career development / Job market

What’s it really like to work in public relations?

From higher education to the world of Öffentlichkeitsarbeit (PR)… 

After three years at the University of Warwick and one year at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, like most of my classmates, I was ready to don my cap and gown, accept my certificate and leave the lecture hall behind.

In March 2020, I was counting down the days until I would be able to do that. I could say that nobody saw it coming, but one of my professor’s had said in my last lecture: “Good luck and goodbye, as I am sure campus will be in lockdown next term”. We all laughed out of pure disbelief. I could not imagine what the next few weeks would bring: lockdown, with my books and notes trapped in my room at university, completing my exams online at home instead of with my friends in an exam hall. But most importantly, no graduation ceremony. My degree came in the post and instead of wearing the dress I had graduated from school in and cherished for four years, I opened the brown envelope in my jeans and T-shirt.

Then came the job hunt. After applying to various graduate schemes at the end of 2019, all my applications had been paused or rejected as employers, facing an uncertain economy, did not know whether or not to take on graduates. Knowing that I was interested in public affairs jobs, I came across a company with a remarkably friendly website: The PR Office. They advertised for internships starting in April, so I wrote an application. At the start of April, I was offered an interview and not long after some further correspondence, they emailed me to say I would start in ten days!

Whilst preparing for my interview, what struck me was how many people at The PR Office had a politics or languages background. And so, it seemed like I had found “my people” in the working world. In my first week, I had a crash course into the lively worlds of public affairs, book launches, gaming and property PR. As I joined client calls, listening in to the work that the teams had been doing, what was most noticeable were the strong relationships that the entire office had developed with their clients. There was a friendliness and openness between both sides, and this has even extended to me as I have become more familiar with our clients.

As I talked about why I felt PR was a match for me, I felt that it was the intersection of my degree: politics emphasises communication, but we learn languages to communicate with even more people. Writing has always been something I have really enjoyed. I oddly find it easier to use the written word to convey my thoughts and this has definitely been a skill that I have managed to hone during the past four months. From the first day, PRO has trusted me with responsibility, real tasks and work, as I learnt more about clients. Within two months, I was sending letters to MPs and calling their offices. I had my heart in my mouth the entire time, but it felt surreal. In three months, I had progressed from teaching yoga to lobbying select committees.

The work on public affairs clients exposed a side of Westminster that I could have never learnt about in a lecture hall. Even as I found myself talking about my work with my friends, it sounded far too exciting and completely unbelievable. Quite simply, no two days are the same. I work on a number of different client teams, from lobbying on HS2 to organising a global book launch, attending conferences on renewable energy, writing about the property sector and arranging interviews for venture capital firms. I have an absolute spread of things to be involved in, across vast sectors. Articles that I have found and translated from German media have given vital information to one of our defence clients, allowing them to be aware of situations that impact their business.

Nothing about this internship has been what I expected my first job to be, and one of the top moments goes to the time that I helped edit a client’s debut novel before going to print and helping co-ordinate its launch across the globe. As an avid reader, this was a dream come true!

Remarkably, it was a month before I met my colleagues in real life, but thanks to our weekly “Rambles” sessions on a Friday, I felt a bit more connected to everyone. The 30 minutes of games were hosted by a different team member each week and every session revealed something new about everyone. Our transition to working two days a week in our new Farringdon offices has been seamless, and, as an intern, I had never felt so at home with the PRO team.

Being around kind and inspirational people is all I could have ever asked for in a job. From our chairman helping me write a press release to my regular catch ups with the AMs and being invited to a colleagues wedding along with other PRO colleagues showed me just how close the team here is. I don’t think that I could have got this anywhere else.

And so, whilst I realise that I may have missed my ceremony, finding where I belonged and being given the opportunity to flourish and develop with such a formidable team in an incredibly exciting industry was the best graduation present I could have ever wished for and was certainly worth the wait.

The writer Shivani Lodhia graduated from the University of Warwick in 2020, with a BA in Politics, International Studies & German. She joined The PR Office in 2021 as an intern and was made an account executive at the end of her internship. Want to find out more about working in this industry? See PR job profile

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