If you’re about to graduate and are looking for work in public relations or communications, I can tell you that the next few years are going to be very exciting.
You’re about to enter the workforce, probably for the first time, and you’re finally going to be able to put some of that classroom knowledge to use.
You’re also going to be faced with some unique challenges which your program probably didn’t, and couldn’t, prepare you for.
For those about to begin their careers, the bottom line is this:
trust your instincts, keep an open mind and be an information sponge. You’ll be just fine.
Some of them are hurdles that all young employees will face, but others are specific to the PR industry.
Here are a few of the challenges you may face during your first few years in public relations, and how to handle them.
You were never a journalist
The truth of the matter is, a great number of PR pros are former journalists of some sort or another. Reporters, producers, editors – all are incredibly valuable in the public relations industry, as much for their skills as for their contacts.
You, however, were never a journalist. It’s a cold fact that can, at times, eat away at your confidence. My advice to you? Learn as much as you can from the people you work with, especially those whose resumés span the media landscape, but don’t be intimidated. Good writing skills were assuredly amongst your manager’s hiring criteria, and you were hired, after all.
You’re 23 and your co-workers are over 40
It can be a little awkward asserting yourself with colleagues who could be your parents, but that’s the reality of today’s workplace. The best way to bridge the generation gap is to be professional and respectful.
Remember that for as much as you might bring new and innovative ideas to the team, experience still counts for a lot. In an intergenerational workplace, the way you communicate your ideas may have to be slightly altered.
You don’t have a network to go to for advice
You should learn as much as you can from your colleagues, but sometimes you need to go outside of your office or specific field for some perspective. This can be for help on a specific project, career advice or just to learn about industry trends.
Thankfully, you’ve got access to PR pros, journalists and other communications and media types (not to mention just about anyone else) via a myriad of social networking tools.
Find a podcast on communications, a blog on writing, or follow some industry thought leaders on Twitter. Once you’re comfortable, engage in the conversation happening about the work you do – not only will you learn a thing or two, you’ll also begin to develop an invaluable network of contacts that you can turn to when you need help.
You’re doing great work, but you’re not filing it away
For yourself, that is. That great media release you wrote? Save it. The employee newsletter that had everyone talking? Store it. The Facebook post that got 300 comments and doubled your website’s daily traffic? Take a screen capture.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you go to do something. Being able to look back on past successes can be extremely helpful, especially when you’re staring down a deadline and need some inspiration. What worked before? Why? Conversely, keeping track of the, er, less than successful work you’ve done can be just as helpful, as long as you learn from your mistakes.
Your files also double as a handy portfolio for when you’re considering a change in professional scenery.
You’re doing what you’re responsible for – but that’s it
Congratulations, you’re doing solid work! Now, what’s next? You should take every opportunity available to you to add to your skill set, even if you weren’t hired for those particular skills.
With the addition of social media to the PR pro’s toolbox, there is a constant need to produce content on behalf of the brands and organizations you work with. That means that being able to shoot high quality photos, film and edit video or record a podcast can give you an edge in the industry. In addition, the more you know, the more valuable you are to an employer, so don’t ever stop learning new things.
This is hardly an exhaustive list of things those starting out in public relations need to know, but it does cover some of the most important issues a young PR pro may deal with. For those about to begin their careers, the bottom line is this: trust your instincts, keep an open mind and be an information sponge. You’ll be just fine.