Students have it tougher than ever

I spent the weekend marking my Open University students, giving feedback on my daughter's university application and helping my son with his job applications. What did they all have in common? None of them were on their first degree.

Even before the credit crunch, competition for professional jobs was hard. My experience of walking out of university with an arts degree and jumping into journalism is history. Now it is about getting a Masters in journalism and fighting for work experience. With the credit crunch - however long it lasts - standing out from the crowd is becoming harder and harder.

I have no crystal ball. I do not know whether the recession is going to bring wind and wuthering for the PR industry, or whether there are opportunities out there for the fleet of foot. One thing is certain, though; lots of people are going to be polishing their CVs. Whether through downsizing, the disappearance of contract opportunities or shrinking budgets, it will be tough out there. Spare a thought, too, for graduates trying to enter the profession for the first time.

Today's graduates get this. That's why - like my kids - they are honing their CVs, making sure they have the right qualifications and building their work experience portfolio. As PR becomes more professional, the same is happening in our industry. The CIPR has seen an increase in the number of students signing up for entry-level qualifications between last year and this year.

What can you do if you have been in the business for some time? You have the experience, the client recommendations, the awards. What next? One option is the CIPR's Chartered Practitioner scheme. Launched last Wednesday, it is a senior level award based on proving your experience, high standards of delivery and your commitment to updating your skills. Chartered status puts PR practitioners alongside other professional bodies, and it will look great on your CV.

So what are you waiting for? It is time to polish those diplomas and get studying again.

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