How I landed my dream PR job and my top tips for grads

Posted on 01/07/2021 by Cormac Clarke

After three turbulent years at Nottingham Trent University as a result of COVID-19, in May, Cormac started his career at Hallam, an award-winning full-service digital marketing agency, as a Digital PR Executive. Here, he shares his top 5 tips for navigating the graduate Digital PR job market.

I leave Nottingham Trent University having studied Broadcast Journalism since 2018. Most of my experience to date has been in journalism and football, having worked in roles with Derry City Football Club and more recently as Social Media and Content Officer at Notts County Women. 

Now that I am no longer a student and the reality of having to pay full price for Spotify is beginning to settle in, I’m so grateful to Hallam for giving me the opportunity to start my career in Digital PR. The fact I now work for an award-winning Digital Marketing agency straight out of Uni is absolutely crazy and probably something that hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

Top Tips For Navigating the Graduate Digital PR Job Market

1) Make LinkedIn your Bible 

LinkedIn is by far one of the most important tools a graduate could have available to them. 

The ability to follow companies, and see which person does what job is absolutely invaluable to a job-hungry grad. Make the most out of the platform and make connections. Reach out to hiring managers, HR reps, get your foot in the door, and make businesses take notice of you. 

Not only is it a great way to make connections, but it’s also a great platform to showcase your work. 

Post regularly and share amongst your connections the projects you’re working on. When I was searching for opportunities, LinkedIn quickly became my most-used social media platform, allowing me to share work I was completing at uni such as articles and pieces from my PR module. 

Use it to your advantage and showcase the skills you can offer to employers.

LinkedIn

Manifest your own opportunities 

If lockdown has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you. 

On my first day at Hallam, the CEO, Julio Taylor, said to me “You need to make your own luck. Just remember to be ambitious but stay humble.” 

During my time at Trent, I realised that becoming a journalist wasn’t for me as I once thought, so I began taking steps in a different direction. 

During the second lockdown, I undertook a remote placement with a digital design and marketing start-up, before joining Notts County Women just a few months later. Despite the adverse circumstances, I was determined to keep moving forward and improving. 

As I told Julio, I have never been a ‘straight A student’ and I’ve never had things handed to me. Anything I have achieved in life, whether it be school, uni, or this job, I have had to work hard to get. 

I am proud to be from a working-class background, and can happily say that this attitude and my work ethic is something that has set me up for life, and I’ve got my parents to thank for that. 

Don’t take setbacks to heart 

Okay, I’ll admit it, this is one I’m still learning to do. 

When I commit to something I am passionate about I go all in. So naturally, when I was applying for jobs on LinkedIn, I can admit I invested myself in every job I applied for, but this eventually took its toll. 

Every time I applied for what I had convinced myself was my dream role, a rejection email came, then another, and then another. Each time I received the standard rejection reply, I would feel like I had been crushed by a tonne of bricks. 

I would beat myself up, overthink, and I honestly believe this is something that most students are not prepared for. I was certainly one of them. I applied for countless jobs before landing, what I know is, my dream job at Hallam. 

One such role was a summer internship at a company, a position I felt I more than qualified for. I by no means am the finished article, I have so much yet to learn and felt this internship was the perfect role to do just that; learn. 

But a few days passed, and after the interview, I received that rejection email again. But this time it was different, it hit harder. I immediately fell into that spiral of self-doubt and said to myself ‘well if I can’t get an internship, what hope do I have of getting a full-time job’. 

Unashamedly, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

An accumulation of emotions, finally taking its toll. It was here I decided to make a change. I needed to accept that not every role is for me, and while I thought I knew this at the time, I certainly do now. 

It’s very easy to get lost in the excitement of planning your future, but again advice from my mother has come true in that “if it’s meant for you, it won’t pass you by.” 

The very next role I applied for after dusting myself down, was the Digital PR role at Hallam, and if the first few weeks of meeting great people and being offered invaluable support are anything to go by, I am going to be very happy here. 

At the right company, drive and ambition will trump your inexperience

This is something I would love to have known beforehand as an excited and anxious soon-to-be graduate. 

Having received widespread rejection in my search, I know that the best companies will invest in the person, not just the job title.

If you’re coming straight out of uni, maybe applying for a senior executive role isn’t the smartest plan. But for many young graduates, there appears to be an expectation to have vast experience for junior positions. 

Trust me I know it’s frustrating, I’ve been there. But it’s important to remember, a lot of companies do value drive, ambition, and the right attitude, just as much as experience on paper. 

During my interview for Hallam, the Managing Director, Jake Third, said, “Skills we can teach, but character, personality and a willingness to learn, we cannot.” 

From a very early stage, I was made aware that the values of Hallam are absolutely crucial in the hiring process. One of which being, ensuring that there is a culture fit. I felt this from the very first phone call with my now manager, Siobhan Congreve. It felt right then and it feels right now. 

Back yourself – No one else is going to do it for you

“Don’t be afraid of blowing your own trumpet, no one else is going to do it for you” – a piece of advice my father has been giving me for years. It’s only now that I’m older that I’ve started to take it on board. 

I have never been a confident person. 

The idea of showcasing how brilliant I am is an uncomfortable prospect and one I am very much working on. The very idea of writing this article took some getting used to. 

But my father is right, if I don’t do it, who will? It’s up to me to showcase what I can offer to employers, and the type of person I am. If I didn’t take this advice I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article. 

As uncomfortable as it may seem, you need to take charge and make your own luck. Put yourself out there, make a creative CV, do something different that showcases who you are and why employers would want you on their team.

Final thoughts

Admittedly, this piece was a lot more personal than originally intended but I feel it’s important to be open and honest about the emotions I was feeling during the graduate job process. 

If I had been given this advice as a student I know it would put my mind at ease so I can only hope it has a similar effect on others. 

I wish you all the very best of luck in your first steps into the big bad world of Digital PR.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us.


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