Rhys, Anya and Rebecca: where are they now?

Categories: School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

Over the last couple of weeks, we caught up with three former communications assistants from the University of Salford to see what they're up to now. Rhys, Anya and Rebecca explain how studying at Salford and working within the communications team has helped them, and their top tips for breaking into the industry.


Rhys Blanchard

Rhys Blanchard graduated from the University of Salford with an undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism in 2020, he then returned to the University for a further year to study MSc Media Psychology. Whilst at University he worked in the social media and Communications team, we chatted to Rhys about his time at Salford and his current role at Weber Shandwick.


What was your favourite part about studying at Salford?

The amazing workspaces are up there, plus a curriculum that I genuinely cared about and engaged with, and without doubt the opportunity I had to study and also take up working opportunities as a journalist alongside my course. I can’t forget Rec Nights either – they were always ace!


What do you do now? And how did you get this opportunity?

I currently work for Weber Shandwick, one of the world's leading public relations firms, operating out of our Manchester office as a Senior Media Relations Associate. I work within an incredible team of PR practitioners who deliver PR advice and counsel to a broad range of clients. I’d had my eye on Weber Shandwick for some time while I was working at Salford, as I’d researched ‘the big four’ of PR agencies and noticed that they had an office in Manchester. After talking to my colleagues at Salford about my plans to send them a letter, our director Hannah said that we had a good working relationship with them and kindly connected me with one of the Manchester office’s Directors, Amy, who agreed to have a call with me.  From there on we stayed in touch, and once I’d finished studying, I kept my eye close to Weber’s job ad page, and as soon as I saw the role I was looking for, I emailed Amy, applied for the job, and well…here I am. 


What was it like working in the university communications team?

From the get-go I felt like I’d struck gold, and looking back at that time, I’d say it was more like diamond. I was introduced to both the planning and reactive sides to a busy and exciting communications job, in an environment that gave me the perfect blend of support, insight and care, whilst letting me find my feet and learn from a team of insanely competent communications professionals. And honestly, I cannot tell you how much fun I had. The days where we’d laugh about the hiccups of the job, make a journalist at the Financial Times happy by giving the content they wanted, and sharing some cracking internal comms stories across the Staff Hub, are some of the fondest memories of my life (so far).


What was your favourite part about the job?

Genuinely I feel very blessed to have experienced so many exciting and RANDOM activities. I’ve (quite literally) been thrown around the grounds of Salford (I should mention that I was in an inflatable orb and it was a press shoot for freshers week) and every person I was honoured enough to speak to or interview has taught me a huge amount. I think if I had to choose one thing about my job, it would be growing up with all my colleagues. I started on the team when I was 18 and left when I was 22, and I know it’s only four (short) years, but I changed a lot as a person in that time. I did a lot of growing (up) and I owe a huge amount of who I am today to the people who sat on the desks with me in the communications team and my wider MRER colleagues. I can’t thank them enough. 


Is there anything that you learnt on the job that has helped you in your current position?

When I joined I had so much to learn – I’d like to say that was limited to my job, but in all honesty, I had so much to learn in life. It’s worth mentioning that before I worked on the Communications team, I did a year as a student content creator just across the office, on the Social Media team, so when I talk about what I learned from my time, I very much consider that as a vital part of my development. I think the biggest lesson from my time at Salford, that I relate to every day, is that you need to be able to trust your colleagues around you to put in, and get out, 100 per cent from your job. I always felt safe with everyone around me while I was working at Salford, almost like nothing could go wrong, and this is very much how I feel now I’m at Weber Shandwick. It’s not necessarily a lesson I suppose, but more of a reminder to invest in your workmates and make the most out of the brilliant people around you.


Do you have a favourite story about when you were working in the team?

A day that sticks in my mind is during Graduation 2019, after someone from another team has gone home ill, I agreed to take on the role of Maxwell the Lion, having had no prior experience as a 6ft lion. It was quite the test of courage, having to navigate around families celebrating the one of the happiest days of their life, whilst I tried not to take them out dressed as our much-loved Maxwell. If there was a set of stairs at The Lowry that day, you could guarantee that I fell up AND down them in full view of my onlooking colleagues.


What advice would you give to students graduating this year?

I can’t argue with the staple advice points of ‘networking’ and ‘taking all the experience you can get’, but I feel very strongly about a particular principle of mine: pursue something that will make you happy. If you don’t enjoy the work you’re doing, or don’t connect with the company you work for, then you’re making your road to success bumpier than it needs to be. Not every day at work going to be a raging success, but what I’ve learned since graduating is that the most rewarding days are when your achievements support something you care for. That could be a worthy cause, your company’s end goal, or a team of colleagues that you hold close to your heart. Whatever makes you happy, make sure you find a job that will align with what you want.


Anya Hudson

Anya Hudson is a third-year undergraduate Film Studies student at the University of Salford, she also worked in the communications team at the University but due to Covid-19 the role was mostly remote. We spoke to her about her studies and her current role as a social media manager at a Marketing Agency.


What is your favourite part about studying at Salford?

The location is something that stands out to me. Being surrounded by industry at the Media City campus opens up students to wider opportunities.


What do you do in the industry? And how did you get this opportunity? 

I'm currently working as a social media manager at a marketing agency. It's a part-time role so fits well around my studies, and for me to now have a year of agency experience before I graduate really stands out on my CV. I got the opportunity when the agency was hiring for their first ever social media manager in Manchester, interviewed and got the role.


What was it like working in the university communications team? 

I was almost completely remote for my role due to covid, but the numerous catch-up meetings we had each week helped me to integrate really well. The team were incredibly friendly - I knew I could message anyone, and they'd be happy to help me out. 


What was your favourite part about the job?

It gave me a chance to try new things, like contributing to press releases, but also work at things I'm good at - we really emphasised creating video content while I was part of the team because of my background in film and this was a highlight.  


Is there anything you learned on the job that has helped you in your current position?

How to use social media schedulers like Hootsuite and how to write professional copy. I do these things every day in my current job! 


Do you have a favourite story about working in the team? 

I created video content for the IGNITION project launch on campus. It was demanding but I look back at it proudly.


What advice would you give to students looking for jobs in the industry?

Emphasise the fact you're a student and use it to your advantage - don't hide it! We tend to naturally be great at social media, communicating online, and understanding different audiences, all of which is a bonus in so many industries where communications and social media are becoming key.


Rebecca McGrath

Rebecca McGrath studied an undergraduate Multimedia Journalism degree at The University of Salford and then got a graduate position in the communications team. Now, as a reporter at the Wirral Globe we chatted to her about her time at Salford and her current job.


What was your favourite part about studying at Salford?

I honestly loved everything about studying at Salford from the social life to the course. I made the most amazing friends that I am still in touch with regularly. I have so many great memories from my time being there.

Studying journalism at Salford was also a joy as we had access to the amazing facilities at Media City and really supportive tutors who were on hand to answer any questions, offer advice or help with anything when needed.


What do you do now? And how did you get this opportunity?

I am currently a reporter at the Wirral Globe.

After studying at Salford, I was lucky enough to go straight into a graduate communications role at the university which helped build my confidence being in a workplace environment. It also gave me the time to think about what avenue I wanted to go down career wise.

I ultimately got the job because I attended the News Associates for six months to get my NCTJ after my graduate role. While studying for the NCTJ I did work experience at the Wirral Globe which then led onto me being offered a full-time position. But I probably wouldn’t have got to that stage had I not built my confidence and gained experience at Salford in the first place!


What was it like working in the university communications team?

Working for the communications team at Salford was brilliant it gave me great experience. At first it was really nerve wracking and felt strange to go from being a student to all of a sudden, an employee and seeing a different side to the way university works.

But once I was quickly settled in it was really nice to still have ties to the place I studied and loved so much.


What was your favourite part about the job?

Most definitely the team! The team were so supportive of me during my time there. They were always on hand to listen and help whenever I was unsure or answering my millions of questions.


Is there anything that you learnt on the job that has helped you in your current position?

Definitely confidence in myself and my abilities. It helped me to learn to speak up when I had ideas and actually pick up the phone to speak to people. Also writing every single day definitely helped. Also, just general office etiquette and having that experience in a formal but friendly environment where there was room to make mistakes and not be penalised.


What advice would you give to students graduating this year?

Don’t be afraid to just go for it. Reality is you have nothing to lose when you’re just starting out. Apply for all the jobs you’re interested in and don’t worry about lack of experience because you don’t know what other opportunities could arise from it.

I went for a job not realising it was for a senior position and although I didn’t get the job, I was offered paid journalism shifts there off the back of the interview because they saw potential.

I would never have gotten that opportunity or experience if I hadn’t of applied in the first place. Imposter syndrome is the worst and majority of people suffer from it, but everyone is in the same position so try not to compare yourself. If you don’t try, you’ll never get.

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.