Old Masters and shoe laces: My route to PR

Charles Hirst

For as long as I can remember I have been interested in current affairs, communication and writing. However, I am not sure my education and previous career provided me with a natural entry to the world of financial PR.

At university, I studied history of art with a focus on old master paintings and in particular the religious art of the counter-reformation, not exactly relevant for the day to day financial PR world. Straight after graduating I joined a primary school, in London, as a teaching assistant where I stayed for two years. One minute I was teaching maths, then next it would be art and then it would be how to use scissors and tying shoe laces. Thankfully I am no longer tying endless shoe laces but the constant variety is still there which is what makes working here so interesting.

Before teaching I had spent time working in a boutique fund manager’s office and working in barristers’ chambers and I realised that working alongside such institutions would suit me well. Not only would I be able to work within corporate world, but the chance to present, write and be current would all be there.

If I could survive tricky parents at parents evening then awkward clients would be a doddle

I don’t think I had a particularly good idea of what PR entailed. In the back of my mind was the thought that if I could survive tricky parents at parents evening then awkward clients would be a doddle. It wasn’t until I was lucky enough to meet junior members of the financial team at MHP that I began to understand what would be expected of me and what I would be doing if I could get on the graduate scheme.

I knew that I was looking for a graduate scheme role having seen friends at entry level jobs in the City find the lack of guidance frustrating. MHP offered a structured platform to develop my skills from within a working environment.

The first stage of the application was entirely written and included the question: “Which three people would you invite to a dinner party and why?” It was the sort of question that instantly made you think, “have I totally missed the point?” I will never know if I had, but I got through that stage and next it was an interview with a member of the financial team and someone from another discipline. Having read the papers cover to cover for what seemed like ages I felt prepared but there was always the fear of “am I simply going to freeze?” – Luckily I didn’t!

It was a whirlwind, full of new names, faces and terminologies

Next came a further written task where I had to explore the reasons behind a company’s current performance and media interest before a second interview. This I knew would be more challenging and preparing for the inevitable question on Brexit terrified me. Full of doubt after the interview came to a close I waited for a response and was over the moon to receive an offer to join the 2017/18 graduate programme.

I have now been at MHP for over three months and looking back on my first day and the following weeks feels like quite a long time ago. The time flew by as the group of graduates from other disciplines and I were ushered from training to lunches to meetings. It was a whirlwind, full of new names, faces and terminologies. Instantly I was put on to client teams which was exciting. As well as that you are given a buddy from within your discipline who helped to explain things in layman’s terms which helped considerably.

It is amazing how much you pick up by being in the middle of such a busy working environment. There is still a vast amount to learn but with a great group of people to work with, who are all very helpful, I am sure I will continue to grow in confidence – I have certainly come a long way from teaching kids how to count.