Feel the fear and apply anyway: How to get your first job in PR
Six months ago, if you’d told me that I would have a full-time job as a PR executive for a bespoke public relations agency in Amsterdam, I wouldn’t have believed you. As a recent graduate with a master’s degree in digital marketing, I knew what a role in PR might entail. How to get a job in PR was a different question altogether.
Having a relevant degree was a good start, but otherwise I was approaching the job market with very little experience and a lot of uncertainty. I was worried that in order to succeed in public relations, I needed connections – which I didn’t have. Unlike some of my friends, I had avoided most of my university’s networking events, where dozens of eager students wearing freshly-ironed suits mingled with representatives from multinational corporations in the hope of securing a job offer (or at least, a business card). It just wasn’t my kind of thing.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the idea that a career in PR would be fun, and that – given a chance – I could be good at it. I wanted the opportunity to be creative, and to work with like-minded, equally creative people. I also hoped to work with a company with values that aligned with my own, although when you graduate in the throes of a global pandemic (and ensuing economic downturn) that often feels like too much to ask for. When I saw the job advert for Hooton – a B Corp-certified, sustainable PR agency, with clients across fashion, lifestyle and creative sectors – I felt myself pause.
I didn’t have half the experience the job specification listed, but somehow I found the confidence to push through my nervousness and apply anyway. I bigged up my recent internship as much as I could, then focused my energy on questions such as “describe your ideal work environment” and “what magazines are you subscribed to?” which I used to let my personality shine through. After that, it was a matter of taking a deep breath and hitting send.
That turned out to be my first lesson in how to get and keep a job in public relations: feeling scared, but doing it anyway. From learning I’d got an interview (exciting and terrifying) to hearing I was through to the second round (even more exciting, and even more terrifying), to walking into the office on my first day (too exciting and terrifying to talk about), working at Hooton has pushed me to find a sense of confidence I didn’t know I had.
That’s not to say it has come easily. A few weeks into the job, I often found myself frozen and staring at my laptop, paralysed by indecision as I tried to work out what project I should focus on next. Even building media lists of potential journalists felt intimidating. I didn’t know who anyone was – it felt very unlikely that any of them would ever answer my emails. But I knew that sitting there and feeling scared wouldn’t achieve anything, so I took a deep breath and started ticking off one task at a time.
Meanwhile, I’ve been observing my colleagues in awe. Hooton’s CEO and founder, Heloise, seems to know everyone in Amsterdam and most of Europe, while the rest of the team aren’t far behind. Hearing them take phone calls, I note how relaxed they seemed, even when speaking to leading journalists and the founders of huge brands or creative agencies. At a recent event, I hung back as my colleague, Paiman, chatted to potential clients with humour and ease. Over the course of the evening I realised that – unlike the university events I’d avoided – the conversations taking place around me were casual and laid back. It dawned on me that networking doesn’t need to be tedious. If it’s with people who share similar interests and passions, it might even be something I could enjoy.
Pushing through nervousness in order to succeed is a theme that I’m beginning to understand will continue over the course of my career in PR. It’s daunting to think that one day I’ll be managing clients on my own, but it’s also incredibly exciting. And while I might not have all the experience – or connections – of my colleagues just yet, I have to trust that I bring other skills to the table.
To anyone else who isn’t sure if they have what it takes to get a job in PR, that’s my main advice: feel the fear and apply anyway – even if it scares you. After all, everyone has to start somewhere in their career. I’m excited that I get to start mine at Hooton.