Guest Blogger: Katie Gaffney (2017)

Alumna Katie Gaffney graduated last year after studying Marketing, PR and Event Management at the University’s Warrington campus. She was determined to secure a career in PR shortly after starting her third and final year at university. On the blog this week, Katie shares with us the key factors that helped her to enter the working world and land that all important graduate job…

“I enjoyed my time at university although I wasn’t a typical student – living at home takes you away from the traditional student life. Although it holds its positives of no bills to pay and home cooked grub always waiting for you, it also takes its toll on the highly anticipated and talked about social life that usually comes with university.

“My university story differs to others, for me it wasn’t the seven days a week nightlife, but the learning curve that helped shape one of the most important times in my life – getting onto the career ladder. In my final year especially, I was more determined than ever to throw everything into my studies and assignments to achieve a first-class degree (something I never imagined ACTUALLY achieving if I’m honest!)Katie Gaffney, Boxed Off

“After my second year at university, I decided it was right to take a break from studying and throw myself into gaining some valuable work experience. I became a volunteer at Brainwave children’s charity, an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of young children with disabilities and additional needs. I really enjoyed getting involved in the PR side of the organisation, it was extremely rewarding to see fundraising and marketing efforts pay off, as well as being involved in the process of event planning from start to finish. For me, this is where I discovered my new-found confidence of putting everything I had learnt into practice. I can’t stress enough to students waiting to begin their placements to really get involved in order to make the most of your time there and develop valuable experience.

“Brainwave volunteer by day, and conference and events assistant by night (and weekends ☹), my year out marked the beginning of a new role at Doubletree by Hilton in Chester, which gave me completely different first-hand experience of working on large scale events, from important business conferences to awards dinners and weddings. Although I value my time spent there, I soon realised that a career solely in events wasn’t for me!

“Into the final chapter… So began the ultimate struggle of balancing university assignments, a dissertation, part-time job, charity work and time to research and prepare a graduate CV for opportunities. This is where I found it a real help to speak with tutors and the Careers team at the University who were very happy to help me shape my CV and cover letters.

Boxed Off at Mattel Play“Having my CV prepared early was beneficial and within weeks I had gained my first internship within PR. This time at Hattrick PR in Sale, where I completed a 12 week placement that gave me great industry knowledge which I could adapt into assignments. You wouldn’t believe how much putting your learning into practice at this stage really helps!

“At this point I still wanted to learn and gain experience. I completed another internship (provided by a scheme at the University) and another PR assistant role, this time at Brazen PR – an award-winning agency in Manchester, but I still hadn’t quite found exactly what I wanted to do. It takes months or even longer for some to find out exactly what they want from a job, if there is one thing I would tell myself as a student, it is to be patient and use your months of experience to learn and develop yourself – you will (eventually) find the right role!

“After many applications and hours of research into various PR Agencies, I discovered a vacancy for a PR Account Executive at Boxed Off Communications in Liverpool and that is where I am currently pursuing my graduate career!

Here are some top tips from Katie to help you make that transition from university into the world of work…

  • Networking is key – make your connections early as you never know when you may need them, they do come in handy and you want to get you name on the recruiter’s map!
  • Clean up your social media – think of it as your digital CV, most employers now use social media to research their candidates and as a means of employment – brand yourself wisely!
  • Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! – This for me was the most important factor – the step from university life to work life is enormous! Prepare yourself in good time by easing your way in.
  • Be consistent and find what works for you – This is where patience comes into it, it is important not to settle for something which is clearly not right for you. Working a job for fulfilment, as well as the monthly wage, is key to moving your career forward.

If you would like to become a guest blogger, we would love to hear from you! To get involved, please email alumni@chester.ac.uk or drop us a message on social media [LINK].

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