By Tim Johnson
Whether you enter the profession right out of college or transition from another area, you will face challenges when starting your communications career.
Here are five of those challenges and how you can turn them into opportunities:
1. Learn quickly.
When you start out, your colleagues and clients will likely know more about public relations and their markets than you do. Take courses to boost your writing, media pitching, social media and other skills, and learn all you can about your clients’ markets as quickly as possible.
2. Get noticed.
In any organization, the people who get noticed (at least positively) are the ones who will wind up getting ahead. When you’re new, you face the challenge of being noticed by your bosses and other colleagues.
The obvious way to get noticed is simply to do excellent work all the time. If a press release is due on Friday, then deliver it early. If a client expects three media interviews for an announcement, arrange more. If your boss needs someone to represent the company at an evening event, volunteer.
3. Build relationships.
Cultivate relationships with your colleagues, the media and clients early on, and it will pay off throughout your career.
Sometimes it’s as basic as sleuthing out a fact for an editor on deadline. He or she will remember the gesture. Or maybe you can take an assignment off the plate of a colleague who’s having trouble meeting multiple deadlines. Make an effort to learn what motivates people and find commonalities.
4. Find mentors.
Honing skills and learning the nuances of a position are challenges that can impede the career advancement of new PR pros. But finding a mentor (or mentors) provides a tremendous asset for those new to the profession.
A mentor might be someone you work with closely, one-on-one. Or it could be someone you observe from afar and learn to emulate.
In my first agency position, I reported directly to a partner-owner. The partner was extremely busy handling new business leads and running the agency, so he had little time to mentor a junior account executive.
At about the same time I was realizing this, the agency hired an account supervisor who would become a fantastic asset for my growth. He recognized that my writing needed work and taught me innumerable tips and tricks.
5. Avoid mistakes.
As a newcomer to the profession, you have to work to build the trust and confidence of your clients and senior executives. At first, they might think you don’t know what you’re doing, so they’ll be skeptical of your advice.
Try to anticipate situations in which you might make mistakes and figure out how to mitigate them. If your manager seems preoccupied while reviewing your press releases, then ask if another colleague can review them too, to get some new ideas. If your workload is so heavy that even by working late you’ll miss deadlines, then find a solution on Monday, not on Friday. Communicate priorities with your manager to ensure you’re on the same page.
Getting your PR career off the ground and building a foundation of knowledge can be challenging. But with hard work, perseverance and a little savvy, you can turn those challenges into opportunities.
photo credit: iqoncept