Talent spotting

24 Mar

Studying PRThe pace of the academic year quickens as we approach Easter.

Final year students are nearing the end of their time at university – and some are looking beyond their dissertations and contemplating their next moves.

At the same time, PR consultancies are seeking the best talent for their graduate schemes and to fill existing vacancies.

This means there’s some discreet matchmaking to be done. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be able to help – and I tend to trust my instincts.

Here’s the talent-test I apply.

I’m assuming that all candidates have achieved good grades, have some credible work experience and have strong portfolios. So how to identify the future stars?

I judge my students on their ability to hold a conversation with me. It could be on a topic of my choosing, or it could be on something they know much more about than me (One Direction?). Are they curious? Are they informed? Can they explain themselves?

It’s a very old-fashioned talent test, I admit, but it’s a good indication. Any young person is comfortable in their peer group – but their colleagues, clients and contacts will not all be formed from their peer group. So their ability to relate to others is a good test.

Let’s say the question was about the meaning of Easter.

An answer revolving around chocolate reveals a rather childish self-centredness. An answer about the central events in the story of Jesus is better – but rather conventional. A discussion of the pagan origins of a spring festival more interesting still. And a discussion of the benefits of a fixed date for Easter arguably best of all for a potential PR student.

Does my talent test favour those from middle class backgrounds? Possibly so – but it also seeks out those with divergent views and experiences. Writers such as Jeanette Winterson and Alan Bennett have mined their working class origins throughout their literary careers.

The test encourages difference, not sameness. It’s surprisingly challenging for young people whose efforts up to now have been all about fitting in with their peer group.

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