Welcome back to another interview in the #Startingout series. A set of interviews with recent graduates sharing their experiences, giving tips and guidance on starting your career after University.
#Startingout career profile with Harriet King.
Harriet is a full-time Senior Client Executive at Milk & Honey PR in London. She graduated three years ago from Bournemouth University with a degree in Public Relations and after a short time in another role made the move to London to further her career. Harriet joined the Milk & Honey team shortly after they started and the agency now works with ambitious growth companies across a variety of sectors. Since then, they have won a variety of industry awards and she has gone from strength to strength.
I grew up with Harriet’s sister and she was actually one of the reasons I found Public Relations and Bournemouth in the first place….I have a lot to thank her for! So, how did she start out in the journey and what has she learnt along the way….
LE: What made you go into PR/How did you find out about the industry?
Harriet: I originally wanted to be a journalist. I applied for a work experience role at my local paper, The Wiltshire Times, back in 2010. Experiencing a week in a newsroom for the first time cemented my decision to enter the media world.
However, I was told that the demand for print was decreasing at an alarming rate. Newspapers weren’t making any money due to the shift in online news. One of the more senior journalists on The Wiltshire Times mentioned that if I was still serious about writing, I should opt for a career in PR. This then led to me searching for PR degrees across the country and settled on Bournemouth!
LE: What industry do you work in now and what kind of things do you do?
Harriet: I am fortunate to say I work in the PR industry. It is an exceptionally hard industry to get into and I faced many knockbacks. All in all, I think I must’ve applied for over 100 agencies in the Bath, Bristol and London region.
LE: What do you find most interesting about the industry?
Harriet: Any PR professional will tell you that ‘no day is the same’ and you’re ‘never bored’. They’re also right. I work on a variety of clients across the B2B and B2C space. Each of them came to the agency with a different brief. One day I’ll be working on a brand toolkit, the next a social media campaign or planning an event for a client.
LE: How and when did you find your first graduate job?
Harriet: My first graduate job was actually a procurement role at an event company. I was there for about six months before I realised how eager I was to get back into the PR world. Within the space of 10 days, I had bagged myself a shiny new account executive role and moved to London. It was a whirlwind, but I don’t regret anything. It’s been the best, but most expensive, decision I ever made.
LE: If you could go back to yourself in final year, what tips would you give yourself / what would you tell yourself?
Harriet: If you’re in PR, it’s all about the experience. Despite doing a placement year at a consumer PR agency, my CV was very flat in comparison to my peers. Many of which had undertaken work experience at multiple agencies – even before they started their degree! This really hit me in final year. I was looking at techy agencies but started getting rejections from PR roles because I didn’t have any B2B agency experience. I started branching out to local agencies for a week or so of work experience to bolster my CV.
LE: What is the biggest lesson or challenge you’ve learnt or come across since leaving University?
Harriet: Whilst I loved my time at Bournemouth, I wasn’t taught about agency life. A lot of my lecturers had predominantly worked in-house which was reflected in the teaching. It’s safe to say that agency life came as a bit of a shock. I was used to writing lengthy essays of over a thousand words. When I joined Milk & Honey, my writing style was critiqued for being way too waffley. I think my first press release was over a page and a half long. Which is hilarious when looking back. But it all comes with good practice.
The biggest challenge I faced was trying to get my foot in the door of the PR world. Despite having solid work experience and a PR degree under my belt, it didn’t seem to be enough. Persistence is key. I had to lock myself in my room every evening for two weeks solid, absolutely smashing the job applications. I would aim to apply for five roles per night. The hard work paid off. I had three interviews in one day and was offered all three roles.
LE: Who inspires you?
Harriet: A very popular answer but remains true to this day – my mum! The most optimistic person I know who has supported me through thick and thin. People describe her as a ‘little ray of sunshine’ and she’s the person I turn to when I need advice or cheering up.
“Within the space of 10 days, I had bagged myself a shiny new account executive role and moved to London. It was a whirlwind, but I don’t regret anything. It’s been the best, but most expensive, decision I ever made”
“The biggest challenge I faced was trying to get my foot in the door of the PR world. Despite having solid work experience and a PR degree under my belt, it didn’t seem to be enough. Persistence is key”
Harriet King, Senior Client Executive, Milk & Honey PR
We are only two interviews down and you can already begin to see that journeys into the industry can be so different. But already, a theme is emerging….experience is key.
Thank you, Harriet, for taking part and sharing some honest wisdom! You can find her on LinkedIn.
Stay tuned for next week’s interview!