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 Liam Bettinson.
Liam is a senior account executive at JBP in Bristol. He graduated in 2017 from the University of the West of England with a first class honours degree in Journalism & Public Relations and decided to stay in Bristol to start his career.
I came across Liam two years ago through the #PRstudent community and I was so excited when he agreed to take part in this series.
So, how did he start out in the industry and what has he learnt along the way….
LE: What made you decide to go into PR/Communications?
Liam: Not entirely sure if I should be admitting this, but until the age of 16 – I didn’t really understand what PR was! Although, that being said there are still people I meet now that don’t fully understand ‘what we do’. (Everyone’s heard the ‘So you do advertising?’ line before).
My media teacher at sixth form first introduced me to the PR industry – and told me I should look into it as a future career. The idea stuck into my mind and when applying for university, I ended up choosing the Journalism & PR course at UWE.
The first year of my course was quite PR-light, so it wasn’t until second year that I really expanded my knowledge of the industry. From then on, I loved the course and knew full well that PR would be a life-long career for me. And the rest is history – I guess!
LE: What do you find most interesting about the industry?
Liam: Every day is different. No really, it is! Working in an agency is incredibly fast-paced and you can find yourself doing vastly different tasks across multiple accounts in a short space of time.
It’s this aspect that I find most interesting about PR. The industry is ever-changing and moving at an extremely rapid pace, so you’ve got to work hard to keep up with it. New media is emerging all the time and I find it really exciting that in a couple of years’ time, some aspects of my role will be drastically different.
LE: What industry do you work in now and what kind of things do you do?
Liam: Since leaving university in 2017, I’ve been working at a national communications agency, JBP. We provide a wide range of services across multiple sectors – although I’ve remained a PR guy through-and-through!
My work is really varied, as are my clients. One minute it can be social media and influencer engagement, the next it can be thought-leadership pieces and fundraising articles. Some people ask if it’s challenging to adapt my messaging and tone of voice multiple times a day – but I think it’s all part of the learning and growing process. I’m writing about things now that I’d never heard of before university!
LE: How and when did you find your first graduate job?
Liam: I was extremely lucky when finding my first graduate role. After completing university in the early May, I went on a couple of holidays and decided that I’d take some time to recharge my batteries after third year – it can be fairly intense after all! I’d had a part-time job throughout university, so had enough saved to keep me going for a couple of months before starting the search.
However, the restful life soon made me restless – and I was searching for roles within a couple of weeks! I knew I wanted to return to my university city (Bristol), so started looking at the agencies and roles available. To my joy, I found a vacancy at JBP and lined up an interview for the day before graduation.
After a lengthy interview on a very hot July day, it ended up being a double celebration – as I was offered a role the same day! The whole process only took around a week from start to finish, and I was working full-time by mid-August.
LE: If you could go back to yourself in final year, what tips would you give yourself / what would you tell yourself?
Liam: Enjoy yourself! When at university, it’s very easy to become bogged down with the workload – and all of the other stresses that third or final year can bring. And yes, it’s important to work hard and get the grades you want, but just allow yourself to have fun too.
We all put far too much pressure on ourselves to deliver the highest grade possible – and yes, it’s very satisfying to achieve those things, just don’t sacrifice all of your free-time doing so!
LE: What is the biggest lesson or challenge you’ve learnt or come across in your career since leaving University?
Liam: In an industry with the word ‘public’ in it, there’s inevitably a lot of contact with people of all ages and backgrounds – something which people need to adapt to upon leaving university. After all, most of us go to school and then onto university with people that have the same interests as us or are at least the same age.
While I worked in retail roles for five years prior to graduating – and undertook three months’ worth of agency experience throughout university – it was interesting to transition from a student into a young professional. Being a good communicator is as much about listening (if not more) than it is about talking and it’s incredible how much you can learn from people by just absorbing what they’re saying.
I think lots of people tend to forget this when entering the industry – and tend to jump head first into tasks and their role without realising that there’s a wide resource of fellow professionals who can show you the ropes and help you to grow.
LE: Who inspires you?
Liam: One of the best things about my job – and the reason I enjoy it so much – is that I’m inspired on a daily basis. Whether it’s by our colleagues, or by the clients, customers and case studies we’re writing content about, PR teaches you that almost everyone has a story to tell – and as practitioners, we get to help them tell it.
When the world and its media is so very focussed on the bad stories (haven’t we all been taught about newsworthiness?), it makes every good, inspiring story that much more enjoyable to be a part of.
The efforts don’t have to be massive, it’s just nice to see good things being done by greater people.
“The industry is ever-changing and moving at an extremely rapid pace, so you’ve got to work hard to keep up with it. New media is emerging all the time and I find it really exciting that in a couple of years’ time, some aspects of my role will be drastically different”
“PR teaches you that almost everyone has a story to tell – and as practitioners, we get to help them tell it”
Liam Bettinson, Senior Account Executive, JBP Communications
Funnily enough, like Rich, Liam also touched upon the fast pace of the industry we find ourselves in. I equally find the growth of the industry fascinating. I think back to what I was learning and seeing at the start of my course compared to now and even in four years, the difference is huge. Many of Liam’s points have resonated with me and I’ll definitely be taking them on board for the future.
Thank you Liam for taking part and sharing your wisdom with us this week!
Stay tuned for the next interview!