You’ve graduated college and you’re entering the “real world.” A daunting task, as you’ve heard from your parents and friends who’ve taken the plunge, but one you (ready or not) are about to meet head-on. You’ve applied, got the job and start work at SHIFT Communications Monday morning. Before you hit the panic button, keep reading. Here are five tips for an entry level PR professional:
Get Familiar and Practice Using Excel.
I started with this tip because it’s perhaps the most important thing that I wished I had known prior to working at SHIFT. As an entry level PR pro, you are on Excel a lot. And while there certainly will always be more things to learn, having a solid knowledge of working on Excel and being comfortable in Excel will save you a world of heartache and headache down the road. We’ve all been guilty of beefing up a resume and adding your proficiencies in Excel, Word and PowerPoint, perhaps contributing to why you got the job. However, as someone who has grown up with Macs and has gone to a college that was entirely Apple based, getting familiar with the entire Microsoft Suite was a challenge. So as you begin your journey as entry level PR pro, practice and play around with Excel as much as you can.
Read. Read. And keep reading.
As a B2C intern who transitioned to a tech-B2B Account Coordinator, this tip is near and dear to my heart. While it might sound overly simplistic, reading and reading some more about your client/client’s industry is critical to providing you with a foundation that allows you to succeed. Diving in and reading articles scattered with words you may not understand isn’t the most comfortable or fun exercise in the world, but it is especially necessary when you first start to get your feet wet as an entry level PR pro. The more you read, the easier it will be to scan those previously daunting articles and pull out their relevance to your client. Also, this is an important practice (and again, it sounds simple) when developing and honing your skills on email.
Ask questions (but only when you need to).
Remember when your friend or middle school teacher told you, “There is no such thing as a bad question?” Well, they lied. Kind of. There will undoubtedly be times when you are given a task and have very little insight (when first received) on how to do it. When working in the busy day-to-day life that is a PR agency, you will experience times where each member on your team is slammed with work. Schedules will be full, lunches will be short, heads will be down and hands will be typing. It is important to consider the workload of team members that you are directing your questions to. Essentially, you will want to have exhausted every resource possible before asking the question. Picture it as a mental checklist. If all items on the list have been checked off and your question is still unanswered, go forward with asking your question(s).
Perhaps the scariest item on the list. But oh is it necessary. Stepping into agency life straight out of college, in my experience, was very overwhelming. While I had a smile on the outside, inside I was freaking out. When you start as an entry level employee or at a new organization, no matter your title, you always are afraid to make a mistake for fear of looking dumb. At least I did. But more than chances you take and push this relatively irrational fear down, the more you will grow and the faster you will learn. So take chances, don’t be afraid to fail and success will follow.
This is a biggy! As someone who considers themselves organized both personally and in the workplace, I’ve learned a ton about organization skills over my short stint as a PR professional. Being organized – and there are many ways to do so – is critical to ensuring tasks are done on time and that tasks aren’t forgotten. Being organized is also critical to passing tasks off to colleagues should your schedule start to become overcrowded. As I mentioned, from my experience there isn’t one right way to be organized, per say. But no matter the way in which you organize yourself, I’ve found that working in PR has been an exercise in organizational skills. The better organized you are, the easier it becomes to schedule out a day, get things finished and do them well. As a tip – for what it’s worth – I’ve found it helpful as an entry level PR pro to write everything down. Once it’s written down, go back and assess the importance of each task (organize by the deadline, let’s say) and go from there. I’ve found this strategy to be particularly useful when feeling overwhelmed with work.
When taking on that first job opportunity, embrace the unknown and fast-paced environment. Be sure to use the skills and insights mentioned to your advantage while applying the knowledge garnered from your four-year degree. This is the first stepping stone in your career, be sure to put your best foot forward!