June 18, 2015

5 Pieces of Advice for New PR Grads—and One for Old Pros

graduationhatTwenty years ago, I crammed into the Philadelphia Civic Center with more than 6,000 of my fellow Temple University classmates to receive my journalism degree. After a few years spent working for a newspaper, I came over to the “dark side” and joined the agency world. I’ve never looked back.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how different my job is today from when I was a junior account executive all those years ago. For starters, we now have Internet that doesn’t require one of those AOL CDs. But aside from that, I’ve also been thinking about all the great advice I’ve gotten over the course of my career. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

Excel in the fundamentals—especially writing. Learn to write, and write well. This is my #1 wish for every new graduate. If you can establish yourself as a solid writer, you’ll set yourself apart from the pack (yes, even those who have much more experience than you).

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. No one knows everything right off the bat. In fact, no one knows everything ever. Asking questions doesn’t make you weak. It shows that you are willing to learn, and want to get better. But don’t be that person who asks the same question over and over again in the hopes that someone will just do it for you.

Realize that you’ll make mistakes—and that’s OK. No one wants to be responsible for this stuff. Hopefully you won’t ever make a mistake as major as these examples, but odds are you’ll send a press release out with a typo or irritate a client at some point in your career. We’ve all been there. Own up to your mistakes, try to correct the problem and learn from it so you don’t do it again.

Embrace your role on the team. Everyone wants to be the top dog. But, like most new graduates, you likely won’t start there. I spent the first six months at my first PR job stuffing envelopes and calling people on the phone (we didn’t have email yet). But I also got to sit in meetings with colleagues and clients who were true experts in their respective fields. I watched. I listened. I asked questions. Today I still rely on things I learned then.

Know that you can teach, as well as learn. The flip side to the last point is you should recognize that you have so much to offer. You grew up in the digital age. You have forgotten more about the Internet than I’ll ever know. You know how to talk to people in your (highly desirable) marketing demographic. Don’t be afraid to speak up and show us “seasoned professionals” a thing or two.

Which leads me to my one piece of advice for us old-timers:

NEVER. STOP. LEARNING. We’ve been around the block—multiple times. It’s tempting to think we know it all. We don’t. This business is changing on an almost daily basis. If the way you do your job today looks almost identical to the way you did it even 10 years ago, you have a problem. Embrace the learning curve! Channel your inner junior AE and ask questions. It will make you a better PR professional.