It’s graduation season—the time of year when many new PR pros are putting their degree to work.
You have a lot to learn.
Here are some lessons that may not have been taught in class but will help you navigate your career.
1. Work hard to stand out. Did you know there are now 4.8 PR pros to every reporter . I found this to be an eye-opening statistic. For those new to the profession, it means you need to rock it. Build a solid foundation by honing your writing and storytelling skills, which will be important whatever your ultimate career goal may be. Check your attitude at the door. Go the extra mile without being asked, and you’ll get further faster.
2. Write! It’s a vital skill for PR practitioners. What’s the best way to become a better writer? Write. If you don’t have a lot of writing experience, find ways to write more. Ask for opportunities at work or write your own blog. Even if no one reads it, the experience you gain is worth it.
3. Get involved in a professional organization. The most important benefit is getting to know others and building your network. Volunteering can also help you develop new skills or improve on existing ones. Another tip: When you’re just out of school, some organizations offer a deeply discounted membership. The American Marketing Association has a “young professional membership,” so even if your employer won’t cover it, you most likely can afford the cost. Consider it an investment in your future.
4. Don’t beat yourself up when the story you pitched doesn’t appear. With media relations, the story doesn’t always run — and that’s not your fault. Even after you’ve scored an interview, the story may never see the light of day, and you may never learn why. This is out of your control, and it isn’t the fault of PR. It’s the nature of the news business. You do your best, but usually you have no control over when — or if — the story appears. Does the client always understand this? No. But it’s a reality of the biz. Don’t waste time feeling bad about. Move on.
5. Don’t give up a media pitch too quickly. Pitches can fail. It’s part of media relations, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. If you don’t get a response, there are other alternatives. You send it again. You can reach out via social media. You can rewrite the pitch. You can even try self-publishing via a platform such as LinkedIn Pulse or Medium. Get creative.
6. Educate your clients too. The client doesn’t always get what PR is — and what it isn’t. Whether you work in-house or at an agency, there are situations when education is in order. PR isn’t advertising. It isn’t a “one-and-done” activity. Public relations can open doors for your client, but they need to be an active participant in the process for it to be most successful.
7. Get used to being edited. Editors will change your work — and you need to be OK with that. Occasionally your editor or your boss or your client will change something was correct. You need to learn how far to go in pursuing your point and when to let it go. I once had a manager who disagreed with me over a term I used in an article that I knew was right. He said no. He was the boss, so I had little choice after I voiced my objections than to let it ride his way. Yes, it was difficult. Eventually, he admitted he was wrong and apologized. Had I pushed too hard, it may have caused a rift that didn’t need to happen. Pick your battles.
8. Know there will be twists and turns on your career path. Your career path may not always lead straight up the ladder — and that’s perfectly OK. You may start out in one area only to find you prefer a different focus. It’s great to gain experience in a variety of companies and work environments so you know what you like best. There are things to be learned from working in agencies, startups, small businesses, corporations and nonprofits.
You may love being a big fish in a small pond or the opposite. Whatever path you choose, agency experience can be valuable. If you have an opportunity to work at one for even a year, you’ll gain a sense of how accounts are set up, get a taste for the roles and learn how to handle client services. All will benefit you no matter what path you ultimately pursue.
Michelle Messenger Garrett is a public relations consultant, speaker and award-winning writer with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience . A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack , a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.