Among the best things about working in this hybrid world of PR, marketing, communications, and advertising is that many professionals are multitalented. You’d be hard pressed to find many in our industry who focus on just one discipline.
It’s an enormous advantage to people who want to become well-rounded thinkers—particularly young professionals in the most impressionable stage of their careers. As clients increasingly demand more knowledge, creativity, and strategic thinking, the earlier you can start becoming an information sponge, the better.
Make a plan for developing relationships with colleagues who have knowledge and experience that you don’t. Don’t be afraid to tap the expertise available within your own company to bolster your skill set.
The first step: Give yourself an honest analysis of where you excel and where you need to learn more.
Next, create a short list of people you could learn from or would like to have the kind of relationship in which you can bounce around ideas and brainstorm projects. Once you know with whom you want to work more closely, determine how best to approach tightening your relationship.
Talk to your HR department to see whether your company has a structured mentoring program. If so, find out how you can be part of it. If not, maybe you could help start one. Programs that pair junior-level employees with more experienced people are great for access to busy executives willing to help younger associates.
In many cases, you’ll have to strike up these relationships on your own. Depending on the size of your company, how approachable the person is, or how comfortable you are initiating conversation with people you don’t know, it’s up to you to find the best starting point.
Here are few things to try:
Send a ‘hey, you rock’ email
Sometimes it can be as simple as, “Hey, so-and-so, I just wanted to let you know that I think the work you’re doing for X client is awesome, and I’d love to talk to you sometime about how you came up with those ideas.”
Some people get a little uncomfortable with unexpected praise face to face, so trying this method by email gives the person a chance to think about how they’d like to respond. Be complimentary, make it sincere, and try not to ambush anyone.
Offer to buy lunch or coffee
Set aside a few extra bucks one week and invite someone to grab a bite. Most people will be more than happy to spend time away from their inbox and get to know a colleague better. Approach it casually so it doesn’t seem date-like. Tell the person you’re just interested in learning more about their skill set or what they’re working on. Start with an open-ended question, and let the conversation flow naturally.
Find news to discuss
If you come across an article, study, infographic, or trend piece you think is interesting or confusing, flag it to your internal subject matter expert and ask to discuss it. I’ve done this many times with my agency’s experts in various areas.
In each case, hearing a veteran perspective has helped me better understand the issue and created a mutual “pass things back and forth” relationship. It makes me stay on top of industry news and brings information into my world that I often would not have found.
Ask to see their work
Win a new client? See if someone will tell you highlights from the pitch so you understand why the new client likes your agency so much.
Have a successful campaign? Ask the account director to talk to you about the idea and how it came to life.
Struggling with media relations? Ask the person who just landed a great story about how she pitched the reporter or blogger.
It’s all about giving someone else the chance to shine.
These are just a few ways to take a first step in creating a closer work relationship with a colleague you admire. Not every chat will turn into a mentoring relationship, but one great chat might.
It’s up to each of us to be curious and hungry to learn more. Everyone may not be so quick to help you out in your personal education quest, but the more you expand your perspective, the more you’ll realize you want to know more.
Have you successfully done any of these things and found it resulted in an awesome working relationship with someone on another team? What else have you done that has worked? In which areas do you want to expand your expertise?