I’m a lucky guy. Most days I wake up and am excited to go to work. I work with clients and people I respect and enjoy spending time with. I have creative freedom in my work. I have flexibility in my schedule. And, I live and die by my own decisions as a business owner. Starting my own business has been the best thing that’s happened to me professionally, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I have each and every day.
That hasn’t come without a ton of hard work. It also hasn’t come without help from a lot of people. My head spins when I think about all the people who helped me get to where I am today.
I couldn’t possibly list everyone who has impacted my professional life the last 16-plus years. Much like parenting, it really does take a village. But, I can do my part to give back to an industry and community that’s done so much for me. It’s why I co-founded HAPPO and why I continue to create The HAPPO Report each week.
Today, I thought I’d give back by providing nine tips to the next generation of PR counselors; share a few pieces of advice that’s helped me through the years. Take these to heart. I did, and at one point or another they’ve all made a difference for me.
1. Stay humble
I don’t think I need to elaborate here. But, I will. Here’s a little insight—when times are at their best, that’s when you should be the most humble. If you’ve achieved a great deal of success, chances are that came as a result of hard work, luck/timing and help from others. I’m not discounting hard work, but those other two have an awful lot to do with it, too. Remember that and act accordingly.
2. Don’t tell people how great you are. Let others do it for you.
Too often, I hear younger counselors listing their accomplishments, telling me how many great job offers they’re getting, or how many awards they’ve won. Instead, heed tip #1 and let your peers do the talking. If you’re really as great and coveted as you say you are, your friends and colleagues will sing your praises every chance they get.
3. Ask a lot of questions.
Any counselor will tell you the secret to consulting is asking the right questions. Guess what happens when you ask questions? You listen.
4. Be a joiner.
One of the best decisions I made in my career was joining PRSA. That led me to join a committee, which led to me to join an APR study group, which eventually led me to join the MN PRSA board. All of that led to many, many friendships, a few jobs, and my current role as a small business owner. You get the idea. Be a serial joiner—the benefits will be many.
5. Patience young grasshopper.
The most common topic I hear about when chatting with my younger colleagues is about getting that next job. We all want to climb the ladder and get a better job. But, there’s a reason they say patience is a virtue. Patience means battling through difficult situations, instead of running and looking for a new job (I’m guilty of this one). Patience means staying put, even when you think opportunities may be few and far between with your current employer. Patience means staying in one job for more than six months when you don’t get that quick promotion. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Don’t make the same mistakes I made.
6. Be careful what you wish for.
Are you sure you want that VP role? Those senior roles come with a hefty cost—namely, a lack of personal time and high degree of stress. Have you really monitored what your boss’s boss does each evening? Chances are, it’s not hitting the bars. Just be careful what you’re aspiring to do. Once you get there, you might not like the harsh reality.
7. Don’t be a boss—be a leader.
There is a difference. Bosses use language like “me, my, mine, yours.” Leaders speak in terms of “ours, teams and us.” Don’t be the kind of manager who tells people what to do—be the kind of manager who inspires, motivates, and who employees want to emulate.
8. Remember, all you have is your reputation.
After all the titles, money, cool events, parties and campaigns, all you have is your good name. Make sure you take that very seriously. Jobs, campaigns and awards will come and go. No one will remember most of that stuff by the time you decide to hang it up. But, they will remember your name, what you stood for and your passions. Manage your own reputation every bit as diligently as you would your clients.
9. Don’t believe the hype.
I know some people who have some pretty cool jobs. And, they have a lot of people telling them how great they are and how much they want to work with them. Don’t fall prey to maybe the biggest gaffe I see happening (especially with younger pros): Don’t believe the hype about yourself. Stay humble (tip #1 above). Stay curious. Always keep learning. And, most of all, remember where you’ve been and stay true to who you are.
Those are my tips for today’s younger PR counselor. What about you? What’s your advice for the next generation?
Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications, where a version of this post first appeared.