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The Facebook Generation



In the week where Facebook gained its one billionth user and subsequently cemented both itself and creator Mark Zuckerberg in the history books, I was creating a new profile of my own as a Junior Account Executive at Refresh PR.

Having graduated from the University of Salford in July of this year, I had spent the last few months tirelessly applying for jobs and seeking working experience opportunities in what is a highly competitive market, thanks to the recession and the rise in youth unemployment.

Many people are beginning to question whether a university education is worthwhile following the recent hike in tuition fees and given that only a handful of my friends have gone on to find full time work in their chosen sector after completing university, who could blame them?  However for anyone who needs reminding of the importance of a university education they need look no further than Facebook itself for inspiration.

In the 2010 film The Social Network, a movie adaptation of the ‘Facebook Story’, we discover that the foundations of Facebook were created whilst Zuckerberg was studying at Harvard University.

The link between Zuckerberg’s success and a university education isn’t merely coincidental. Well, at least I don’t think so.

University gives you the opportunity to further your knowledge and gain a greater understanding about what really interests you. It gives you the foundations to be able to pursue a career in something that you grow to feel passionate about. Nevertheless it is important to point out that graduating from university does not automatically give you the right to a job or success.

Instead , rather more importantly, it is the friendships that we form and the connections that we make that ultimately influence our futures, especially for those who choose to study any of the creative industries.

If I were to give any advice to someone looking to break into Public Relations (in fact this is advice that works for most industries) I would firstly recommend studying a degree that encourages you to take a placement year where you can gain valuable experience from working within the industry.

However if, like me, you weren’t informed to make that decision I would urge you to make the most of every opportunity. When your lecturers tell you that work experience and making ‘contacts’ is important, they aren’t lying.  Whether that be taking advantage of networking events, promoting yourself via social media or creating a good reputation for yourself as a result of a work experience placement, it is all about using your initiative and being confident in your own abilities to make those opportunities really count.

As much as I would like to be the next Mark Zuckerberg, who was a billionaire by the age of twenty-three I must add, the reality is that being successful on that scale only happens for a handful of us...

It does of course depend on what you qualify as being a success. Twelve months ago I would have jumped at the chance to work for a PR Agency that has been shortlisted for CIPR North West’s Outstanding Small Consultancy 2012 and look what happened!

Cue Facebook status update.

Why not check out Refresh PR on Facebook here:http://www.facebook.com/RefreshPR

Tagged with: CIPR , Facebook, Graduates, Manchester, North West , PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, Social Media, The Social Network, University, University of Salford, Work Experience, Youth Unemployment

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What's the value of a university degree?



This time two years ago, I was in the same position as hundreds of thousands of A Level students were yesterday; receiving their A2 results and finding out whether they’ve got into their university of choice.  I remember waiting for my results to come through and the wave of panic that set in when you got handed that dreaded envelope, which at the time, seemed to dictate your entire life’s plans.

Looking back, I realise that in the long run, A Levels are a minor detail in your long term career plans. I’ve just finished my second year of university at Manchester, which, admittedly has been the best two years of my life. Yes, all the stereotypes about university are true; the social life has been fantastic, I’ve learnt so much from my course and the experience has really helped me develop as a person.

But how important is a university degree to make it in the world of work? 

This year is the first year that tuition fees are costing students up to £9,000 per year, and so the value that university adds to a young adult has become an even more essential question to ask when it comes to deciding for or against higher education.

With a drop of 8.7% of students applying  for university courses from last year, many people may feel that the answer seems to be that university is simply ‘not worth’ the extortionate fees that have to be paid.

The rise in tuition fees seems to be the biggest factor for the decrease of university students; but just because you don’t go to university, does this mean that you won’t have a successful career? Most certainly not.

I decided to go to university because it is something that I have always wanted to, but even at the time of applying, I knew that I would have to get practical experience in order to stand a chance in the competitive world of work. Since being at university, I’ve started my role at Refresh PR, which provides the hands on experience that compliments my academic life so well. When it comes down to it, I know that I’m extremely lucky. Since the recession, work placements and internships have dipped dramatically, let alone the potential of a poor student actually getting a job.

One of my colleagues started off doing work experience at Refresh PR, and is now working alongside myself as a PR assistant. We’re both the success stories of giving young people opportunities to show what they can do in the work place; something that many companies don’t offer. 

For those who haven’t chosen to go into higher education, they need opportunities like this in order to get their foot in the door. Apprenticeships in companies and businesses need to be a thing of the present and future, rather than just the past if the young people of today are going to have a shot to have a successful career.

So how important is a university degree?

It depends on what the student gets out of it; coming out with a 2:2 is often thought to make the degree redundant to employers who look for those with a 2:1 or a first. But with 64% of students achieving one of these top two degrees, something needs to set them apart.

The answer to that is most certainly practical experience. Be it an internship, placement, work experience or a job – this is now what employers are looking for. So ultimately, yes, a university degree still has a huge amount of value, but it’s what you do as well as a degree that is the key to success in the world of work.

Tagged with: Manchester, PR, PR Internships, PR Jobs, Students, University, Work Experience