Guest post by Amber Rinehard

We’ve seen a lot of posts here on Culpwrit about making a transition from student to professional or intern to full-time employee and how to totally ace that interview.  And once you’ve gotten in to that company, you likely already know the next step, especially if you work in the agency setting.  The standard PR agency ladder goes a little something like this: Interns (hopefully) become Account Coordinators, ACs become Account Executives, AEs become Senior Account Executives, and so on.  You can literally picture the ladder in your head.

So how did I manage to take a leap completely off the ladder, and get the coolest job at my company? 

Let me start from the beginning.  I started an internship almost immediately after graduation in May 2009 (aka, at the height of the recession).  I was lucky enough that a few months later my internship became a full-time position as an AC.  Flash forward a year, and I became an AE. Standard ladder climbing, you know? 

Except there was one minor detour I took on my climb up the ladder.  Before even starting my internship, I knew I had a vested interest in social media and how it could be used for public relations.  This is something I was very vocal about, and (like any good intern does) I sought after opportunities to learn as much as I possibly could from the internal social media team just in case I didn’t get that job offer I wanted so badly.  And, as luck would have it, I was able to participate in a client social media project as a result (my job offer came in the midst of this project). 

A few months later, one member of our senior leadership team came into town to share plans for our strategic direction for the next year. As part of this plan, they announced that they were looking for the company’s first-ever Community Manager – someone who would oversee the brand’s presence on social networks, drive a content strategy for our corporate blog, and engage directly with the people who impact our performance the most. I could totally do that, I thought.  And even though they were looking for someone in a more senior position… you know what?  I raised my hand anyway. Why not? 

No surprise – my bold hand-raising didn’t actually get me the job (yet).  But just by speaking up my managers were made aware that I take social media seriously enough that I wanted to make a career  out of it – so I was given the opportunity to join our company social media team (yes, the same team I looked up to as an intern!).  More months passed, and my involvement with the team allowed me to learn more and more about things like strategy, measurement, blog post positioning, and even how to counsel my clients and colleagues on how to bring social media in to their day-to-day business. 

Okay, fast forward another few months.  After countless interviews, the company still hadn’t found “the one” for the Community Manager position.  And then they realized the problem: they were looking outside of the company for a person who was supposed to represent our brand in a very public, social space.  That someone needed to really KNOW the brand and strategic direction and, more than anything, understand the very unique culture that the company has to brag about.  Who better to hire than someone who already knows the company inside and out? Hmmm…. 

Once again, as luck would have it, the social media team I had been working with brought up my name as a potential candidate.  A few interviews later, I had the job.  It felt pretty good to just jump off that ladder – but as with any big leap, it was pretty scary, too.  Not only was I completely veering off the traditional career path, but I was moving in to a brand new role to the company – one that makes strategic decisions and works with senior leadership and one that is supposed to heavily impact brand influence in the marketplace. No pressure! 

Without any precedent to follow, I chose to look at the opportunity as a totally blank canvas I could paint and draw on and color in with any ideas I wanted.  And I still am looking at it that way.  The best part about it (besides the fact that on a daily basis I get to work with amazing people around the world, build relationships with others through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, read and share inspiring content, and have fun while I’m at it)? By throwing my heart in to the opportunity, I’ve gained the confidence and trust from senior leadership that I need to really drive change inside the company and out. How many people can say they are doing that just two years out of college? 

With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of ambition, I was able to move in to what I consider the single coolest job at my company.  Here are my top tips for doing the same at your company:

–          Know your passions and figure out how to bring them in to your work routine.  I was interested in social media’s effect on business. I spoke up, and opportunities presented themselves.  As a result, I started to love working even more than I already did just because I was able to bring my own interests into my job.  And when you love what you do, you naturally do better work – and people notice!

–          Ask questions.  Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you know everything about it.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions to other experts in your company.  You can learn a lot from them, and they can probably learn from you, too.

–          Get to know your leadership team.  I know sometimes these people can be scary and intimidating, but if you work in a company where it’s as easy as dropping by someone’s desk, making a quick phone call or sending an email to say hello, take advantage of that!  It’s just as important to network within your own company as it is when you’re job hunting – how else will these folks remember your name when the time comes?

–          Be bold sometimes!  If I didn’t go out on a limb and raise my hand for a position that seemed totally pie-in-the-sky for me, they would never have thought of me when the search turned internal.  You know that cheesy saying, “Reach for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”?  It might be cheesy, but it’s true!

Amber Rinehard is the Global Community Manager for Text 100, a global public relations firm.  She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Public Relations in May 2009, and currently resides in Rochester, NY.