JOSH BURRELL Senior Press Officer at Transport for London
PAID INTERNSHIPS WILL OPEN THE DOOR TO OUR INDUSTRY
We need to open up access to public relations to all, says Josh Burrell, Senior
Press Officer at Transport for London who persevered despite applying for 100 jobs after graduating.
I’m adamant that all interns need to be paid for their time and work. It’s a lesson learnt from experience.
When I graduated from University, I applied for more than 100 roles and was refused every time. It was a long few months, but the thing that finally gave me a start in my new career was securing a paid internship at a Housing Association. It was my first PR role and the start of my journey.
After getting my foot on the ladder, I secured another internship at Transport for London (TfL), which helped me further develop my skills. It immediately felt incredible to work with some wonderful people and I enjoyed it so much, I went for a permanent position – and I’ve been there ever since.
In my experience, young people from BAME communities often follow traditional career paths, mainly because that’s the most apparent options to them – sometimes they’re not aware of industries like PR – I certainly wasn’t until university.
This is definitely a failure on our part as an industry, we should have teachers, PR practitioners and parents making them aware of non-traditional career paths and also demonstrating that there is BAME leadership in this industry and their talent and voices are needed here.
Having said that, I’m aware that TfL’s BAME internship receives hundreds of applicants each year and young BAME graduates are looking to get into this industry and organisations should be providing more paid internships to address the lack of diversity.
It’s also imperative that we reach out to young people when they’re at school and university to demonstrate to them why they need to join the communications industry. In the coming years, I can certainly also see myself doing more in terms of mentoring.
I’m keen to share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years, especially how internships opened doors I hadn’t anticipated. As a graduate looking for a job the only thing, I kept in mind was being determined. I was determined to continue applying even though I kept getting ‘Nos’. I applied more than once if I got a ‘No’ the first-time round. And, I learnt the hard way to always do your homework before you enter the room.
Internships open paths only when someone aims to make the best out of them. I would advise graduates to make sure they’re always learning, contributing and expanding their horizons when they’re in that position.
I’m glad that diversifying the industry is now high-up in the agenda. It’s encouraging to see so many organisations and BAME leadership call for more to be done.
Paid internships ensure that talented individuals from less privileged backgrounds can join this industry. It’s a pivotal component to diversifying the industry.
Growing up, my mother made sure my brothers and I had the confidence to pursue our passion and that we believed the world was our oyster. It’s unbelievable to me that I was once a young boy whose only relationship with media was reading the newspapers at my grandparents’ house to now being essentially part of the media industry. Although my degree was in journalism, when I finished university I found myself more interested in other industries that required writing as a primary skill. I enjoyed my studies and now work in an industry doing what I love – something that I feel as though I would’ve been unable to do without my mother’s support.
I was for lucky to have her to encourage me to pursue my interests; it’s the main reason why I am a PR practitioner today. I can only hope that other young people that look like me are being encouraged right now, and if not, I hope by hearing from me and others who look like me, they feel encouraged!
2020 has been a wakeup call for many, for me personally I had the realisation that I could have these conversations about race with people around me easily, because people are willing to listen and learn – and through these conversations I am learning about myself and how my experiences as a Black man differ to others.
I’m hopeful in the years to come that organisations will continue creating diverse and inclusive environments, and we’ll see more brilliant BAME talent have careers in PR.