One of the things I love about my job is that I work alongside young professionals eager to make their mark in public relations. The energy they bring to our clients and our work is invigorating—a constant reminder that good public relations is about hustle, hard work, and dedication.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that many younger colleagues fall short when it comes to advocating for themselves and their careers on all fronts. Rather than proactively contributing to their own success, they take an approach that is either misdirected or too passive to achieve their personal goals.
There are no guarantees in public relations, but by empowering themselves to become their own best advocates, young PR professionals can position themselves to advance their careers and achieve important personal milestones.
Early in their careers, young team members suffer from several misconceptions, including the belief that age prohibits them from bringing meaningful insights to the conversation. In reality, there is always room at the table for creativity, and team members who can intelligently communicate their ideas tend to outpace their colleagues—regardless of age.
From Day One, it’s important to achieve the right mix of humility and confidence, assertively sharing your ideas while recognizing the value of listening to more experienced voices. By combining this understanding with a handful of other strategies, you can improve your ability to advocate for yourself in the PR workplace.
• Establish clear goals. Professionals who have established clear career goals are better equipped to communicate their needs and requests to employers. By knowing where you want to be and supporting your goals with solid research, it becomes easier to have informed conversations about raises, promotions, and other career goals.
• Create career benchmarks. Benchmarks provide a path for achieving your career goals. Although you might know where you want to be in five years, it’s important to consider the series of steps it will take to get there. In general, employers in the PR field are looking for team members that have a clearly defined plan, and they will go the extra mile to help you achieve important career benchmarks.
• Highlight your successes. It’s a mistake to wait for other people to talk about your successes. Instead of wasting water cooler time in unproductive conversations, self-advocate by offering short vignettes underscoring your contribution to the team. Don’t be arrogant—just know what is important to the person you are talking to and use the opportunity to communicate meaningful insights about your role in the organization.
• Offer solutions. No job is perfect, but too often, young PR professionals complain without offering solutions. Solutions empower both you and your supervisor to take action on important issues. Just as important, they shine a light on your ability to solve problems and your willingness to function as a team player.
• Own your mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, you’re probably not working hard enough. Mistakes are inevitable, but a “sorry” isn’t enough. As a career-minded PR pro, you need to clarify and admit your mistakes, demonstrating that you understand what went wrong and communicating a level of self-awareness to your employer.
• Protect your brand. Many young team members are so busy building and protecting their clients’ brands that they neglect their own. You must be aware of your own brand and protect it by showing integrity in all of your communications, even to the point of using correct grammar in internal emails. Also, know the people you are speaking with at all times, and avoid discussing inappropriate topics about your co-workers or internal politics.
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We’ve all heard stories about the meteoric rise of PR rock stars. In the real world, there are no shortcuts to a fruitful career in public relations. Across the board, the most effective way to advance your career and achieve your personal goals is to empower yourself by advocating for your own success.
Christine Pietryla is a senior vice president of PR at Walker Sands.