Q&A with Fishburn Hedges Graduate
This post is the fourth Q&A in a series looking at PR graduate jobs, employability and other hints on getting into the industry. I’m thrilled that Oliver Money who is on the Fishburn Hedges graduate scheme has shared some of his thoughts with us.
This follows on from the 2010 PR Grad Schemes, Q&A with high-flying SAE and Q&A with Edelman HR ace posts which I hope people will find useful. With many graduate schemes closing shortly I thought it would be a good time to speak to someone who has successfully negotiated the graduate recruitment process.
You can follow Ollie on Twitter too.
1. What did you have to do to get the job at Fishburn Hedges?
It’s a long process! There’s an initial application stage where you send in your CV with 400 words on why they should interview you. Then there’s a phone interview stage followed by a face to face interview where they whittle it down to about 15 candidates for an assessment day. The day included a presentation on a current news story of your choice and a writing test which was a simple essay question. That was followed by a roundtable discussion of a couple of issues facing clients. And crucially, I had to hold it together at the end of the day for a buffet where a certain Mr Hedges was kind enough to quietly introduce himself.
2. Do you have a portfolio?
I had never heard of using a portfolio to apply for a PR job so I kept it old-school with a CV and a haircut. I think for a training scheme nobody is expecting you to have a portfolio of experience, it might impress, it might not. Personally, I don’t think they make a difference but if you have to, go for an e-portfolio – always good to demonstrate that geeky edge PR 2.0 needs these days!
3. Do you feel your degree helped you to get the job?
I did History and Politics at Nottingham and I got a 2:1. It’s important to have a solid academic background but I don’t think it helped me particularly. In my interview I ended up talking far more about a promotions company I ran in Nottingham than the finer points of Marx’s economic theory.
4. What does your role involve on a daily basis?
Fortunately it is so varied that I couldn’t give you a picture of a typical day because there really isn’t one. One day you might be calling journalists and selling-in a story, on others you might be monitoring a political event or trying your hand at drafting a press release. There are administrative tasks that you just need to get done but at the same time FH puts you in front of the clients virtually straight away and you can find yourself offering an opinion to a CEO of a major company. One thing I do every day is spend at least half an hour going through the RSS feeds of the key media outlets, blogs and Google-searches that interest me and my clients.
5. How much responsibility do you have on the scheme?
It’s clear when you arrive that it really is up to you on how much responsibility you take on. If you can prove to your team that you can take charge on a certain issue or a project then they will let you. The opportunities are definitely there, you just have to prove that you can handle them.
6. What is it like to work within FH?
FH is different from every other office I’ve worked in because it has a non-divisional approach to both its work and the office itself. This means that you can end up sitting next to a Board Director, which can certainly make your first few phone calls a bit intimidating, but very quickly it makes everyone a lot more approachable and human – no one is locked away behind a big scary door. There is always lots going on outside of work – there are official drinks twice a month, not to mention the unofficial but sacred watering hole that is The Newton Arms.
7. What made you accept the job at FH?
I accepted the job because it has the reputation as pretty much the best place to start a career in communications in the country. The opportunity to work with the clients we have and in a company that allows you to try your hand at everything from financial pr to public affairs made it a bit of a no-brainer. I was definitely in full internship/application mode and though FH was the first scheme I applied for, I was certainly looking AT the others that were out there too.
8. What gave you the competitive edge to get the role on the FH scheme?
I think the key was demonstrating passion and enthusiasm in a way that they could see was transferable to the needs of clients.I hope I managed to demonstrated my interest in politics and the media and proved that I was a pro-active person that really wanted the job. It was the first interview where I really felt like I was being myself so I’m sure that helped.
9. What are the 3 most important skills that graduates need to be successful in PR?
An ability to multi-task, a creative mind and the gift of the gab!
10. What advice would you give to graduates looking to get into PR?
If you can, try it out. Internships can be bankrupting affairs but nothing beats experiencing the atmosphere of the kind of place you want to work. For interviews, I would make sure you always have a couple of columnists or bloggers up your sleeve to drop in to conversation and always completely geek up about the company you want to work for.
I would like to wish Oliver good luck for the future and thank him for participating in this Q&A. Many graduates will shortly be hearing back from agencies whether or not they have made it past the first stage of the graduate recruitment process, so I’m confident Oliver’s words of advice will be well received. I’d also like to thank the students from all over the country who sent me the questions to put to Oliver.