10 ways PR pros can build outstanding careers

Communicators often spend hours perfecting their clients’ brands and campaigns, but you shouldn’t forget about your own professional desires.

As public relations practitioners, we’ll do almost anything to win coverage and add value for our clients.

It’s in our DNA to burn the midnight oil to plan all the project pieces just right. PR pros work weekends and holidays, responding to emails while we’re on vacation. We’re all in. This is our mindset when we take care of our clients.

However, when it comes to taking care of our own careers, we tend to put that on the back burner, rarely checking in with where we are, where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.

As time ticks by, a career can happen to you based on situation and circumstance. Instead, what would happen if you put more energy and effort into mapping out a personal game plan for your career—treating yourself like a client?

When moderating a PRSA panel in Seattle, I posed that question (and others) to Mary Camarata, the director of global communications at Amazon Web Services; Katie James, Microsoft’s senior communications manager; Pete Pedersen, Sono’s vice president of global communications; and Joy Portella, president of Minerva Strategies.

Here are the insights they shared that can help you build an outstanding PR career:

1. Build momentum. What are the intentional steps you’re taking right now to manage your career?

Create a brief outline plan with action items that you can reference, adjust and accomplish. Keep the action items simple and achievable to build your momentum.

2. Be curious. Before looking for a new job, have you explored all the opportunities available to grow your career in your current firm?

Your next opportunity could be right under your nose, outside of your current department or geography.

3. Stretch yourself. Be open and willing to take an assignment that stretches you creatively, enables you to develop new relationships and takes you out of your comfort zone. This is how professional growth happens.

4. Take risks. What’s holding you back from going after that new opportunity? Raise your hand, put yourself out there and explain why you’re the right person for the role.

Even if you don’t get the opportunity, you’ll be on a manager’s radar to be considered for one similar.

5. Explore your network. Is there someone who has a coveted skill and works inside your firm? Invite him or her to coffee and ask questions you want answered.

Remember, networking is also about giving—not just getting. Ask him or her how you can help, too. This strategy includes reaching out to younger co-workers who can teach you a thing or two about the digital world.

6. Stand your ground. Don’t be afraid to take a stand to express your opinion even if it’s counter to the current point of view of the organization’s leadership.

As long as your position is well thought out, researched and is presented in a respectful, intelligent manner, your stature in the company will be elevated for taking a brave stance. Be selective on your issues, however, as this comes with risks.

7. Find balance. Creating work/life balance is a constant tug of war for all of us. Things get even more complicated when kids are part of the mix.

Sometimes the only option is to bring the family along on unavoidable business trips. Try to extend the stay an extra day or two, treat it like a mini-vacation and create a memorable time for everyone.

8. Stay fresh. You might land in a role that is comfortable, but it doesn’t your career aspirations. Don’t get too comfortable.

Instead, stay focused on where you want your career to be, and take proactive steps to move it forward. Similar to products in the grocery store, we also have built-in “stay fresh” dates. Time goes by quickly; don’t let your “stay fresh” date expire by growing stale in your current position.

9. Pair your passions. Two passions might seem unrelated, but with research or a little luck you can land in a spot that caters to both areas.

Look for opportunities that check off more than one of your passions. This could lead you in an exciting direction that you haven’t considered.

10. Brand yourself. Throughout your career, each experience you have—and the relationships you develop along the way—build your personal brand. Be conscious of your brand and what it says about you.

What attributes does your brand possess? Why is it compelling and valuable? Polish it and be ready to tell your story to the right organizations looking to hire.

Dan Lee leads Seattle and Pacific Northwest recruiting for PR Talent. A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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Topics: PR

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