3 weeks. This is the length of time it took upon entering my third and final year of university to experience a full-blown burnout. The act of implosion due to a gradual phase of burning out has long been synonymous with those at their career peak. But with fierce graduation job competition, endless networking events and the importance of an online presence, I believe it’s about time the PR industry addresses their burnt-out future workforce. Here are some of my recommendations for practitioners and lecturers on how this issue can be tackled…
Recognise the issue and discuss it
It’s astonishing to me the amount of PR events/talks/panels I have gone to where the issue of burnout has been completely ignored. Instead, the focus remains on the multitude of things a student must do in order to make it in the industry. But here lies the issue – there simply is no balance in advice. This ultimately leads determined students to believe that they must constantly be doing X, Y and Z, or else they will simply be not good enough.
Practitioners and lecturers, I beg you to talk about it. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Share your stories on how you manage the work/life balance. That way the issue becomes less alien and more normal.
Offer paid internship opportunities
Last summer I spent two months juggling both a part-time job and a full-time internship, and while I enjoyed the latter, it was simply too much. I had no days off, less money, no social life. Unfortunately, this is what so many students around the country endure in the hopes of one day getting a great job, but it has to stop.
By paying interns, agencies and companies would reap a plethora of rewards such as a more diverse workforce, higher worker retention rates and a happy, healthy intern.
Education on how to prevent social media addiction
The PR industry is all about building and maintaining positive relationships, but what concerns me is the lack of education on having a healthy relationship with social media. While social media is a fun way to connect with others and promote yourself and brands, addiction is real – and so are its mental health risks.
This is something that is never addressed in digital communication classes, but could be crucial in students having healthy social media habits. When discussing Instagram and influencers, highlight the importance of following ‘regular’ people and engaging fully. When encouraging students to network on Twitter, talk to them about scheduling a good amount of time to engage then disconnect.
I truly believe there has to be a balance in social media education in order to achieve an equal work/life balance.
Spread the ‘it’s okay to say no’ message
It is no secret that building relationships with industry leaders is crucial to success at university. Thankfully the PR industry is spoilt for choice when it comes to the array of amazing networking events and talks. While this is a great issue to have, it also poses a threat to keen students who can’t bring themselves to say no.
For me, and many other students I’ve spoken to, it feels as though there is this underlying pressure to attend every event, or else you’re branded a slacker. Of course it is important for lecturers to inform students of these events, but it should be noted that it is okay to say no too. Sometimes it is necessary to ditch the night of free Prosecco and olives for some much needed R+R at home. And there is no shame in that.
The key message to take away: balance. The PR world is a wonderful one at that, but as with any industry, if there is no work/life balance, burnout is just one breakdown away.