Suzi has some great advice for getting on in PR down under….
Firstly I would recommend to all grads studying PR or journalism to take advantage of the optional year in industry, I think if it wasn’t for this opportunity getting my career off the ground would have been much harder. When you graduate you already have a solid year of experience which employers look very fondly upon. I spent my gap year at a small boutique agency in London working across travel and fashion clients.
After graduating I went straight into employment at London agency Lexis as a Team Assistant where I worked on brands including Coca-Cola, Unilever, Becks and Boots. The experience was fantastic but worth noting there is a lot of admin tasks and processes when working for global clients – I found this to be quite monotonous and decided after 12 months that I should travel while I was still young. Also, in the UK PR industry I found you generally have to slog it out for years to get promoted, for example TA for 12-18 months, then AE for another 18 months and so on and so forth.
I moved to Canada for the ski season and worked a Guest Relations Officer at The Four Seasons hotel. I experienced the winter Olympics and spent an amazing 9 months safe in the knowledge that I could fall back on my two years of PR experience.
When the ski-bum lifestyle became tiresome and I began yearning for the finer things in life I decided to check out Australia. The economy in the UK was terrible and work was scarce, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I had made quite a few Australian friends in Canada so I had a few people to stay with over here when I arrived on a 12 month working holiday visa.
I started my search for work by creating a really funky looking resume with the help of photoshop, I then wrote personalised letters to the top 5 agencies that I liked the look of and to my surprise heard back from nearly all of them. They were interested to learn about my UK experience, it’s worth mentioning that many Australian employers really like people who have a UK background because we are trained to a higher standard, the media is much tougher in the UK and the media landscape is far bigger, we’re generally just ahead of the game and have a sense of urgency which Australian grads seem to lack.
After meeting with my current employer we hit it off straight away and I began working for her about a month after arriving in Australia. I loved the brands, the company ethos, the relaxed environment and the ability to grow and not be under constant micro-management. Luckily she decided to sponsor me, you have to work for an initial 6 months and then the employer decides if they will sponsor – it can be quite costly so usually you will be contracted for a certain amount of time but that is negotiable.
Once you become sponsored you are able to stay in Australia as long as you fulfill your employment requirements. You can apply for permanent residency after 2 years in the same sponsorship agreement – e.g if you moved companies it would start from the beginning.
There is also a minimum wage which employers must meet to sponsor you which I may add is much higher than the standard wage for a PR exec in the UK. I suppose this is to prevent employers under-paying staff because they know they can’t stay in the country without the sponsorship – the employers also benefit because they have the longevity of the staff member.
I am now the longest standing member of staff at the agency and I’m working on brands which I love – swimwear, footwear, alcohol the list goes on. You should like us on Facebook. http://www.facebook.com/PolkadotPR There are no sly comments because you leave at 5.30 every day, people just do as they please and enjoy life to the max. The weekends feel like a holiday and the people are the most-friendly in the world. The down-side is that you’re 24 hours away from your loved ones, but when you’re only 25 years of age you have the world at your feet and trust me when you go home everything is exactly the same.
It’s difficult to summarise in just a few paragraphs and I dare say I’ve had a pretty good slice of luck on my side, but as long as you’re confident, enthusiastic and full of creative ideas you can’t go far wrong. I would recommend pursuing a career abroad if you have the freedom to do so, I am strong believer that you are the maker of your own destiny!