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climbing the career ladder: a guide for young PR professionals

How-to... - 8th August 2017

Public relations is a vibrant and hugely successful industry. It can take you all over the world and introduce you to all sorts of people, which is part of what makes it such a popular career choice.

But as a young professional, words like ‘career’ and ‘livelihood’ can be daunting, as a lot of us have no idea what we’ll be doing for dinner let alone in five years!

But a recent PRCA training course really helped me visualise my future career, and whether you’re a fellow young professional or seasoned PR veteran, hopefully the following tips can aid you in getting the most out of your or your employees’ futures.

Radiators not drains
Working closely with inspirational, positive and successful individuals will have a massive benefit on your productivity and your future career prospects. You will pick up their traits and day-to-day working habits – things you will find invaluable throughout your entire career.

As a young professional, getting recognition from these senior colleagues can be difficult. Focus on specialising in something – social networking, the media, crisis comms – and you’ll soon develop a reputation that can relied upon.

Surround yourself with radiators, not drains!

Do get ahead of yourself
From your first day, whether in a new job or after receiving a promotion, consider yourself to be one rank above that of what you really are. For example, if you’re an intern think of yourself as an account executive; or if you’re an account manager view yourself as an account director.

This way you’ll not only be performing at a level beyond what is required of you but, when the inevitable promotion comes, you will already have the experience. It can take months to settle into a new role – even an internal promotion – so staying one step ahead significantly reduces the bedding-in period.

This does not mean you should be overruling senior staff; you should be emulating them and showing signs you are capable of greater responsibility in client meetings, with written tasks and in media relations.

Set yourself goals
Setting objectives is essential to making progress. Not only does it promote good organisation, but it breeds positive mental well-being as you are able to visibly keep track of and tick-off completed tasks.

Setting a goal for the week, month and year is a healthy strategy as it ensures you are focused and always working towards something.

Analysing what you need to do to reach the next stage of your career is essential, and asking senior staff for guidance can be hugely beneficial. They have been in your shoes before, so know exactly what it takes to advance.

Prepare, prepare, prepare
Preparation is key, not only because it shows initiative but it also prevents mistakes and embarrassing hiccups.

Ensure that you plan your attendance at meetings. Write up an agenda and include points that you have directly worked on, in order to give you a key contribution point. Communicate your success with your colleagues.

Likewise, prepare for appraisals. It shouldn’t just be an opportunity for your boss to lecture you; if you come armed with questions, you will not only get answers, but you’ll impress the boss with your attitude.

Make sure you study the media. Knowing what is going in the world and the industries you operate in is vital. Brushing up on current affairs is beneficial because it can give you a topical angle to use when pitching client news stories to journalists.

Dealing with stress
According to a recent CareerCast poll, public relations is the sixth most stressful industry – with stress brought on by client demands, impossible deadlines and public scrutiny.

An essential ingredient to combating stress is asking yourself if what you’re worried about will matter in a week’s time. Chances are you won’t even remember what it is by then!

Consider keeping a portfolio, or victory log, of successful work. Did a press release score some good coverage? Did a client praise your work? Did you successfully pitch a story to a journalist? Keep a track so that you can remind yourself what success feels like when you feel tested by a task.

Finally, make sure you have a strong interest outside of the workplace. We’re all human at the end of the day, and being able to totally switch off and do something you really love is pure escapism.

Jordan attended the PRCA’s ‘climbing the PR career ladder’ training session.