Three co-op placements down, one bright future to go: the value of student co-op placements

By Allison Hopkins allison-profile-photo As I head into my final term at Mount Saint Vincent University, I’ve had some time to reflect on my co-op experience as a public relations student – most recently at The PR Hive. In high school, I applied to the PR program on a whim – and one week later, I was accepted. As I prepared to move from Newfoundland to a new province all by myself, I was nervous to leave my family for the first time but was most nervous about the fact that I didn’t have PR experience and wondered, what if I don’t like it? Luckily for me, all MSVU PR students complete three work term placements during the program, so I had time to figure all that out. As it turns out, being a co-op student has been the highlight of my student career. I’ve had the chance to complete my work terms in three vastly different sectors, each introducing me to different areas of PR that helped me realize I had chosen the right career path. Co-op placements have given me the opportunity to take what I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life scenarios, and to witness how the work we do in PR impacts real stakeholders. I’ve also had the chance to learn new skills that weren’t covered in my classes – from the basics of the Adobe suite to editing websites – I’ve learned things I never imagined I would. And the best part? These co-op placements have expanded my interests: after my work term at The PR Hive, I can confidently say that I’m a news junkie. The most valuable things I’ve taken away from each work term are the relationships I’ve built. Meeting and working with seasoned PR professionals has helped me discover the different paths PR can take me, and has allowed me to make great connections, and friendships too. pr-hive-team-members-chatting I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to take part in each placement and am especially thankful to round out my experience at The PR Hive. Working here has given me a taste for agency, and working with a variety of clients has helped me learn more than what’s possible in a classroom setting alone. Looking back at my co-op placements, I realize I’ve learned the value of saying yes to new opportunities and gained a greater understanding of what my future in PR can look like. If I could go back and talk to that high school student wondering, what if I don’t like it? I’d say, you just wait.

Dear PR: You had me at hello

By: Robyn McIsaac For most people, explaining to others what they do is simple. Accountant. Electrician. Teacher. Those are professions people understand with one simple word. Those of us who work in public relations, however, are regularly faced with blank stares and a “so what exactly is it you do?” Admittedly, I didn’t know about PR until I went to Mount Saint Vincent University and learned about the Bachelor of Public Relations program. At that moment, it was absolutely clear that this was my future. And it’s a profession I have loved every day for almost 25 years (ok, maybe with a few exceptions). But, thanks to Edward Bernays and a few bad apples that don’t represent the majority of ethical PR professionals, we are regularly called “spin doctors.” This is particularly offensive because it comes with an implied accusation of propaganda and dishonesty that makes me want to take a shower. The only thing to be gained by “spin” is a dangerous web. We are fortunate in Halifax to have two top-notch PR programs and two professional associations that teach students about ethics and the true nature of PR, resulting in young professionals who are as enthusiastic about PR as I am. Here are the top five reasons why I love PR:

1. PR is all about relationships.

Building. Preserving. Valuing. PR brings a unique perspective and offering in relationship building. It doesn’t matter who your audience is – if you don’t have strong relationships you might as well say good night. Relationships in any business – with employees, neighbours, customers or government – are at the heart of public relations and any good, no great, communications strategy. Having strong relationships doesn’t mean you’ll always be in the clear, but they will help you through good times and bad.

2. PR nurtures creativity.

For those of us who like to use the right side of our brain at least as much as the left, PR delivers. Writing, strategizing, and solutions can all be (and often need to be) creative. The joy of finding creative ways to connect with your audience can satisfy the artistic urge that many of us crave.

3. Opportunities for professional and career growth abound.

It doesn’t matter where you start, there is always room for growth and/or change. By its very nature, PR can take you down many different paths, all very professionally satisfying. I’ve been fortunate to have gained deep knowledge and understanding in numerous PR specialities such as internal communications, media relations, corporate social responsibility and more. If you’re really good at what you do and work hard, career opportunities will find you and you can rise to the top if that’s your heart’s desire. You can choose to specialize or be a generalist; either way, there is never a dull day in PR.

4. PR transcends industries.

One of the best things about PR is the opportunity to transfer your skills to any industry or sector. It doesn’t matter that you started your career in education, but have always loved performing arts, or that you’re working in the private sector and want to move to non-profit. Or spent a lifetime working for someone else but always dreamed of starting your own agency. Anything is possible because PR skills cross all sectors.

5. Your greatest work will never be known.

This isn’t entirely true, but don’t expect to win any industry awards for your best work (in some cases). In the world of PR, the work we do can sometimes be sensitive and requires the utmost professionalism and respect for confidentiality. If you can guide your employer or client successfully through an issue or avoid a crisis by being prepared and providing ethical counsel, then the right people will understand and respect the value you bring.  That’s the true gratification of PR. I could go on, but why should I have all the fun? Whether you’re a client or a PR pro, drop us a line on social media and tell us why you love PR.

Five networking tips for entry-level professionals in their job search

By: Jordan Parker Jordan joined us for his work term from the Nova Scotia Community College and is finishing up his last week with us as part of his Advanced Diploma in Public Relations. Switching from journalism to public relations required networking with a new crowd. Through that experience, he’s learned a lot about building meaningful connections and he’s happy to share some tips with our readers. Meeting new people can be a scary prospect, even as an adult. When I was a 17-year-old journalism student, my professor threw me headfirst into talking with strangers. I soon realized learning about the people around you can make for great stories and long-term connections. The act of meeting and cultivating business friends and contacts (known as networking) is paramount to your current and future success. As intimidating as it may be, having coffee with industry leaders can lead to positive relationships and increase your potential career prospects.
Here are five networking tips that could bring you success in your career search:

1. There are at most six people standing between you and Trudeau

The six principles of separation theory floats the idea that everyone is connected through six or fewer “friends of friends.” While the principle has become a buzz word over the years, the basic underlying concept remains true. Networking – and further, leveraging help from those we know – can lead to introductions to almost anyone. Six connections could even get you that signature handshake with our prime minister. Look around you – your college roommate who still sings ‘Bobcaygeon’ off-key might have an uncle who’s a senior partner at a firm in your industry. You never know who can be invaluable or where you’ll meet them. So remember, networking doesn’t always have to be in a professional setting.

2. Put yourself on people’s radar

It’s hard to have your work noticed if no one knows you’re out there. That’s why professional networking tools like LinkedIn are so popular. You can put your credentials online to try and make connections, but if you truly want to stay visible you should solidify a connection in person. Schedule a friendly get-to-know-you meeting with a senior manager in your industry or someone you admire. Then do just that: learn about who they are, about their industry and their challenges so you can find out what you can offer them. Although it’s a casual coffee meeting, remember to stay professional and dress the part (you want them to see you as a professional). Afterwards, consider that hiring managers and industry leaders are more likely to respond to an email asking about something specific you discussed in person. If they had a business decision they were debating, ask where they landed on it. Always engage and listen to have the best relationships possible.

3. Play the long-game

Networking isn’t about instant returns. It’s about making connections that could potentially last a lifetime. While meeting a new colleague may not pay off instantly, it could easily present opportunities in the future. Everyone has a story, expertise, or guidance to offer, and the benefits of networking could come weeks, months or even years after meeting and keeping in contact with someone. Schedule coffees once a month with people you’ve connected with and try to make a routine of reaching out and checking in.

4. Have fun and make friends

You have to remember that like yourself, the people you meet aren’t just their jobs. You both have interests, hobbies, favourite movies and books that go beyond the cubicles and conference rooms. In the end, your network should be filled with people you respect and enjoy. Make lifelong connections with your network, rather than superficial ties. It’s easier to ask a friend (rather than a LinkedIn connection) for support during a job search.

5. Pay it forward

Never undervalue your own worth as an industry professional. Just as you’ve been mentored and had those relationships shape you, don’t be afraid to give advice and lend a hand to someone else. Your experiences have built wisdom of your own. If asked, share it. Don’t underestimate the power of making and keeping relationships in business: your allies can be your best tool.

Five tips for a successful student work placement

By: Maddy Murphy Being a co-op student can be a bit nerve-wracking at first. You’re in a new space, you find everyone extremely smart and learning the ropes of the job can be challenging. I started my high school work placement at The PR Hive in March. Having been here for a few months, I thought I’d share five tips from my experience to help those of you who are nervous about your first co-op placement.

1.     Learn from your mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes every now and then – but that’s not always a bad thing. Mistakes can play a major role in your growth, especially at this stage. During my time here at The PR Hive, I’ve made some mistakes which gave me a better appreciation of learning through trial and error. My coworkers provided feedback, which helped me gain insight I may not have otherwise received.

2.     Ask questions

It may seem scary at first, but asking for help when you don’t understand can be really beneficial. Your coworkers know that you’re new to this. The guidance you receive will motivate you to learn more, allowing you to relax a little and enjoy the experience. Next time you’re hesitant to ask questions, keep in mind that it’s better than doing something completely wrong and having your coworkers redo it – especially when their deadlines are tight. Trust me, your coworkers will appreciate it.

3.     Be engaged

Listening and having an understanding of what’s going on in the company is very important. One tip is to pay attention to what everyone is working on during meetings. You never know when you might be asked to help with a project. On that note, listening and taking notes when needed will prevent you from missing steps. Though asking questions is always good, taking the right notes might save time and prevent questions that may have already been covered. Don’t forget to speak out when you have a great idea – your ideas may be helpful to your coworkers. This also shows enthusiasm – something employers look for in their employees.

4.     Take control of your experience

There’s a reason you chose this internship. Maybe you’ve always had a passion for this type of work, or you know someone who loves working in the industry. Whatever that reason may be, take charge of the experience and ask everything you’ve always wanted to know. Maybe you want to learn how to create social media posts for an organization, for example. This is the time to speak up and ask for experiences that align with your interests.

5.     Last but not least, establish good relationships

Establishing good relationships with your coworkers and employers is a fun way to break up the work day. While it’s easy to get caught up in your work, everyone can appreciate the occasional break to chat. But keep in mind that while socializing at work is fine, some people may find it distracting – so play it by ear. Having good relationships with your coworkers will also make working with them easier because you’ll be more comfortable around them. Feeling ready to start your co-op placement yet? While it’s difficult to feel 100 per cent ready for your first student placement, you can prepare by understanding that:
  • Making mistakes can help you grow
  • Asking questions will benefit your experience
  • Being engaged promotes creativity
  • Taking control shows enthusiasm
  • Establishing relationships benefits everyone
And take it from me – if you do a good enough job, they might even let you write the company’s first blog post.