As a public relations professional, now a partner after having started as an account assistant at Identity nine years ago, I’ve learned invaluable lessons, heard great public relations advice and lived the ups and downs of building a career in this challenging field.
I started thinking more about this topic after a great event we hosted with PRSA Detroit that catered to new professionals. Every new professional is eager, looking for career advice and helpful direction about how to kick their career into gear. How can they land a great job? How do they move through the ranks once they have a job? What does it take to succeed in PR? All of these questions can weigh on a person but can only be answered by time, experience and helpful tips from your peers.
Here’s just a little of my public relations advice:
- There isn’t a clear roadmap. Even the most accomplished and seasoned PR executives have to think on their toes every single day. Just because a strategy worked for one client doesn’t mean it will work the same way for another. Part of working in PR is being faced with many challenging situations (in a good way!) from a client/personnel perspective that have no clear precedent. Learn from your past experiences, but don’t assume what once worked always will in the future. Continue to think critically and review all potential scenarios that could occur as a result of your client counsel or actions. It is imperative to constantly learn, adapt and evolve to be a successful PR professional.
- Absorb and learn while always wanting more. One of my favorite pieces of public relations advice is to be as relentless as possible about how much information you can absorb and learn when you’re first starting out in the PR industry. Even though I mentioned above that there is no roadmap to success, getting constant exposure to learn and grow through is key. New pros can help themselves by simply asking for the opportunity to meet new people, sit in on a client meeting, work on a challenging project or help brainstorm to develop new strategies. This varied exposure to everything your organization and the industry has to offer is critical to learning at the beginning—and throughout your entire career.On the same note, it’s refreshing when young professionals have the fortitude to bring new ways of thinking and accomplishing goals to the table. I love when the young pros I work with ask to take on more without me coming to them first. You naturally excel if you have that personal drive and ambition to go above and beyond. If you live by the “always want more” mantra, then the chance of the next great growth opportunity coming your way is that much greater.
- Take calculated risks. I look back on some extremely challenging and demanding projects I tackled earlier in my career that I probably had no business doing. But, most of the time, I accomplished what I set out to do and learned invaluable lessons through taking on that challenge. You have to be fearless. New pros should look for the right opportunities to take calculated risks because you can still be smart without totally winging it when you take a risk. And trust me, the little successes and experiences that come from taking the right risks will add up to something amazing over time.
- Have thick skin, speak up and be a team player. Enough said.
That’s the most important public relations advice I recommend taking as a new professional. However, every positive suggestion should also come with things to avoid. While starting out in the field, make sure to keep the following in mind:
- Don’t lose a focus on your goals. As many of my peers were leaving Detroit at the start of my career, it was tempting to think about opportunities elsewhere. Luckily I dug deep, figured out what I wanted in my career, and created my own path. Every strategic move you make in your career should be based on your own determinations and personal goals – not someone else’s. Stay true to who you are and what you want in your career for the long-term. Then, put your head down and work like mad to get there. The results will often surprise you.
- Don’t underestimate the value of communicating with confidence. If you know you need to brush up on your written or verbal communication skills to ensure you communicate with confidence, start now. I love when prospective employees have a confident way of sharing why they are the right pro for the team during interviews. You simply cannot succeed in PR if you aren’t an excellent and confident communicator. Period.
- Don’t forget to take constructive criticism and grow. When you don’t apply constructive criticism and make it a goal to do better the next go-around, you’re hindering your chances of getting to the next place in your career. Sometimes, especially professionally, you don’t know when you’re standing in your own way; you must have the self-drive to implement feedback. It’s awesome to have mentors to guide and shepherd you, but success or failure is ultimately up to you.
Just as I’ve benefited from mentors and peers while growing in this great field, hopefully this PR advice will help guide new professionals in our industry!
If you’re a seasoned pro and have additional advice to share, tell us in the comments.