Press officer Peter O’Connor has taken to Twitter as @unemployedPRman in his search for a new job. Here he tells his story.
By Peter O’Connor
How hard can it be to get a job? How hard can it be to get a job in PR? How hard can it be to get a job in PR when you have years of experience?
How long have you got?
Hopefully, I’ll retain you for the length of this blog, which is my latest attempt to get back into an industry that seems to keep going, but doesn’t seem to have a place for a hard-nosed practitioner.
I took a career-break in 2010 to care for my late father. For the previous 18 years, I’d been a hard-nosed press officer, first at BT for five years, and then another 13 in Whitehall, presenting the Government in the best way I could. For some of the years, I was also on the radio at a sports journalist.
Long road to employment
Since dad died in 2011, I must have had 40 interviews; no idea how many applications, but hundreds. Three employers said I was the ‘best candidate,’ but were pulling the jobs through lack of money.
At one of the three firms, an engineering giant, I met the head or PR, went back to meet the head of PR again with her boss, then back a third time to see the firm’s chief executive. I even met the two other people in the office. Then, someone else left, and they only had one salary to spare.
But the worst is when they say ‘you’re over-qualified.’ Just last month, I went for a press officer at a major broadcaster. Got a call back. Great I thought, as the HR woman introduced herself. But she went on to say I was experienced, perhaps too experienced for the role.
Increasingly, recruiters say I ‘gave a good interview.’ In one case, the chief executive of a government agency who saw me called to say I was the best-researched of all the candidates.
New Year, no job
So, with the turn of the year and still nothing on the horizon, I took to Twitter as Peter O’Connor is @unemployedPRman, and, among others, Stephen Waddington saw my plea and kindly suggested I write about my story.
Before dad fell ill, I’d done journalism, radio, media relations, public relations, stakeholder relations, paid-publicity, internal comms, crisis comms, intercoms. Sorry, not the last one.
I’ve done PR for just about everything in government – Iraq, 7/7, Diana, The Queen Mother when she died, the Olympics, health and safety, tourism, courts, motorways, farming, schools, trains, asylum, the police, the military and the fire service, eco-labelling, regeneration, ASBOs, pensioners, 10 public inquiries, minimum wage, energy regulation, airport expansion, those fancy screens at bus stops that tell you when the 8 is due, old forts and castles, and, ironically, given my position now, how to get the jobless into work.
I’ve still got plenty of bite. I still know my way around the media, what makes a good story and what doesn’t. I still laugh at the colleague who, when I gave him a Q&A I’d written, said ‘I don’t like these questions.’ I still follow media trends. I still read the industry press, like the media magazines.
The only thing I don’t have – is a job. Can you help, please? An experienced PR is going to waste here. Anywhere two hours from Sussex is commutable, so open to offers from Bedford to Southampton, and, obviously, London and the Home Counties.
Thanks for reading, but you’ll get an even bigger thanks for employing me.
About the Author
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