You probably have an image in your mind of what an intern looks like. And I’m probably not it. I took voluntary redundancy after working in TV for 12 years and, keen to move into a related industry where I could use my skills as a writer and communicator, decided to try PR.
Despite knocking on the door of 40 and having had more than 12 years in employment, I found myself in a similar predicament to many recent graduates: I didn’t have enough experience. Add to this the fact that wanting to change career caused many prospective employers and recruitment agencies to eye me with suspicion (why did I want to change career? What on earth would they do with me? How long was I going to stick at this?).
I quickly realised getting a job in the industry was going to even harder than I’d thought.
At this point I had nothing but my unemployment benefit to lose, so I started to look at how I could gain some work experience.
I have to admit the websites for a lot of the PR firms I looked at were an instant turn-off for me – I wanted to work with people who could put a message across clearly, not speak in business jargon just to get clients on side. That’s why, cheesy as it sounds, I was relieved to come across Viva PR. At last a company that didn’t hide behind marketing mumbo jumbo – everything they said on their website was written in a language the average Joe would understand, and to me, that’s the whole point if you’re trying to get your message out to people.
After a few emails, phone calls and a meeting, I was offered a 4-week placement with the team in Rawtenstall. It was a very different experience to working in a TV production office – working for clients was not something I’d done before and it means you have a very different set of relationships with the people you’re working with – very different from TV, where the main task is to keep your commissioning editor sweet! With the encouragement of the Viva team I got to write press releases, blogs, do research (which I’ve always loved doing anyway, because I’m nosey), contributed to ideas meetings and handled calls from clients. Adjusting to a different pace of work and having to flit from one task to the next to meet client demand was, (and still is) tough, but I’m getting used to it.
My experience with Viva (and a great testimonial from the boss – thanks Tony!) enabled me to gain work experience with several more PR firms, then to move into freelancing and then, five months after making the move, to gain a six month contract with a small consultancy in Manchester.
In April last year as this post came to an end I spotted on Twitter that Viva were looking for new staff and jumped at the chance to apply. Somehow they wanted me back and I’ve been here ever since. There’s still A LOT to learn, and although yes, I do miss TV, I know I’ve made the right decision. And working for a company where you’re encouraged and supported makes the whole process much easier.
Whether you’re fresh out of uni, still working out what’s the right career for you, or like me, an old dog trying to learn new tricks, Viva is a great place to be an intern – people will make time to speak to you, to get you involved in what’s happening and you’ll have the chance to make a contribution – and that’s got to be better than spending 4 weeks photocopying and making coffee, hasn’t it?