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How an internship kickstarted my PR career

How an internship kickstarted my PR career

You devote three years of your life studying, partying and allegedly ‘finding yourself’ at university, spending a decent chunk of your parents’ hard-earned cash… but hurrah, you earn yourself a solid degree and the world is now your oyster, right? Wrong.

With greater competition for jobs than ever before, it will lead many of us to undergo internships. The very word has mixed connotations depending on your experiences; for some, it can bring back harrowing memories of receiving no pay and performing horrendous tasks, yet for others, it can be the gateway to a full-time job that they have always craved. I am fortunate enough to say that I am in the latter.

I began my PHA journey back at the end of February, lending an extra pair of hands for the UFC Fight Night in London. A baptism of fire, you may think, but one that I enjoyed immensely. My two weeks came to an end, I thought I had done everything asked of me with perhaps a dash of aplomb and received those dreaded words that have let me down before from companies and women alike; ‘I’ll be in touch’. Safe to say I wasn’t taking anything for granted. Low and behold, I received a phone call on the Monday afternoon asking me to come back, this time for a month’s paid internship. Happy days!

An internship gave me a way in to the world of PR.

This developed into a further three month’s paid internship, all the while being made to feel extremely welcome and a part of the PHA family. The culture and the people of the place meant that I quickly knew that a full-time job here was my aspiration and made sure I did everything in my power to make this happen. Graduates on internships are certainly a two-way street. There will be organisations out there that are merely looking for free labour but on the other side, candidates have to show competency and more importantly enthusiasm to convince that they could be a long-term fixture.

The Times’ this week in their University Guide highlighted the importance of internships and their ability to increase employability and they’d be right. All the way through your studies achieving good grades is constantly drummed into you as an absolute must, yet the minute you graduate, employers are hammering on about having suitable work experience. There doesn’t appear to be enough guidance at universities to help graduates overcome, what can be, a substantial bridge between education and employment. While it is extremely tempting to enjoy the rigours of Jeremy Kyle, Philip Schofield and co during the four months of summer you enjoy while at university, I would advise to make the most out of your time off in the form of internships.

I believe it speaks volumes for PHA when nearly half of the workforce began as interns, many of which are now in senior and management roles. It provides excellent motivation and inspiration that it could perhaps be me in that position someday and also gives those members in authority a sense of empathy, with the likes of myself, who are on the first rung of the ladder.

The journey from internship to a fully-fledged member of the team is not always an easy one but I must admit mine has been quite serene. Engaging with colleagues in more social settings has been crucial and has helped me feel truly part of a developing business. It may have taken me longer than I initially imagined finding suitable employment going via telesales and packaging women’s underwear, but in the danger of sounding hugely clichéd, it has been worth the wait!

Is first female CEO of Lloyds a statement of intent for other women?

Inga Beale has been named as the first female CEO of Lloyds of London in its 325-year history, smashing through the so-called glass ceiling to make history in her industry.

Beale, 50, has an ample 30 years’ industry experience and will replace outgoing Richard Ward in January, with her appointment making her one of the most powerful women in the City, with 900 staff and a market of 90 syndicates and companies under her control.

In my view, this is a very positive step in the City where the gender divide has remained stubbornly high, with four in every five workers being male. The appointment of a female to such a prestigious post will surely encourage the steadfastness of other ambitious women pushing to reach higher ranks.

Inga Beale

Inga Beale

As the debate continues as to whether there should be quotas for females in the boardroom there is great value in women establishing themselves as role models. A number of initiatives have been set up to establish such quotas. For example, the 30% Club, a group of companies including Diageo, RBS and John Lewis, has pledged to get more talented women into their boardrooms. However, reports have shown that fewer than half of staff considers their employer to have a clearly formed policy on diversity. In addition, just one in five believe that their firm actively recruits with diversity in mind.

The absence of women in the upper echelons of the Lloyds structure has been obvious in the past, with Claire Ighodaro currently the only member of its 12-strong board.

Beale has frequently vocalised the opinion that there is a necessity to have greater diversity in Britain’s boardrooms. She believes that a variety of perspectives will lead to balance and that, “Diverse boards help companies make better decisions, which affect the bottom line.”

However, in previous interviews, Beale has stated that she believes women can sometimes hinder their own career progression and has been quoted as saying, “Some of the time we put our own ‘glass ceiling’ on ourselves because we are not confident in our ability. I talk to a lot of women who have been working as I have for 30 years in the industry and we wonder what happened to all those women who started when we did.”

There are currently just four female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies, including Burberry boss Angela Ahrendts, EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall, Imperial Tobacco’s Alison Cooper and Royal Mail’s Moya Greene.

Whilst quotas may help to promote women in business it appears there needs to be a change of attitude as well with women pushing themselves forward, embracing competition and having absolute faith in their own merit. The more women become visible as powerful, high-flying businesswomen such as Beale, the more motivated others will be to follow.

If women go into their careers believing they can reach that level, rather than doubting they ever will then that mentality will propel them forward. There is no better inspiration for this than seeing others who have reached the top and are respected by those who they share the board with.