Opinion: Why graduates are in need of reality check

PR graduates are on the rise and they're being welcomed by consultancies with open arms.

Good to see so many consultancies, big and small, upping their graduate intakes this year (See Feature Article The Grads are Back). And because these consultancies are, on average, picking one candidate from every hundred applicants, the quality of people inducted should be very high.

PR continues to be one of the most popular professions for new graduates, with careers service Milkround reporting that more than one in five of its 400,000 subscribers are currently interested in the sector. Such healthy supply of, and demand for, young talent surely bodes well for the industry.

The big question is whether successful entrants will ultimately be satisfied by their choice, because this will determine whether they stay in PR. And this, in turn, will determine whether the investment from Weber Shandwick, Chime or Hotwire pays off.

More than three-quarters of those applying for PR cite ‘intellectual stimulation'. We know that most of these youngsters perceive the profession as offering an ideal mix of creativity and challenge - and dare we say it, glamour - with corporate reward. But while some will undoubtedly find all these things, one wonders how many are really prepared for the day-to-day stresses of keeping difficult clients happy, dealing with irascible hacks, and fixing errant office machinery.

And in a week where a single action by an executive at Burson-Marsteller has allegedly brought both PR consultancy and pharmaceutical sectors into discredit, we should perhaps look realistically at the pressures, and scrutiny, under which the modern practitioner operates.

The upshot is that the agency HR department must not only select the right graduates, but must manage their expectations from day one. It must also provide training throughout their careers, rather than throwing them in at the deep end after 12 months. In this way the whole reputation of PR will be enhanced. Moreover, the 16 fresh faces gracing page 24 [of this week's magazine] could become respected agency principals by 2020.

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