What I’ve Learned: Lessons for a Rewarding PR Career

May 2, 2016

I graduated from college 13 years ago. On one hand, I feel old. On the other, I realize how fortunate I am to have had so many rich experiences over the years. In fact, I’ve received great advice that I’ve applied to my personal and professional life. Here are a few lessons learned:

1. Give every job one year. Starting a new job is stressful. It’s easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed and want to throw in the towel. Be easy on yourself as you adjust to your new position. Being in your role for 12 months also gives you the opportunity to see what happens quarter-to-quarter or season-to-season. Go through one full cycle before determining the job is for you.

2. Find a friend, a champion and a mentor. Work can be awesome when you have a BFF or “work spouse;” the person whom you can confide in and laugh and brainstorm with is key to keeping your sanity. But beyond that, who is your personal champion that has your back and can vouch for your work? Take it a step further and identify an internal or external mentor who can guide you and give you professional and career advice.

3. Listen and soak it all in. Be a sponge. Inexperience is not an excuse for lack of success. You aced the application process, nailed the interview, and now have business cards boasting the company logo. Ask questions and absorb every single thing you see and hear. The sooner you can do that, the sooner you’ll be up to speed and able to make valuable contributions.

4. Stay excited. Getting bored? Take ownership of that. Ask for stretch assignments in your department or elsewhere. Start sitting in on meetings with associates who are one or two levels above you to learn more about your organization and what makes it work. The worst that will happen is that someone declines your offer.

5. Always have a report. In a meeting where you need to update the team on a project, always have something to say. Not working on anything specific? Talk about how you’re going to brainstorm an upcoming project or create a strategic plan for a future assignment. Having a report or update shows progress and adds value.

6. Find something that invigorates you. You are more than your title, and your job is only one part of your life. Find an external hobby. Participate in a community kickball league. Adopt a dog. Join a professional board. (Any nonprofit will welcome free PR assistance and value the social media skills of a young pro!) Look for fulfillment in places other than your 9-to-5 job.

7. Be open to new ideas and opportunities. I never thought I’d move across the country once, let alone three times. If I had been closed-minded and let fear win, then I never would have gained such amazing professional experience, met so many terrific people or visited so many exciting places. Take the interview! Who knows where that next step will lead.

8. Take advantage of your surroundings. Enroll in a class. Go to PRSA meetings. Find alumni groups. Every city is bound to have at least one unique offering.

9. Don’t not do something for stupid reasons. Recently, I almost backed out of a professional event because before I left my house, I realized I hated my shirt. When I walked into the meeting room, no one cared who was wearing what. It was a fantastic program, and I met dozens of nice people. Thinking about what I would have missed had I not attended due to my attire makes me cringe.

10. Don’t gossip or cry. Gossip doesn’t do any good. Stick to your work. Similarly, crying is unprofessional. We all have feelings, but find that friend, and take care of the tears in private before you make a name for yourself for the wrong reasons.

DeAnn Baxter, APR
DeAnn Baxter, APR, is a Penn State graduate, still learning and open to career advice. She specializes in corporate communications, and has worked at Coca-Cola and Amazon. Contact her at dlbaxter2003@yahoo.com or @DeAnnPgh.


Mary Joan Hahn says:

Find a cause you believe in and volunteer your skills. There are hundreds of worthy non-profits out there that will appreciate and benefit from smart public relations support. Become part of something greater than your career, and give them your best. It will enrich you in ways you cannot imagine.

Dec. 12, 2016

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