Finding Your Groove After That Typically Tough First Week On The Job

 William Berger

Before I was hired by Houlihan Smith & Company, a specialized investment banking firm serving small- and mid-cap companies from San Francisco to South Africa, I was just another December ’08 Columbia College Chicago graduate in the worst job market in recent memory.

My first two weeks on the job drew from many skills I learned in college,  working at organizations like Open-Books Chicago, and the work ethic I came to respect and understand working at the Chalet under Jessie and Keith pulling seven to seven shifts unloading trucks and stacking raw landscaping materials in the shipping and receiving department  However, as I began this job, this career; the uncertainties and the sheer size of the tasks in front of me shook me to the core of my belief.

Now more than ever, financial firms need the best, most cost-efficient help to communicate their responsibility, and also their activities during this current crisis.  If they have nothing to do with the current melt down, and are trying to help companies navigate this period of difficulty by providing third-party advice on solvency opinions that bring out the true transparency of the industries that drive market growth, then I am up to that challenge and feel they have a story to be told.  This, I believe, is my contribution to our society.

I like to feel that I am helping the community and every industry by communicating the options shareholders and investors have in this time.  They have the right to have a third-party objective analysis on the solvency of their company, the true value of a business before they buy so they can ensure they do not have hidden liabilities.   After I learned that Houlihan Smith & Company provides just that, I felt working for them would be a valuable experience that fit the trinity of my philosophy:  Serving the community, promoting all industries through hard work and dedication, and learning as much as possible about everything I can.  One of the greatest payments for services I ever received was from Open-Books, where as an intern you do not get paid in currency, but in the knowledge derived from every book you are allowed to have as long as you read them.

I believe the uncertainties I felt are similar to everyone trying to get a job in this economy; will I live up to expectations, can I deliver, and will I ever be late.  To address these issues I began waking up at 6 a.m. every day for the ten days prior to beginning the job, providing realistic time tables to my managers, and continuously thinking of ideas to circulate.  All good work is based on a foundation of research, so begin right away. 

Specific to this job, I was concerned about my learning curve for financial issues, getting time to interview key management, and conducting meetings with the staff.  Public Relations professionals must be ready to learn about at a moment’s notice about technical issues relating to the company you represent, that means reading about the issues you’re faced with on a daily basis so you have a mastery of the subject.  Just wait on management, they have stressful jobs, so just ask once and wait for them to fit you in.  From day one speak with any willing staff members on any level.  This shows what kind of person you are; so stay late, educate them as to exactly what you do, and never knock the company’s efforts.  One time at a previous internship an employee knocked an initiative lead by a mid-level manager in front of the owner of the business.  To say the least, the comments were not well received.  Everyone does their best, so try to support and aid in others efforts until you gain enough respect to go off on your own.

The first week on any job site can be a very challenging experience, especially when you are the only person in your department.  The main challenges I faced my first week allowed me to learn more than I had in other positions previously.  The things I learned were to work hard, create an agenda, and keep track of daily progress.  During the first few weeks, it may be hard to get face time with management.  Remember their schedule is very busy, and if you are doing advertising or public relations work outside of an agency, they may not have the expertise to guide you through your daily duties. 

The best way to get face time is to work hard until they ask you to complete a task for them.  Then complete the task better and faster than expected.  Creating an agenda for your work will prove to your managers that you are serious and committed to excellence.  An agenda also allows you to monitor your own progress and keeps track of minor duties you would have otherwise overlooked.

As public relations professionals, we should be preparing to reach out to the media from day one.  This means preparing the press kit, writing press releases, and pitching interviews.  A great way to get the media’s attention is to request their company’s media kit and circulation statements.  This will tell you where your target market is and allow you to have the necessary information to choose how to reach them.  The biggest part of the media kit for pr professionals are the editorial colanders.  They will tell you the content schedule for upcoming publications so you can write targeted releases.

Develop relationships with your colleagues and give them credit if they provide you with significant help.  This will show that you are a team player and will encourage your other colleagues to partner with you on projects when you are totally stuck in the mud.  Talk to everyone you can about your work and seek out advice from the people who are at the top of their game.

You will find help in the strangest places, even on the worst day I would not pass up a meeting with a person whom I have not spoken with.  Be respectful and do not be afraid of the phone.  Sometimes, the people you do not know help you the most.  If you are having important conversations, follow up with an email right away so you can have some documentation on your conversation.

If you are not directly overseen by your manager, check in with him or her on a continual basis and let them know exactly what you are working on, what progress you have made, and the direction you are going.  It would be a tragedy if you felt you completed a project but your manager wanted something different.  So before two days come to pass, ask them if they feel you are proceeding in line with their expectations.  If your manager does not work in pr or advertising, explain in pain staking detail every aspect of what you have done, are doing, and will do. 

Finally, be happy that you are the bright part of their day.  After keeping the sales people in line, the office operating smoothly, and the clients happy; your boss will be relieved to get a report from you about the new press coverage you generated or the great interview you landed for the firm.

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