What I wish I’d known at the start of my career

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Hurley

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Hurley

I turned 30 earlier this year, marking almost ten years of working in PR. I started my first ‘proper’ job as a PR assistant at a healthcare PR agency during my last semester in university. It’s interesting to look back and think about how I have progressed over this time; what I have learned so far and what would have been helpful to know at the start of my career.

Here are six important tips I’d share with anyone about to enter the professional world:

  1. Believe in yourself. I was swiftly promoted to PR Manager at my first job because the current person in that role moved on. I felt like I had been thrown into the deep end and couldn’t swim. I was convinced I was too young and inexperienced to handle such a job – and I probably was – but having that mindset didn’t help matters. The advantage of this anxiety meant I worked as hard as possible and did get some great results. However, I wish my younger self had found a little self-belief. If I’d thought about it logically, I did have the qualifications to do that job and should have seen it as an exciting challenge.
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  3. Understand that with experience, you’ll naturally feel more confident. One of the blessings of getting older, is that you naturally start to believe in yourself. The more experience you get, the more you realize you can do this and you’re pretty good at it too! You may have felt a little lost during the early stages but, with time, your confidence will flourish.
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  5. But remember you will never know it all. While it’s important to have confidence, don’t forget that there’s still so much to learn from others and don’t be a know-it-all if you don’t actually know it all. In one of my previous jobs, there was a junior member of staff who often argued with a long-term, older employee because he believed his approach to certain things was much better. It might be better, but don’t close yourself off to learning difference approaches, especially if it’s coming from someone with more experience. Soak up as much wisdom as possible, try to connect with mentors, grow your support network and never stop learning.
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  7. Expect to do menial tasks in the beginning. You often have to work to get to where you want to be. It’s unlikely you’ll kick off your career with your dream role. So be prepared to get your hands dirty and expect to be given some menial tasks as a junior. I have made countless cups of tea for the office (tea because I’ve spent a lot of time working in England!) and helped with many admin tasks, especially during the earlier days. Go the extra mile and work to impress management, too – they’re more likely to invest in you long-term if you show them your abilities.
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  9. Sales is about relationship-building and giving value. Part of my job working for PR agencies, means I have to be a sales woman – whether it’s selling a story to the press, pitching a proposal to a client or trying to get a new business meeting with a prospective client. Many jobs involve the selling process, even if it isn’t obvious. I found this daunting in the beginning, perhaps because I’d grown up thinking ‘pushy’ behavior was rude. Two of the most important things I’ve learned about sales is that clients often want to work with people they like (so the overly-aggressive sales pitch doesn’t usually work) and focus on what’s in it for the client (for example, don’t begin a sales pitch my introducing yourself and your experience – instead talk about the client and exactly how they can benefit from your work).
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  11. Have respect. I’m naturally a people-pleaser so I think I’ve done well with this one but my point is, I don’t believe you have to walk all over others to get ahead in the business world. And if you do, I don’t want to be part of that. Now, I’m sure many of the big business leaders of this world have pissed a lot of people off on their way to the top, but the day-to-day experience of working in a team is a lot easier and enjoyable if we simply respect one another. That said, don’t let anyone walk all over you.

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