Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Offline Community

When I had just graduated from school, armed with my degree, and with hopes for the future, little did I know my future would be months and months away. Noone tells you that the degree is not really the key to the kingdom. That was never part of the "Once Upon A Time" story. In any event, hard reality set in as well as boredom, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I had gotten some feedback from one HR recruiter and of course, they were looking for someone experienced. No problem. I got it. I however asked whether I could be considered as a volunteer - no salary, just to learn the ropes. It would have been an awesome experience, because it was an international organisation, and one I always had dreams of working for, and the chance to learn first hand about the industry was too tempting to not ask. I was certainly not getting the experience sitting at home watching Oprah and though not getting paid was not my ideal situation (man cannot live on bread alone), I was still willing to get out there for free, and get my feet wet, do the drudge work, make copies, fax - but get a feel for what made the PR team in an organisation such as that one, tick.

The short, though resounding answer to an equally short question was "no", which even then was mind blowing to me. It still is.

I eventually got a job I was not excited about, and which had nothing to do with communications or marketing, but my boss recognised where my true interests were and would put me on related projects with the Marketing team, who were more than willing to use me and pimp me out and I was more than willing to be used and pimped. I eventually got a job in PR 3 months later.

...but it begs the question, how are organisations or associations really helping young people to get the experience they need and to encounter the hard realities that this job is not as glamorous as they think it may be? Or any other job for that matter. I have had interns who, it was clear, really needed the internship experience to understand that the divide between school and the workplace is very wide. And especially with PR, there is a conception that it's glam - you're in the paper, or on television, or you go to all sorts of events and hob nob. You give them a task like faxing media releases, or getting feedback from customers, who may sometimes be irate, and they are aghast that THIS is what you want them to do. Well, THIS is usually it. It's often fun, and often not. Are we preparing students for the realities that await them?

What was your first job experience like? Was it paid or was it voluntary? What is your organisation doing to ease fresh faced, eager graduates into the real world?


My first real job is the same one I've had for the last few years but I do remember those initial feelings of, "Me? Do that? Really?"
I can't help but smile as I think of it and see it in new faces all the time.

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