10 July 2013
Melissa Powley, Student

'Work Experience' in PR - a waste of time or is it worth it?

Stepping stones

Earlier in the week, we posted a blog about how graduates can thrive within the PR industry. Today, our latest intern Melissa Powley, a student at Reading University, looks back at what she has learnt following a three-week placement at Westgate Comms.

Work experience is generally accepted to be a great opportunity for undergrads to broaden their understanding of ‘the work place’. However, as many University students will tell you, actually securing anything worthwhile is often daunting and futile.

This is summed up by retired Harvard professor and author Donald Norman; “to get real work experience, you need a job, and most jobs will require you to have had either real work experience or a graduate degree”. So, when I set about looking for a placement to fill some of my summer holiday I was prepared for an ordeal.   

In reality, a good CV, a clear willingness to work and one positive interview later was all I needed to secure three weeks of work experience at Westgate Communications. Of course rejection emails are inevitable but I am pleased I stuck with it because these past three weeks have not only been enjoyable but incredibly informative too.

Prior to my time here I had only conceptually thought of PR and had no tangible experience of the industry. However, once the team had shown me the ropes – with training sessions in how to collate coverage, update media lists and write effective copy, I felt fully prepared to work alongside them and deliver the high standards associated with Westgate.   

On reflection, I’m incredibly proud of how much I’ve managed to absorb and deliver, some of which included helping with:

• Research, including speaking opportunities for clients
• Identifying potential news angles
• Collating coverage
• Updating and organising media lists 
• Collating survey results for a research-led press release
• Analysing client websites to improve SEO
• Pitching stories and consumer products  

Westgate has helped me gain an understanding of the industry. And that’s the beauty of work experience; if you are immersed within a successful, functioning business you instinctively adapt to work in line with the team around you. As a result, I’ve picked up skills that will be incredibly valuable in my future occupation. So, to anyone hoping to gain some work experience, stick at those application forms, it’s worth it! Many thanks Westgate for the opportunity and to the wonderful team for your patience, office banter and endless supply of tea and biscuits!



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