Old-Fashioned Career Advice from a Rising Star

Jim Bakken

By Bruce Berger, Ph.D.

Jim Bakken, a 2001 graduate of the PR program at the University of Alabama, spoke last week in my management class. He confirmed some things the students already know about landing a job. Yes, social media expertise is highly prized. Yes, excellent writing and presentation skills are required, as are quality internships, but he surprised students when he shared some rather old-fashioned ideas for advancing quickly on that first job.

Now, Jim knows a bit about getting ahead. Following an internship with the Dallas Cowboys, he joined McNeely Pigott & Fox, a PR firm in Nashville. Several promotions later, he added responsibility for screening all résumés the agency received. In 2010, Jim joined Peritus and was charged with opening and building the agency’s first office in Alabama. Two years later, the new office is profitable and running fast.

When students asked Jim what they need to know to advance quickly on the job, he responded that it’s less what they know and more what they do. He then specified four time-tested behaviors:

• Arrive early for work. You’ll be noticed. (The three students who arrived late for Jim’s talk will forever remember this point.)

• Complete big assignments early. If you’re given an assignment on Monday that’s due on Friday, work hard to complete it by Tuesday or Wednesday. This demonstrates your commitment and capacity for work.

• Volunteer to help others complete their projects – and then do so pleasantly. You’ll gain friends and build trust.

• Always carry a pen and notepad. When you meet with the boss, or anyone else, make a few notes. You may not need the notes to remember what you were asked to do, but the act of taking notes demonstrates respect for the other person.

In short, positive work behaviors are always in fashion and probably more appreciated today than ever in our frenzied, I’m-too-busy work world.

Bruce Berger, Ph.D. is Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Alabama.  Dr. Berger and Jim Bakken  are members of the board of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations.  This article originally appeared in PR Week US

9 thoughts on “Old-Fashioned Career Advice from a Rising Star

  1. As a graduating senior about to start my first full-time job, I am thankful for your advice, Jim. Being the new guy/girl at work is always difficult, especially when you’re not sure what you’re doing at the beginning. Your advice will be very helpful in order for me to not only show respect for those that I work under, but to also gain respect. By making sure to follow these suggestions, I know that my first few months will go smoothly. Thank you!

  2. Old-Fashioned Career Advice from a Rising Star- I appreciate the tips that were in this article. Not many people realize how important it is to respect others and be efficient in the work-place. It allows you to stand out for promotions and other opportunities.

  3. I love your old fashioned career advise, since people always seem to forget the basics. Personally I always follow these simple rules, such as arriving early (10 minutes at least), have paper and pen because you never know what you may need, and to complete the hard work early. I hope that this advice reaches more people since it appears as the “old fashioned” mentality is going out of style. One piece which I would add it that you have to edit, edit, edit. Spell check is not your savior, it should be your vocabulary and grammar which is able to proofread.

    Sam Borden

  4. I really enjoyed this “Old Fashioned Advice”. I am PR/Advertising student working on my last year of classes, and the reality of being thrown into the real world in just one short year is a little more than nerve wrecking. Your advice made me feel at ease. I love the simple, straight forward tips. If at the end of the day I’m completely lost, at least I can say I showed up early, took notes, gave my best effort and made some friends. And that makes me feel more confident because I know I can manage at least those four things.
    Thank you,
    Abby Menke
    Southeast Missouri State University

  5. I appreciate the advice given in this article. It is very refreshing to see someone so young doing so well in this field. As I am approaching my senior year at Southeast Missouri State in the PR program, it is starting to become stressful and I can feel the effects of the real world starting to creep up. I really appreciate the simple advice. Some people are not willing to do the most simple things to get ahead in this business. It is simply expected with time and some effort, when in today’s time it just doesn’t cut it. The most important thing I took from your advice is that it never hurts to go the extra mile.
    Alex Maxam
    Southeast Missouri State University

  6. I really enjoyed reading this post. I believe it reminds us that the little things really do make a difference, and nothing is better than good old fashioned hard work. I really enjoy working alone, but his suggestion to help others with their projects really speaks to being a team player. With my leadership skills and drive I feel that I will thrive in the workplace however, I do believe that reminders such as this post to be positive in the workplace and arrive early to work will help me be more successful.

    Liz Rourke
    Southeast Missouri State University

  7. This is great advice. Sometimes people dont notice the advantages to finishing assignments early and being able to get it check before it’s due, increases your chances of being successful in the task you were given. I also liked how you encouraged helping others.

  8. This just goes to show that it’s not all about your skills and expertise; you will get no where if no one likes you. I appreciate advice like this, especially from someone in the Public Relations field.

    Advice like this can yield positive results at any job or even in the classroom. Sometimes you simply have to remember to remember and practice the basics. Without a strong foundation, failure is imminent.

  9. This advice is helpful for anyone. The comment that sticks out to me the most is “Complete big assignments early.” I’m sure many college students will agree with this statement as well. Major projects deserve a lot of time to ensure that they are completed perfectly. It also allows plenty of time to review and fix any mistakes.

    I know several individuals who are part of the “Go Green” community. With the popularity of using notebooks and iPads to take notes or for those who simply just want to shy away from paper in attempts to aid the environment, what advice do you have for them?

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