The results are in: GCSE passes have followed the trend set by A-levels last week, falling to pre-Covid levels. Behind the headlines, thousands of pupils will be receiving grades that are not what they hoped; and with the passes falling, disappointment – and panic – mounts.

But is results day truly the be-all and end-all it’s cracked up to be, and, if you didn’t get your grades, is this the end of the road? EAST VILLAGE.’s Director of People and Culture, Hattie D’Souza, thinks not. Here she weighs in on what she wants students to remember today…

“It’s GCSE results day and, camera crews and radio microphones are poised and ready to capture the moment 16-year-olds up and down the country find out their grades. It’s almost a carbon-copy of last week’s A-Level results day, not to mention the countless years before.

Year-on-year, we watch this scene play out: the tension is palpable; the atmosphere is electric; and the anticipation is almost too much to bear. With a zoomed camera lens trained on shaking hands, we watch teenager after teenager prise open the envelope, and – most of the time – breathe a sigh of relief as they read out a stream of numbers (or, in my day, letters) with a beaming smile.

However, amongst these gleeful moments, there are others where we see their face just fall…

In that instant you can feel their disappointment and the panic in equal measure, before the camera moves on. But what happens to that crest-fallen person post-results day?

Chances are that their world continues turning and – before long – the day just fades into the background. That’s because, while grades can help to open doors and gain access to opportunities, they aren’t the only way to get your foot in the door.

I’d even argue that, in PR in particular, your ability to make connections, communicate effectively, find creative solutions, and – above all – to be authentic count for more than your grades. Better still, they are all skills you can demonstrate more in person than a piece of paper ever could.

After all, a PR-pro in the making will take a look at their grades, and find a way to tell a compelling story that goes into the ‘why’, taking you on a journey that shows who they are behind the numbers. In the words (that are often repeated and are now folklore in the EV. office) of EAST VILLAGE.’s Managing Director, Tara Attfield-Tomes, “That’s real PR.”

So, if you haven’t managed to get the grades you hoped, here are a few things to keep in mind today:

  • Grades truly aren’t everything. At EAST VILLAGE., we don’t even have a minimum grade requirement on our job specs. Instead, we test for the key skills and competencies that we’re looking for in candidates with tasks during the application process. This allows people to demonstrate what they know and how they’d approach it in a real-world setting, being able to show-off their strengths in a more relevant way. For us, we’re looking for people who can communicate well, demonstrate problem-solving skills, and think on their feet: all of which I think are even more important than academic ability!
  • The routes into PR are hugely varied. Most of my TeamEV colleagues past and present don’t have a degree in PR or communications – in fact, lots don’t have a degree at all. Academia can be a great way to learn the theory of the trade or the foundations, but equally vital is the ability to learn on the job. This means that PR apprenticeships, PR courses, or PR work-experience placements (more on these later…) are just as valid for getting your foot in the door.
  • PR is a creative industry. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a PR career. What matters most is your ability to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions. If you have a creative flair, an eye for a great story, and a knack for telling it, PR could be the perfect career for you.

So, if you’re feeling deflated this results day, don’t let your grades get you down. There are still plenty of opportunities for you, not just in the world of PR!

Focus on developing your skills and experience, and looking beyond your GCSEs. A few additional tips for putting this into practice:

  • Get involved in extracurricular activities. This is a great way to develop your communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills – not to mention giving you plenty of experience to call-on during an interview.
  • Grow your network. I promise you, ‘networking’ is just another way of saying ‘socialising’: don’t be intimidated by the word! Have a look at industry events happening near you and attend, ready to learn what people do and ready to connect with them on LinkedIn! Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask to pick their brains too. Most of the PR professionals I know *love* a chat (and a coffee…) and if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  • Apply for work experience opportunities. At EAST VILLAGE., we have been running our ‘EV. Grow Your Own’ programme – offering everything from week-long work-experience; to year-long apprenticeships (which pay the living wage, rather than an apprenticeship wage…) – since day one. In fact, this time eight years ago, I was nine days into my own three-week internship at EAST VILLAGE., kickstarting a career I’ve never looked back on since! As part of my role as Director of People and Culture, I’m in the process of refining our programme, so keep your eyes peeled for more on this in October. In the meantime, our fellow local agencies Liquid PR, RBH, and The Relationship, all have fantastic opportunities available or coming up– take a look and throw your hat in the ring!

I know it can feel hard today, but I promise you, results day will soon feel like just another day. In the meantime, focus on your next steps and writing the next chapter of your story. Here’s to your future: I hope to see your email landing in our work@eastvillageagency.com inbox soon…

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