By Alyssa Bedrosian
Graduating from college and diving headfirst into the world of public relations can be scary. No matter how many internships you had or how great your professors were, you will never be fully prepared for your first full-time position at an agency or an in-house communications department. Managing client relationships, mastering the pitch, and working effectively in a team are skills that you learn on the job – not in a classroom.
However, there are some concrete ways you can prepare for your first year in PR. As a young professional myself, I’ve learned how to navigate the industry and come out successful, even when that meant getting a few bumps and bruises along the way. Here are some of my tips for those entering the field:
Write as much as you can
No matter how the industry evolves, writing will always be at the center of what we do. In your first year, jump on every opportunity you can to write. If you have some down time, volunteer to write a post for your organization’s blog. If the account lead asks if you have time to write a pitch, make time. When you’re not at work, write on your own – journal entries, song lyrics, personal blog posts, etc. When it comes to writing, practice really does help make perfect.
Remain a student
The key to life after college is continuous learning. Take some time to read books by industry leaders and attend webinars or other conferences. PR is an ever-changing industry, and we need to read, learn and engage as much as we can in order to keep up. Even if your focus is media relations, spend time learning the ins and outs of advertising and digital marketing—all areas of communications are becoming more and more integrated, so your expertise should not be limited to just one area.
In addition, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Many senior team members would be happy to guide you and serve as a mentor during your first year.
Learn to prioritize
Most PR professionals bounce back and forth between multiple projects on tight deadlines, and knowing what to work on and when can be a tough lesson to learn. During your first year, it’s important to identify which projects need to be completed ASAP and which projects can wait until tomorrow. If you struggle with time management, talk to your supervisor to get some tips and tricks on how to prioritize your work and better manage your time.
Welcome constructive criticism
As much as we dislike hearing negative feedback, constructive criticism is key to growth. Instead of dwelling on your shortcomings, view your mistakes as learning opportunities. This can be hard (and humbling) to do, but it’s key to success in this industry. Ask your senior team members for feedback and make sure they know that you want and respect their opinions.
Throughout my career, there have been many times when I played it too conservative or cautious. While it’s especially critical to ask questions and look for feedback early in your career, it’s also important to be confident in your ability and be willing to take risks. Share your out-of-the-box ideas, take charge (within reason) on the projects you’re working on, and don’t be afraid to set BIG goals. Demonstrating confidence and taking initiative will help you grow in the first few years.
Your first year in the industry will be challenging. It will take time to feel completely comfortable speaking with reporters, sharing your ideas in a brainstorming session, and approaching your boss when something goes wrong. However, if you take into consideration the tips I’ve outlined above, you will be on your way to a long, successful career in PR. Enjoy the ride!