like to think I’m like a duck – all calm on the surface but paddling like heck underneath. Perhaps this is a good way to be, and to an extent I’d agree, but I most certainly need to take a chill pill.

I find I wind myself up about deadlines and quality of work more than any sane human should – I lose sleep because I’m constantly thinking of what to write for a project that isn’t due for another two weeks, I rarely take time to just relax because of all those deadlines (that are months away) that are on my mind, and I lose concentration on one project because I’m too busy stressing about the other one.

Not only this, but I’ve found grey hairs already – and as a 20-year-old woman you can probably guess that this sent me into an even bigger tiz.

TO DO: Plan in ‘me-time’ during the week and at weekends away from anything resembling work, but make sure this time is mentally stimulating – go see a film, read a non-academic book, maybe even just dye out the grey hairs… I’m going to commit to putting my phone and laptop away for 2 hour slots so I physically cannot look at work or respond to emails – catching up on sleeping time and having time to personally relax shall no doubt help my concentration and even more importantly, reduce the rate of grey hairs appearing.

Worrier

Flickr – Smilla4

Whether I’m writing for a newspaper supplement, for a client’s web page or even just an email, I am constantly over-thinking the way I write. Is that too formal? Perhaps add in some humour to be more personable? No, wait, is that too informal now? It’s a bit of a merry-go-round.

I’m pleased I care so much to worry over such trivial things like emails, but worrying is time-consuming and adds to the grey hair issue I’ve developed. It’s almost as though I’m stepping on egg shells with myself, trying my utmost to avoid looking like a fool.

TO DO: Accept little things like a typo in an email are inevitable. Finding the right level of formality with a client is going to take time, just take it easy. Mistakes happen, and unfortunately I’ve felt the burning red face of messing up, but I’ve learned from those times. While I will still devote the necessary time to avoid mishaps, I’m determined to learn from bad situations rather than simply worry about them happening and how to move on from them.

Most of my readers will be PR students, so if there’s one thing you take from this post, I hope that it’s to remember – you’re only human.

Flickr – John K

From listening to lecturers, guest speakers and working in a few different environments I’ve learned that the professional world tends to ask for more than you’re capable of. But instead of stressing and worrying (like I tend to), learn from mistakes, take all of the stress in your stride – remember you have a life beyond work that keeps you sane and keeps you good at what you do – don’t lose yourself in fighting to get to the top.

Being A PR Student – Why no one understands you

Whenever anyone asks me what I’m studying I ready myself for the ‘oh right… nice’ response.

Flickr – CollegeDegrees360

It doesn’t bother me much that most people haven’t a clue what I mean when I say ‘PR’ – more than half probably don’t even know what it stands for.

What bothers me is that PR is quite difficult to explain in a nutshell – at least in a way that doesn’t make me sound like I’m stupid. It’s all very well and good having definitions within an industry, but what do you say to someone who hasn’t a clue?

It’s difficult to explain to someone concisely how PRs manage and maintain reputation when, to them, reputation is an abstract term. To explain it properly you have to get into the details of media relations and third-party endorsement. I’ve found people tend to lose interest as soon as I explain what PR stands for – it’s still so unrecognized by the masses.

Flickr – Labour Youth

What frustrates me to no end is when people say “oh yeah he was doing the PR for that club event last night” – no, he was handing out flyers. I do not need training, experience nor a degree to hand out flyers.

I think describing your job as a PR to someone outside of the media industry takes years of practice. Even friends at university who study business or sciences don’t understand what I do, and there’s always the debate about what constitutes a “real course”. Because, I’m sorry, a course on David Beckham isn’t a real course.

But PR is. 

I’ve resigned myself from the fight now until I fully understand my role myself – and that might be a forever ongoing process with the constant changes in the industry.

I don’t think people realize or understand the complexities of PR – the variety of skills a practitioner must master; from client management to writing, from social media to event management, from organisation to media liaison.

But that’s why I love it. The variety you can face in a single day as a PR, whether in-house or consultancy, is amazing. I always need a challenge to push me and motivate me and being a PR is a constant challenge because of everything you must master.

Flickr – Robbie Veldwijk

So, no one understands us PR students. Sometimes even the PR lecturers seem a little bewildered by us. We’re fresh blood and we’re learning to do a rather complex juggling job. 

While no one else may understand my work, I’m proud of what my work can achieve and the skills I have for it.  And I give myself a mini pat on the back for my achievements each day.