It’s no question that college graduation comes with a mixed bag of emotions.
The scramble of finding a job combined with the sadness of leaving friends can be overwhelming, but life doesn’t end when the dean of your school hands you a diploma. The real fun is just getting started.
A year into my full-time job as a PR account coordinator, I empathize with the thousands of aspiring PR gurus graduating in a few short weeks. Here are a few key lessons I have learned that may help you take the next step:
1. It’s PR, not the ER.
As I was completing my final college internship (which fortunately became my first job), I went to lunch with one of the account directors at my firm. I asked him what his best piece of advice for me was, and it was the simple—yet meaningful —”It’s PR, not the ER.”
Crisis communications situations do come up often—which makes for exciting days in the office—but there are very few life or death scenarios. If everyone on a team is running around like chickens with their heads cut off, there is no chance the client is receiving the best work.
If you find yourself in a pickle, simply take a breath, envision the best outcome and work backwards from there to your desired result. As a bonus, managers appreciate employees that can keep calm and make clear decisions under pressure.
2. Don’t let your time manage you.
This tip is two-fold: A to-do list will be your best friend in the PR world, but it will never be fully completed. That’s OK.
Just as in college, time management is key to having a successful PR career. Experiment with different ways to keep yourself accountable.
While it’s of the utmost importance to keep yourself organized, you should also keep in mind that your agenda is not set in stone. The “real world” doesn’t have a syllabus, so you can’t always look months ahead and plan accordingly. In PR, especially in an agency setting, you have to be ready to switch gears at the drop of a hat. You might go into the office on a Wednesday with five things on your to-do list when suddenly a client is tangled up in a piece of news that will take most of (if not all) the entire workday. As long as those five things aren’t on deadline that day, it’s necessary to shift your priorities and let less pertinent items slide.
Self-care and a strong work/life balance is important, so unless an action is critical to your client, don’t let it force you into an all-nighter. As a professional, it is important to come in to the office well rested and ready to conquer the day and proper time management habits help you prepare for the unexpected.
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3. Personal branding leads to personal success.
Drafting strong social media content for your future clients is a large element of PR, but don’t forget your own personal brand.
Bolstering your online presence is one of the first (and easiest) things you should do when you begin your career. Start with LinkedIn. You may not have even logged into the website since you applied for internships, but now is the time to update your profile with honors, awards, internships and, hopefully, your first “real” job. Don’t forget to engage, especially with reporters and clients whom you cross paths. Reach out to people who can endorse skills that will easily transfer to PR.
Next, focus on Twitter. While it is important to add personality to your profile, it may be time to delete a few ill-considered tweets. Post about events in your city, your industry and your personal hobbies to demonstrate what you’re interested in. As someone who did not frequently use Twitter until recently, I have found that it is a great way to gain exposure for the projects I’ve worked on and get connected with my interest areas after a year of working with my clients.
A job in PR is not limited to promoting your clients and the work they’re doing; you should promote yourself as well.
Amanda Cristi is a public relations Account Coordinator at Sage Communications. A recent graduate of The Catholic University of America, she provides support to a number of Sage’s technology, public affairs and nonprofit clients.