There’s something happening in west Nottingham at the moment. Wherever you go, be prepared to be greeted by roadworks, workmen and the (more than) odd delay. And what has caused this disturbance? That would be the trams!

We’ve been waiting for the west Nottingham tram route for a long time now, if I recall correctly it was originally scheduled to be running already, but that didn’t happen. It is now on its way, but this has resulted in a lot of work and disruption, and generally the feeling in my home town of Beeston seems to be rather negative. As a result, it’s great to have a nice good news story about the trams, and this is what we saw at the end of May.

Hannah Kirk’s house has apparently been particularly struck by the work and she was worried that it would interfere with her wedding day. After discussions with the contractor, Taylor Woodrow Alstom, it was arranged so that the day wouldn’t be disrupted and the workmen put on a nice little show. There was a red carpet, serenades, a guard of honour courtesy of the diggers and a message in the tarmac.

My mother and I ventured down towards towards the university to see if we could spy any evidence of this event a couple of weeks ago and at that point the message was still there.

It’s not a huge thing, but Taylor Woodrow Alstom managed to make one bride’s day just that little bit extra special, and managed to give us a much needed good news story about the trams.

Read more here.

I recently completed my PR degree which has left me in a rather reflective mood. A while ago someone asked me what it was that you did on a PR degree and it took me a while to summarise it effectively into a description. This is an extended version of that description, so what did my PR course involve?

As expected, theory plays a significant role within the course, we mostly covered topics including business theory, marketing, communication and even some psychology. In addition to this there were some more vocational topics, such as writing skills and media database management.

Theory only plays one part of a degree, arguably the most valuable outcome is the range of skills developed. The skills I gained are not exclusive to PR degrees, however behind each lesson was the expectation that these would be applied in a PR context. These included teamwork, research and analysis and presentation skills.

Work experience is encouraged throughout and this is where we learn a lot of the practical skills required to perform a PR role. These can include copywriting, media monitoring, social media management, media relations. You will also find yourself involved in a lot of day to day administration for PR activity which is fantastic experience for your future jobs. These placements offer a great opportunity to get a good understanding of PR and communications in a practical context, learn the current industry practices and start to build up your contact  book.

CIPR_logo_2011_72_dpiMy course is accredited by the CIPR and we were eligible for free membership which gives you access to the monthly PR Week magazine and a treasure-trove of online resources. During my degree we also had plenty of opportunities to attend CIPR events and lectures.

A PR degree by no means guarantees entry into a PR role, indeed many employers favour more traditional degrees, but it does provide a great platform from which to dive into the industry.

If you are interested in studying Public Relations, my course was at Leeds Metropolitan University. There are also a number of alternative PR courses, find out more  information by looking on UCAS.

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Are you current or former PR student, do you degree with my description of a PR course?

Rachel Barkley 25 before 25Today is my birthday, I’m 24 which is an age that has always seemed far too old for me. It does mean that I am now a year away from 25, a year which seems to be awarded significant merit as a landmark age. I anticipate it being a busy year for me, and a strange one, it’s the first year where I will not be a student at all!

I decided to list 25 things to do before I hit that oh so big 25!

1.         Get a career mentor

I once had a mentor at a previous job, but I couldn’t quite work out what the purpose of the relationship was. I can now see the advantages to having a mentor and would like that as I start to build my career.

2.         Meet 25 people

Meeting 25 new people in a year is easy, but I want to meet, impact and develop a relationship with 25 new people.

3.         Visit 5 new places

I love exploring places, new towns, countryside, countries. I want to keep seeing just a little bit more of this world.

4.         Learn 15 new recipes

I can just about cook to survive, but I can’t cook to impress. In the last 5 years I’ve been in awe of my parents and their ability to create dishes every single night, now I think it’s my turn to start learning new recipes and impress them!

5.         Learn to run 5k with ease

I actually dislike running so this is a weird goal. I love sprinting but hate having to run anything that I cannot do at full pelt. 5k is not actually that far though and it would be useful to be able to do it, if I wanted.

6.         Try 5 new sports/exercise classes

There is definitely an exercise or sport out there for me that I have yet to discover. I’m thinking Pilates, spinning, weight training, kettle bells, or maybe something completely different.

7.         Read 25 books

I love reading but I just don’t make time for it. I want to change that, I want books to replace my night time phone ritual and I want to discover my new favourite novel.

8.         Write 25 more blog posts

I also want to write more, develop my blog to fit my purposes – I’m not longer a student. Create better content, write more effectively and enjoy it!

9.         Work with a charity

I support a number of charities via donations but I would like to get really involved with a charity and make a real impact on their activities. The hardest decision will be choosing a charity to support in this way.

10.       Do a fundraising challenge

This is most likely going to be a punishing fitness related challenge, but I want to do it, and I want to do one which will really test me.

11.       Lose *lbs

Being healthy is a huge goal for me, goodbye student lifestyle of sugary energy drinks, takeaways and late nights. And goodbye to the student weight gain. Of course the internet does not need specific measurements here…

12.       Write 5 guest blog posts

Time for me to get my name out across the internet, I want to contribute to other blogs, something I’ve been hesitant to do previously.

13.       Buy an iron

All 25 year olds need their own iron.

14.       Go to 5 gigs

I love live music, but don’t see enough, I want to go and see 5 new bands or singers and just enjoy the moment.

15.       Cut my hair and keep it cut

I’ve had my hair long since I was a teenager. I like my long hair, but inevitably I always wear it up and there is no point having it. I want to get the hair cut to a reasonable, maintainable length, and keep it at that point – rather than just regrowing it!

16.       Set up a pension

Living the dream…

17.       Buy an expensive clothing item

I never spend significant money on clothing, but what I do have I make last, so an expensive item would be well used over its life.

18.       Try something new in a restaurant

I’m extremely predictable in restaurants, I know what I like and that’s what I’ll eat. I think it’s time to try something completely different.

19.       Go offline for a week…or a day… an hour?

This will be the biggest challenge of them all, but online life is not all that great. Can I switch off though?

If you haven’t seen this video from April, it’s a nice representation of the issues of life online.

20.       Learn about money

Got to be done, I’ve already said I want a pension, but I also need to learn about savings, investments – even mortgages will hopefully make my list eventually!

21.       Pass my driving test

It’s a little bit of a joke that I have been learning to drive on/off since I was 17. This joke needs to end now!

22.       Learn to make 5 cocktails/mocktails

Important life skill!

23.       Improve my posture

Slouching is for teenagers, time to sit up tall!

24.       Stop drinking energy drinks

I developed a nasty habit of drinking a lot of caffeinated drinks at university, and this crept into the workplace. I need to learn to live a life without caffeine!

25.       Try a new hobby

Top5I finished my PR course two weeks ago – four years of PR education have finally come to an end. As I adjust to life post-university I reflected on five things great things about my PR course at Leeds Met.

1) Professional recognition 

Leeds Met is a PRCA partner university, and the course is CIPR accredited, meaning that it has been designed to meet the needs of the PR industry.

We’re also eligible for CIPR membership and this has given us access to a number of events and lectures as well as online resources.

2) Placements

The course emphasises the benefits of undertaking placements throughout the course, this includes the option of a 12 month placement year.

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt have been out of the classroom and placements nicely complement the course. We’re assessed every year on our placement work through our professional portfolios which are great for showing at interviews.

3) Competition opportunities

PR students are given the opportunity to enter a number of competitions throughout their degree. The annual Claire Mascall PR prize offered the opportunity to answer a complicated brief. Final year students also get the chance to do a competitive pitch to a PR agency.

4) Vocational modules

The competitive pitch module was one of my favourites of my course. There were some great vocational modules, another of my favourites was the communications audit, we got the opportunity to work with a client, in our case a York-based charity, to solve a communications problem. It was very challenging, but by far the most rewarding module we did.

leedsmet5) Knowledgeable tutors

I couldn’t write a post about my university experience without mentioning the tutors. The course has a great range of teaching staff from PR backgrounds. They know their stuff, and their enthusiasm for PR is infectious.

___________________________________________________________________

Next week I’ll answer the important question… what do you actually learn on a PR course?

Top5There’s a bit of a theme on my blog recently. If you hadn’t noticed I’ve spent a lot of time depicting the end of my degree, from how I’m surviving the final month, to my job hunt, and now to my experience of Leeds.

I’ve lived in Leeds now, on and off, for over three years. Most of this time has been spent in a little student bubble of Hyde Park, university and local pubs. There are a few things though that I would recommend to all visitors, students and general Leeds goers!

1) Watch a film at Hyde Park Picture House

We’d lived in Hyde Park for nearly a year and a half before my friends and I ventured into Hyde Park Picture House. I’d always admired the facade whenever I popped into Sainsbury’s and yet never thought to actually go.

Then we did go in. It’s a lovely, old cinema with one screen. It’s pretty, a great experience and actually has a nice selection of films available even if it can’t compete with the vast cinema complexes.

Find out more here.

2) Gaze in awe at the ceiling of the Corn Exchange

The Corn Exchange is now a deceptively large boutique shopping centre. It is also one of the finest examples of architecture that you will ever see, the ceiling in particular is fantastic!

Enjoy the independent shops, grab a bite to eat, and stare at the ceiling!

There’s a great slideshow of the building here.

3) Sing loudly to Arctic Monkeys at Moustache Tuesdays

There’s no shortage of nightlife in Leeds! As a student we found an excess of options every night of the week. I personally haven’t been sampling the nightlife so much since about 2010, but this year did find a new home in the O2 basement for Moustache.

Alternatively if bars are more your thing, wile away the hours on Call Lane. There’s also the legendary Otley Run for those with drinking stamina and a love of fancy dress.

4) Red’s BBQ

I think this is probably a sufficient description:

“Two house-made 100% steak burgers flame grilled over hickory, melted double cheese, smoked peppered bacon dirty sauce and deep fried crispy onions, all between two sweet glazed donuts. Served with hush puppies and skin-on fries.  It shouldn’t work, but sweet Red above.  It’s incredible.  #DONUTBURGER” Red’s BBQ

Visit the website and choose your meat of choice – you won’t regret it!

Not the donut burger, just another one of their amazing creations!

5) Roundhay Park

I’ve never actually visited, it’s too far from where I live. But I’ve driven past it enough! I’m a big fan of parks and this ticks all the boxes. So excuse me while I try and find my way there to enjoy the sun!

                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Where are your favourite spots in Leeds?

Top5It’s the final push, university is all over in under a month. Four years of studying is all about to finish, but this means that I’m busier than ever. There’s no time to live a normal life, sleeping, relaxing, even exercising time is rationed.

So what is getting me through this last month?

1) The library

I’ve always felt at home in my library, but by now I know it extremely well. I am grateful for the logical filing system, the online resources, the computer labs, and the fantastic staff teams during the day, and security at night.

2) My friends!

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the past four years, it’s that the PRM group are fantastic! It’s great to go into university and meet up with a group of people who are happy to motivate and help me when I need it. Hopefully they feel that I return the favour!

It’s also a great help speaking to people who are completely uninvolved in university, they remind you to switch off occasionally!

3) Post-it notes

I’m busy keeping post-it notes and Sharpies in business at the moment. My text books, computer, desk, entire room(!) are covered in a selection of brightly coloured pieces of paper all sporting important nuggets of information. A combination of post-it notes and lists work for me, but finding your method of organisation is really key while at university.

The pressure is on! An accurate representation of my effort during final semester

The pressure is on! An accurate representation of my final semester

4) Ready made sandwiches

There’s no time to make food at the moment, I’m living off ready made egg and cress from Tesco!

5) Caffeine and sugar

I am now an expert in all types of high energy drinks, whether it be Red Bull, Relentless, Monster, or a supermarket own version, I’ve probably had it, and I could definitely give you a rating on its effectiveness.


What is helping, or helped, to get you through the final month of university?

Top5It’s dissertation season for final year students! Once you’ve finished your research – burying yourself in journals and spending hours transcribing – you’re faced with another challenge, formatting!

Formatting will either seem very basic to you, or outrageously advanced and confusing. It just so happens that I really enjoy formatting, and I have helped a number of people with their dissertations, so I’ve pulled together a few tips and tricks you can use to format your dissertation, essay or report.

This article is meant to be helpful and not to patronise. Many people have no reason to use these functions before dissertation!

Please note, I use Word  2013 for Windows, so you may find you have to follow a slightly different process if you use another version, but they will be there, and if in doubt use my favourite tool – Google!

The tools I’ll be detailing are:

  1. Page and Section Breaks
  2. Page Numbering
  3. Headings
  4. Contents Pages
  5. Clear Referencing

1) Page and Section Breaks

Have you ever created a new page by entering enter multiple times? No need, this is where Page Break is useful!

Page Break

This option will take you straight onto the next page. It’s particularly useful because if you add more text before the page break, you don’t need to worry about having to remove spaces from the next page.

Tip: You can create a page break by pressing CTRL and ENTER simultaneously

Section Breaks allow Word to recognise a new section. The advantage of this is that you can change the formatting in this section and it will not affect other sections (unless you specify  it to). For example if you want to have some pages in your document in landscape and others in portrait, a section break makes this very easy to do. Find out more about this here.

Section breaks

There are a few different types of section break depending on what you want to achieve.

2) Page numbering

Your dissertation may need to have some pages numbered, some using Roman numerals, and some pages unnumbered.

To create this, you need to make sure each of those pages are in separate sections – see above.

Open the Header and Footer view – this can be done by double clicking at the top or bottom of the document.

Page number

You then need to add the page number, select if you want it at the top, bottom, or in the page margins depending upon your preference. Then select Format Page Numbers.

Page number format

Select the number format that you want to use. You can also change where the Page Numbering starts from here. If you want the number to be different to the automatic one, enter the one you want in the Start at: option.

When you change the format in another section, make sure you deselect the option to link to previous sections, otherwise it will change all sections.

Link to prev

You can now change the page numbering to as many formats as you like!

Read more about this here.

3) Headings

Using Style Formats in your document helps with consistency, and can be used in the contents page and referencing which I talk about below.

Styles are already set up, select ones which are relevant. For example, choose from headings, titles, quotes and normal!

Headings

If you’re not a fan of the preset style, you can change this easily. The Design tab on Word 2013 (this is different for other versions) allows you choose from other presets, or change colours, fonts, spacing etc.

Style

You can also manually edit your styles individually, do this by right clicking on the style, selecting Modify, and  editing to meet your requirements. This will then update any existing text in that format.

modify

If you want to distinguish your Appendices, I recommend you read this article.

4) Contents Page

If you’re manually writing out your contents page, you will save so much time by using an automatic one.

To set this up, you need to ensure that you had formatted all your headings as detailed above.

Once this is done, go to the References tab and use the Table of Contents option to insert a contents. There are a couple of options already set up, and the option to add a custom one.

contents

It is preset to automatically add in Headings 1, 2 and 3, and each heading is indented. If you want to change this, choose the Custom Table of Contents option. Click the Options button, and then choose what headings you want to include, and at what level you want them to be. In the picture below, I have including Heading 4, at the same level at Heading 3.

contents edit

The advantage of a automatic table of contents, is that if your chapters move onto different pages, all you need to do is select the Update Title option, and it automatically updates the page numbers with no manual work at all!

update

5) Clear Referencing

Has all this formatting made a mess of your document? Have you pasted in text from a document that now looks completely different. You can quickly remove all formatting from the text by selecting the handy Clear Formatting button.

Clear all formatting

                                                                                                                                                                                     

If you are at Leeds Met, the Skills for Learning team run a brilliant workshop on using Word formatting for dissertation,more details here. According to their Twitter, the library staff can also help you if you’re having trouble with formatting – what a brilliant service!

If this article was useful, and you’d like to know more formatting tips, let me know!

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