Book Review: How to Get a Job in PR by Sarah Stimson

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

How to Get a Job in PR; Front Cover Image Credit: Sarah Stimson

How to Get a Job in PR; Front Cover
Image Credit: Sarah Stimson

As readers of my About page will know, I am a Class of 2013 graduate aspiring to gain a career in Public Relations which is why I created this blog. I have to admit my posts surrounding PR have been sparse so when the opportunity to review a book all about how to get a job in PR, I jumped at the chance.

I’d like to start this review off with a little background to my search for a role in public relations and communications. I finished university in May but started applying for jobs in March and was met with constant rejections. I didn’t mind so much whilst I was still studying as most of my time was spent writing dissertations, essays, revising and making the most of my last six months of no real responsibility.

Two months out of uni and five applications for communications workers and internships rejected, I faced the fact that I needed money fast, so I started applying for part-time work in retail and catering too but still couldn’t find work. I finally admitted defeat and started claiming Job seeker’s allowance.

I hated every second of it. At first I was hopeful that the advisors would be able to help and give me advice as to how to get the career I so craved in PR, but they were more interested in getting me employed rather than helping me create a career. I had a huge A4 binder full of rejected applications to a number of different sorts of jobs in PR; I started to lose hope.

Even now, I am finally employed part-time in a shop and I feel no closer to getting that career. So I sought advice from a lecturer at my university about doing a Masters in Public Relations and from there I have been seeking work experience alongside my job and writing my blog and for Heart of Glass magazine.

Believe it or not, there is very little in the way of guidebooks or any helpful material really for people aspiring to get into PR. Sarah herself talks a lot about this in part one of her book and I couldn’t agree more. I failed to find anything relevant besides speaking to my lecturer but of course, not everyone has the luxury of understanding and supportive lecturers to help and advise them.

The first thing I loved about “How to Get a Job in PR” was that Sarah actually gave a definition of public relations. Too often, people ask me what I want to do and give me a blank stare when I say PR. It is difficult to describe exactly what a PR practitioner does in only a few words compared to say, A vet, as Sarah says. I now feel I have an accurate, working definition that I can use to explain to people exactly what I want to do.

Part one really explains what the PR world is about without getting in lost in industry jargon, which makes it an easy read. Sarah explains the subtle and not so subtle differences between the roles that are available and also stresses the importance of having a sense of direction as to what sort of PR interests you. Looking back at those rejected applications now, I can see that part of the reason I was getting rejected was because I never really gave an explanation as to why I wanted to work for that particular company or in that PR department. I was generalising every application I made in my desperation to get a job.

I feel Part One is helpful in clearing up any stereotypes and misdirected thoughts you might have had as to what the PR industry is all about but also really gets into the many different routes there are to take. It really acts as food for thought as to where you want to take your career in PR.

Part Two is where it all really begins; how to get that job. Sarah gives really great tips as to how to write your CV, covering letters and job applications as well as how to handle recruitment consultants and head-hunters. I had found that most of her tips echoed what I had been told by the career team at my university as well as my lecturer, which was reassuring. What really makes Sarah’s book stand out here though is her advice about networking, using social media and making yourself noticeable. These skills are arguably more important in PR than in any other job search, as this is really your first test; if you can’t market yourself, how can market to the public?

Part Three tackles interviews. Sarah gives some great advice on how to tackle difficult questions, weakness’ you can happily admit to and how to discuss salary. I am at the point now where I am fed up of being told the same techniques to survive interviews and so I wasn’t looking forward to reading this part, but I feel like I refreshed things I had forgotten or even entered territories previously unexplored, particularly the chapter on salaries. I find I am being asked this question more and more in interviews and I never really know what to say. I want to sound like I think I’m worth something but not that I am arrogant, but equally I don’t to seem like I have no confidence in my skills. Sarah has helped to understand how to answer this question without these worries and without an awkward pause whilst I ponder how quickly I can run from the room.

Normally, I would have expected that to be the end of the book, but Sarah dedicates that last part to advise us on what to do once we’ve gotten the job. This, without a doubt, was the most impressive and helpful aspect of the book. She has prepared me for what might come when I do eventually enter the world of PR and how to handle it; from making a good first impression to how to resign, I’m ready.

The book contains many quotes from PR practitioners and lecturers giving their own viewpoints and advise which was very informative as often their viewpoints were contradictory or disagreed with one another, which supported what Sarah was trying to stress in the first part about the diversity of the public relations world.

Overall, I cannot stress the brilliance of this book enough. If you are looking for a career in PR, you have found your bible. I know I will consult this book continuously over the next two years whilst I search for my break.

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