As a young professional, I read and listen to a lot of advice from successful leaders on self-improvement and career enhancement.
Most tips cover what we should do more of; rarely do we hear what we should stop doing.
From the advice I’ve heard and things I’ve seen, I’ve put together a list of 10 things young PR pros must stop doing in order to get ahead.
1. Not making mistakes. Time and time again, you hear successful people talking about what they’ve learned from their mistakes, yet we’re all afraid of making them. We should make plenty of mistakes, as long as they’re new mistakes, not the same ones over and over. By making a bunch of different mistakes, we understand what works and what works better, and we learn a lot.
2. Playing it safe. Most successful PR campaigns—and ideas in general—come from being bold and innovative. If you work at an agency, it’s what clients hire you for. If you’re in-house, it’s what your colleagues rely on you for. Being the most junior person on the team doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up with creative ideas or offer a different way to tackle a challenge. It may give you and your client or company an advantage.
3. Not speaking up. Part of having a successful career is knowing when to listen and when to speak up. More often than not, young PR professionals don’t pipe up when they have a great opportunity. If you have a different idea or approach, want to question an idea or have valuable insight, speak up. If there’s an event or project you’re interested in, take the opportunity to say you’re interested. If there’s a skill you have to improve, volunteer for a project that help you do that. The worst that someone can say is no-but they’ll then keep you in mind for future opportunities.
4. Treating media relations like transactions. A pitch does not always result in coverage. Most of the time, it ends up in the trash can. Media relations is not transactional; it’s based on relationships. Many young PR pros don’t take a chance to build a relationship that can lead to a career-long partnership. It all starts with a cup of coffee.
5. Ignoring the numbers. One reason I started working in communications was I thought I wasn’t a “numbers person.” A lot of young PR pros feel the same way, but you can’t do PR well if you don’t understand business or finance. You don’t have to be an expert, but you must understand how communications improves the bottom line. It takes some time, but it’s possible and worth it. (I can attest to both those things.) Public relations pros must convey its business value, and if you don’t get “the numbers,” you can’t argue its merits.
6. Monitoring for stories, not trends. Almost every young PR pro starts with media monitoring and media clips. It’s a necessary evil. What I’ve learned is that media monitoring is really media trends monitoring. Picking up the patterns and interests of reporters, publications and blogs and identifying opportunities are among the most valuable skills you can cultivate. Start this practice early, and you’ll be a real pro before you know it.
7. Thinking everyone else works as fast as you do. Not every professional, partner or client works as fast as the PR pro does. Your sense of urgency is not universal. Build in extra time for approvals and responses; it’ll save you a lot of stress in the long run.
8. Being a generalist. Because there are so many facets to PR, it’s good to know how to do everything (from pitching to social media to event planning), but part of developing a personal brand is choosing a few strengths and playing to them. Being the go-to person for knowledge, information or input is extremely valuable, so identify those strengths early on and perfect them throughout your career.
9. Accepting the existing process. There is always a better or more efficient way to do things, especially with evolving technology. Too many times we accept a given process as is, when certain improvements could save time and/or money. Young professionals bring knowledge and an outsider’s perspective to a project, so make sure you’re always looking for ways to improve.
10. Ignoring the work/life balance. It’s not unusual to work constantly when you work in PR. With the many projects and deadlines and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s easy to get caught up in work. The more you enjoy life outside of work, the better you are at doing your job. Remember: There will always be work to do, but we’re only young once.
Julia Sahin works in corporate communications at a top New York PR firm. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists by searching their bios, tweets and articles, and pitch them to get more press.