Getting that #firstPRjob: thoughts and reflections

By Mark Pinsent, Managing Director, Europe at The Hoffman Agency

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with my good friend Wadds and Alice Weightman of Hanson Search, which kindly organised the event. Our audience was undergraduates and recent graduates who are looking to pursue a career in PR and communications, with the premise being that Wadds and I would share an employer’s eye view on how junior professionals can best approach securing that first permanent role.

We talked through how candidates can focus their search, approach employers, deliver a positive impression in that first meeting, handle interview questions (and prepare some smart ones of their own) and, having finally found themselves a permanent role, thrive in it.

One of the attendees, Gafar, has neatly summed up some of the chat in this post.

It was both an inspiring and yet (slightly) deflating evening. Inspiring because the room was full of bright, motivated, passionate, driven and knowledgeable young professionals. Direct, challenging, and articulate: it was a genuine pleasure to meet and talk to them. You could take that group as a sample and be confident that the next generation entering the profession will drive it forward, and that it will benefit from being an industry made up of an increasingly diverse community of professionals. Which would only be a positive thing.

But that’s where my deflation came in. Finding a permanent job in communications is so bloody difficult these days, even for those with some useful work experience or internships under their belts. It worries me that agencies (in particular) are becoming ever ‘heavy’ at more senior levels at the cost of being able to bring fresh talent, skills and perspective into the industry. I’ve worked with plenty of associate directors (and those more senior) who I’d happily replace with three or four of this week’s audience…and I’m sure many would say the same of me!

It might be supply and demand. There could be as many entry-level positions as there have ever been, just many more graduates pursuing a career which seems to be increasingly popular.

But that also drives one of the other blights on our industry: unpaid internships. These need to stop, though of course they won’t given they provide the financial foundation for some of our industry’s most profitable agencies, and there’ll always be a willing number of graduates who can afford to fill those roles.

And therein lies one of the central issues in increasing the diversity of the industry. It’s a generalisation, of course, but probably accurate to say that many of those filling unpaid internships are doing so while being supported by their families, and that fact inevitably reduces the diversity of the pool of people available. Which isn’t a good thing.

All that said, I had a great time and I’m delighted with some of the new connections I’ve made. I also want to give a plug to the Taylor Bennett Foundation, which does excellent work in helping to bring those from diverse ethnic backgrounds into our industry. It was a pleasure to meet a number of the guys currently involved in the Foundation’s programme at the event.

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