Orna Clarke, Senior PR Account Manager at our Edinburgh office writes about the ups and downs of starting work in a new country.

Starting any new job is a daunting experience, regardless of what stage you’re at in your career. Add to that the fact I’d just moved to a new country, and it’s fair to say I felt a bit intimidated when I started working at BIG six months ago.

I had it easy in many ways – I moved to Edinburgh from Dublin, so I wasn’t faced with a new language or a vastly different culture, and I’m only a quick Ryanair flight away from home. But one of the essential characteristics of a PR adviser is having your finger on the pulse, and I was faced with a brand new media, corporate and political landscape; not to mention a set of new clients, some in sectors unfamiliar to me. There was only so much reading up on things I could do during my brief break between jobs – you have to be living and breathing it to be fully in the know. (There was also the small matter of moving country, which required some focus.)

PR is still PR

When I made the move from consumer and brand PR into corporate and public affairs back in 2017, I was pleasantly surprised to discover my skills and experience were in fact transferable, even though at that time my knowledge of the corporate world consisted of what I could remember from secondary school business studies (I think I got a C). The same has been true of my move from the Irish PR industry to the UK one: the basic principles of PR are immune to geography.

Despite my nearly seven years working in the industry, imposter syndrome has never left me, so my confidence was tested by my feeling a bit clueless in my first few weeks here. Setting out to gain clients’ trust is a tricky task when you feel like you’re sometimes winging it, but after a couple of weeks I found my instincts were still very much there – it was up to me stop doubting myself and listen to them. And where I’ve had knowledge gaps, my BIG colleagues have been willing and able to fill them in.

Fake it ‘til you make it

There’s definitely an element of faking it ‘til you make it with starting a job in a new country, just as there is in moving to a new country in general – like pretending to know the difference between a mile and a kilometre, or what ‘outwith’ means. At BIG we represent clients across the UK, not just in Scotland, and one of the best things about working here has been getting to travel to various parts of the country for client meetings and site visits. Besides visiting our other offices in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Manchester, my travels so far have taken me from Renfrewshire to Liverpool. It’s been an ideal way to get to know the UK while getting invaluable facetime with clients.

While starting work in a new country has tried my confidence, it’s reaffirmed it in other ways. Though I’ve struggled at times to embrace my ignorance I’ve ultimately discovered that the experience I’ve brought from Ireland, along with my newness to the industry here, means I can offer a fresh perspective to the teams I’m working with. I’ve also been exposed to new ways of thinking and working, and am starting to see my ‘unfamiliarity’ not as a weakness, but an asset.

Besides the odd misunderstood pronunciation (including of the term ‘PR’, which is very inconvenient), I feel I’m very well settled at BIG now. I’m excited to see what else I can learn from this new experience, and what insight I can offer in return.

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