Career Options panelist: Maddie Riddle, PR Executive

Career Options panelist: Maddie Riddle, PR Executive

Maddie Riddle graduated from La Trobe with a Bachelor of Strategic Communications in 2015 and she now works as a Public Relations Executive with Flourish PR.

MyLaTrobe: Why did you decide to study Strategic Communications and how did your course and your time at La Trobe prepare you for the workplace?

Maddie: My main motivation for enrolling in this course was because I wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do when I finished university, I just knew where my passion and strength was, which was communication. I liked the course because it was broad and gave me a number of options for jobs when I left La Trobe.

The course prepared me for the workplace in a number of different ways. First, it gave me first hand access to some amazing tutors and lecturers who had first hand industry experience. They offered some great advice (and occasional hard truths!)

The course also allowed me to have hands on industry experience in a class setting with subjects like Broadcast Journalism and The Agency. The Agency in particular provided me with some great skills for my current job which is in a PR agency, including juggling multiple clients, dealing with clients on a face to face basis and research skills (something I utilise daily in my current role).

MyLaTrobe: Are there any aspects of your degree that have proved particularly important in the workplace?

The most important thing that the degree and University more generally taught me was how to manage my time, having juggled uni, part time work, internships and living on residence at La Trobe University for three years.

Maddie: Subjects such as The Agency and Broadcast Journalism proved very important for when transitioning from University into the workplace.

Through these subjects in particular, I learnt valuable presenting skills which I utilise daily when communicating with clients and presenting strategies. It also taught me to think from a journalist’s perspective when pitching stories.

The most important thing that the degree and University more generally taught me was how to manage my time, having juggled uni, part time work, internships and living on residence at La Trobe University for three years.

The research element to the degree has also been incredibly important as research is something I use daily, whether it be researching trends to present to clients or researching media and influencers.

MyLaTrobe: Can you tell us about the steps that you took to land your PR role after graduating?

11 months into the job, I was promoted to an Account Executive and I am now managing my own clients across a range of portfolios including Guy Sebastian, The Elf on the Shelf and Organise.Curate.Design.

Maddie: When I left La Trobe, I still wasn’t 100 per cent sure what industry I wanted to go into. I applied for, and was successful in getting a position in the Graduate Program at La Trobe University. I moved to the Albury-Wodonga campus for this role and through this position I was able to get some amazing hands on communications experience across a range of departments. Spending three months at a time on a project and then having to switch to a new department was something I really enjoyed which lead to me chase a job in agency land as I liked the challenge of juggling a number of things.

Once I realised I wanted to make this switch, I moved back to Melbourne and started to apply for entry level positions at agencies. The first job I applied for was a role at Flourish PR as a PR Assistant and I was lucky enough to land it.

The application actually required submitting a video answering a few questions which I was initially terrified to do (this was a time where Instagram stories weren’t a thing!) but it ended up being something that set me apart from the crowd, as a lot of people who applied didn’t submit the video.

11 months into the job, I was promoted to an Account Executive and I am now managing my own clients across a range of portfolios including Guy Sebastian, The Elf on the Shelf and Organise.Curate.Design.

MyLaTrobe: When it comes to graduate roles in Media and Communications – what key skills are employers now looking for?

Maddie: Versatility, hard work, confidence and digital skills are the four most important things in this industry.

in an agency, you need to swap and change priorities with no warning so you need to be versatile. Employers are looking for someone who can write a great press release but can also switch tracks and run out to a client shoot if needed.

  1. Versatility. In this industry, and especially in an agency, you need to swap and change priorities with no warning so you need to be versatile. Employers are looking for someone who can write a great press release but can also switch tracks and run out to a client shoot if needed.
  2. Hard work. Do internships and volunteer and get experience. It shows a future employer that you’re dedicated and willing to learn. When you do those internships, work hard and prove yourself. The contacts you make as an intern can be so beneficial as it is a small industry. I did two internships and it honestly wasn’t enough.
  3. Confidence. As a graduate you will spend a lot of time on the phone and talking face to face with clients and potential clients. I’ve always been very bubbly face-to-face, but when I first started, I hated talking on the phone. To overcome it, I sat at home wrote myself scripts and pretended I was following up a media release or an RSVP. Now talking on the phone is my preferred method of communication.
  4. Digital skills. Technology is constantly evolving and we’re relying on digital more and more. Having a basic knowledge of social media marketing (including creating Facebook ads and writing copy) is so important even if you want to get into PR as it makes you versatile. Know influencers. Teach yourself how to do the basics of video editing. These are all skills that will help your stand out.

Also get your head around Excel because you will use it, every. Single. Day.

MyLaTrobe: What additional steps, outside of the classroom, can our current undergraduates take to enhance their employability?

Maddie: I see so many graduates who finish and expect to land their dream job even though they haven’t done any work experience or internships, which is honestly next to impossible. Even if you have a degree, having experience or having volunteered within the industry shows employers that you are hardworking and dedicated.

My advice is to do as many internships, both in house and agency, as you can. Also, make sure you keep upskilling and building your adaptable skills. Do short courses in areas that you know will be helpful in the communications industry such as social media, design programs and writing. Familiarise yourself with social media marketing. Read the paper and watch the news every day. Keep learning.

I see so many graduates who finish and expect to land their dream job even though they haven’t done any work experience or internships, which is honestly next to impossible.

While it is important to have a degree, a degree is nothing in the communications industry without experience. If you want to be a journalist, start writing now and start a portfolio. Volunteer at local papers or the university paper. If you want to get into PR, reach out to people in the industry and ask them for coffee and for half an hour.

MyLaTrobe: Based on your experience, what practical employment advice do you have for current students in Media and Communications?

Maddie: In my experience, the most important thing to do is to do something that stands out. Video is key these days, so submit a video application about why you’d be perfect for the job. Deliver your resume in a way that stands out and gets attention.

Make sure your resume stands out. Get as much hands-on experience as you can. Make sure your social media (if its public) speaks well about you because we do check. Try to beef up your resume with skills that are useful and adaptable in the industry such as social media marketing, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube advertising and video creation.

Be confident when your interviewing and make sure you research the company, their clients and why you want to work there. If culture is important to you, tell them. If you have certain passions or hobbies, raise this in the interview.

Applying for jobs and interviewing is scary and it can be hard if you’re constantly interviewing and not getting anywhere. If that’s the case, assess where your weaknesses are. Ask for feedback. Work on it and stay positive. The industry can be so competitive but it is so worthwhile.

MyLaTrobe: As the world of work is changing rapidly with tech advances, do you have any specific advice for students on how they can be prepared for these changes in relation to Media and Communications?

Maddie: Keep learning. Don’t leave uni and think ‘oh I will never need to upskill myself, my learning is done’. Subscribe to newsletters like Social Media Daily and update yourself on what changes are happening in the social media world. Take classes and refresh your skills every so often.

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