Jessie Powell recently graduated with a degree in Politics, and is now a PR Account Executive with KOR Communications. Here she explains how getting involved in a range of things at university helped her explore different career ideas and land her current job.
Working and earning my own money had been important to me since a young age, so when I began studying for my degree in Politics, I continued to work as a sales assistant at Paperchase, as I had done whilst at school. I was keen to develop a strong body of real work experience alongside my academic profile and this was a positive starting point for doing so.
Gaining experience to complement my studies
I made sure to gain experience that would complement my course. Having already volunteered with a local MP in my home town of Exeter, I used contacts that I had acquired there to get an internship in the Houses of Parliament, in the same MPs office, in the summer following the end of my first year at Leeds.
This position gave me a real insight into the working life of government, an environment that I had previously seen myself pursuing a career in. Yet, whilst I enjoyed the buzz of being at what is essentially the epicentre of British political life, I felt particularly passionate about tasks that involved communications of any kind, such as writing letters and monitoring social media. Additionally, shadowing meetings with lobbyists made me want to gain experience with a charity or NGO, to see the political world from a different perspective.
From research to communications
At the end of my second year, I got a voluntary research position at a pressure group called Unlock Democracy, who champion greater transparency and fairness in British politics. Whilst my title was officially ‘researcher’, I quickly became assigned to various social media tasks, creating infographics and writing blogs for the campaign. I immersed myself in the role, searching for new online outlets for the organisation to spread their message and partaking in webinars on how to produce successful social media content. Working in the third sector had also given me the desire to volunteer at University, leading me to join STAR (Student Action for Refugees), who teach Basic English to refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds, when I returned for my final year at University.
Finding further opportunities to enhance my experience
Following my time with Unlock Democracy, I wanted to continue using social media for something other than personal use. Luckily, my parents run their own fruit tree nursery and my Dad was looking to get online, so I offered to help him create a social media campaign on Twitter and Facebook. Within two months I had helped grow the business’ following threefold, making me think I had developed a real skill in this area.
As I managed the business’ social media, my third and final year at University was racing forward and I had to submit a dissertation proposal. I was advised to pick a topic that I wouldn’t get tired of and immediately, I knew what I would write about. My passion for politics and social media came together in my study of the British politicians on Twitter as a comparison with the USA. Researching this topic confirmed my desire to work in communications.
Finding my current job
I found my current job on a website called gradsouthwest.com, as a regional website, they tend to advertise vacancies within smaller organisations, something I was really interested in as I didn’t feel that I could morally adapt to the world of ‘big business.’ The role was advertised as a Trainee PR Account Executive, which seemed perfect as, although I had gained some experience in communications, my knowledge of this area was limited in comparison to my three year degree in Politics. The job spec offered training with the PRCA to fast track my progression in the world of PR and communications and their offices were based just 20 minutes from my home in rural Devon, I couldn’t believe my luck. Furthermore, KOR Communications had a varied client portfolio, including a number of public sector organisations, something that really interested me.
With my strong work ethic and variety of experience I felt confident that I had a real chance of at least getting selected for interview. After sending off my CV and cover letter to KOR I was invited to an interview whilst at home for the Easter holidays. After the interview they contacted me to ask if I would be willing to go for a trial day, being a small team it was important to them that I was a fit personality wise and felt comfortable in a small team. I really enjoyed my day with them and received a call the next day to offering me the job!
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