Alexandra Kent

Small firms, big opportunities

Posted on 3rd July 2013 by Alexandra Kent

Going head to head

Last week I spoke at a careers seminar at the London School of Economics about getting into consultancy. It was a great event and a pleasure to be able to share my experiences and advice with soon-to-be graduates. It’s an issue particularly close to my heart – I left university during the height of recession and now co-run Man Bites Dog’s internship scheme.

The audience was smart, savvy and clearly very ambitious. But I was surprised at their lack of imagination when it came to the companies they aspired to work for. A little probing about the recruitment challenges they faced quickly revealed that many of them were going head-to-head, for the same schemes, at the same big consultancies.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that per se. Larger companies offer some fabulous opportunities and structured schemes can be a great way of gathering lots of different experience. But, in a tight labour market it surely makes sense for job-seeking graduates to widen their net?

There is an expanding crowd of fast-growth, visionary, specialist outfits operating in communications that also have something to offer. Perhaps even something more exciting to offer.

This week PR Week published their Top 150 Consultancies Report, which examines the financial performance of the UK PR industry. This year’s analysis showed that the industry’s overall 2.5% growth (2012) was largely driven by newer companies. Whereas the top 30 experienced average growth of 5%, 17 smaller agencies grew by more than 50%.

It’s a great time to be a smaller PR shop. With growth comes opportunity, especially for graduates. The clients are high profile industry leaders, the business model is agile, and the people are expert, dynamic and entrepreneurial. You’ll have more contact with senior members of the team and can gain genuine insight from working with organisation heads.

In bigger agencies it’s easy to fade into the background, in smaller ones you’re centre stage. That’s what attracted me to Man Bites Dog. I was able to learn and progress at my own pace and the thought of being tied in to a ‘one size fits all’ programme made me shudder. What’s more I got to work with some of the business world’s heavy-hitters. Pretty jammy, eh?!

Despite all this it’s clear that the big guns are still the default first consultancy of choice for many graduates.

I think we have some PR to do…

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