Every year I bring PR students to visit New York firms and in-house corporate communication departments. I’ve culled insider advice and insights from these meetings with senior executives at award-winning public relations firms and corporations.
Advice for Young Professionals:
1. Strong writing skills are still essential, especially in the social media era.
The ability to write in clear, concise, and brand specific styles is critical. Hone your skills by blogging, journal writing, and reading a variety of media.
[Read: 21 ways to keep your writing sharp]
2. Seek out criticism before it comes to you and learn from mistakes.
Don’t get defensive or emotional when given less than positive feedback. Entitled attitudes need not apply. Be willing and be humble, and complete even mundane administrative tasks with a positive attitude.
3. Take initiative.
Some of the best ideas come from young professionals. Don’t be afraid to voice your ideas and opinions. Show your passion for your work and think creatively and strategically about every project you tackle. Being passive in your early career will hold you back.
4. Versatility is an asset.
Your career may not take the traditional path you imagine. Don’t be afraid to take a job that is out of your comfort area. Some of the best experiences are those that you did not anticipate. All knowledge you gain is transferable to alternate industry sectors and areas.
5. Build a professional network.
Consider every point of contact you make as an addition to your professional pool of contacts. Cultivate relationships and never be afraid to approach someone you don’t know. This tenacity will benefit you throughout your personal and professional career.
[Read: 7 tips for striking up a conversation at a networking event]
6. Find a mentor.
Identify someone at work or in your personal life who you respect and trust. Role play with them—interviewing, pitching, presenting, preparing, etc.—and ask them for their honest suggestions about your strengths and weaknesses. Challenge them to tell you when you are wrong.
[READ: How to find a professional mentor (without creeping the person out)]
7. Dress appropriately
. You may not have a designer clothing budget, but you should always dress as if you are going to meet a client or a media professional. Avoid revealing or sloppy clothing and err on the conservative side. Loud make up or jewelry is distracting. Your presentation of yourself matters. Strive to be remembered and respected for your brains and confidence, not your appearance.
There are many opportunities out there, even in this competitive market. Companies are eager to identify and hire passionate and inspired young professionals. Take this advice and start achieving!
Meanwhile, check out the great work at the firms and companies we visited: http://quinnandco.com/
Lorra M. Brown is an assistant professor of public relations/professional communication at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J. She serves as the internship coordinator and advisor to the Student Public Relations Association. Prior to her faculty position, she held senior-level positions at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and Weber Shandwick Worldwide.