On A-Level Results Day, CIPR Member, Rebecca Currie, Communications Officer at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, shares her experiences on not going to uni and discovering public relations. Tweet Beccy your feedback and views mentioning @0ddish.
All throughout school I couldn’t settle on what I wanted to do in life. I changed my mind about careers so much that when I finally finished my exams I had no idea what to do next.
I didn’t feel like I could commit to three years at university, studying a subject I would likely lose interest in later on. It was a lot of money to pursue something I might not want to spend the rest of my life doing. Looking through my options I found out about apprenticeships. The idea of earning money as I learnt really appealed to me. After a few applications and interviews I was offered a job as an admin apprentice in the communications office in an NHS hospital.
So I unknowingly began my career in public relations. While I was answering phones to national newspapers and television production companies and filing away newsletters filled with exciting NHS developments I started to wonder if communications and public relations could be something I wanted to explore as a career.
I explained my interest in developing my role to my manager. She took me under her wing and began to teach me the ropes. I learnt about the role public relations plays in the NHS, the importance of media relations and how we can boost our organisation’s reputation to the public.
It was a real ‘learn on the job’ experience for me. I started taking on some of the smaller stories that came in, interviewing patients, staff and stakeholders and writing up articles for newsletters and the local media. I loved it. I had always found English a great subject in school and enjoyed being able to take someone’s one sentence email and turn it into an interesting, factual and beneficial story. I still have my first published press release in a small local newspaper kept in a drawer, as does my mum.
After a year of on-the-job experience I decided I wanted to discover more of the theory behind what I was doing every day. I completed an introduction to marketing course in my free time. It was hard getting back into the swing of education, especially with the new challenge of working full time.
The marketing theory didn’t quite fit with the role I was playing in the hospital. A colleague recommended the CIPR, so I enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Public Relations course. The fit was much better. I could easily see how to use the theory I was learning to improve my everyday work. The planning project in particular was a great help. I had already drafted basic communications plans for campaigns at work. During the project I learnt why each different aspect of a plan is included. It allowed me to evaluate and change how I went about things at work and create much better plans for future campaigns. As my knowledge and experience developed, I gained more respect from colleagues across the organisation and my confidence grew. I felt like I really knew what I was talking about.
Other members of my team all went to university before starting their careers, making me the youngest in the office by at least 10 years. Despite my age I’m not treated any differently. Even though I joined the profession through a different route, the experience I gained from learning on the job, combined with my new knowledge of the reasons behind it all, means I’m respected as a member of the team. And I love every minute of it.
If you’re considering a career in public relations and aren’t sure whether to choose to go to university or pursue a vocational route, like Beccy, download the CIPR and PRCA’s ‘Careers in Public Relations’ guide (right click, ‘Save link as…’).