If you’re a junior-level staff member at your agency reading this post, you understand that it’s now crucial to work your hardest to prove to your bosses that they made the right decision by hiring you in the first place. With about a year of entry-level PR experience under my belt, I share with you some of my experiences and insights on how to make this important first year a success.
1. Speak. Actively participate in meetings. Yes, as the AAE on your account, your main responsibility may be to take notes and update a status grid for your next client call, but it’s important to make sure you’re not just the wallflower nobody notices. Ask questions and offer to help with projects here and there. Your team will appreciate your interest and respect you for volunteering your time to help the broader team. Make jokes (even if you think they’re dumb). You should also provide updates on assignments you’ve been working on without anyone having to ask. This will show you’re taking your job seriously and that you are a productive part of the group.
2. Know exactly what is listed in the job description for the employee level above yours. This way, in your reviews with your manager, you can make a case for yourself when you’re asked how you have grown professionally in the past XX amount of months. For example, in my most recent review 8 months ago, I indicated I was unfamiliar with the financial aspect of PR and that this was an area I wanted to learn more about. Now, every month, it is my responsibility to complete activity reports and budget status reports for billing. Though this isn’t one of my favorite parts of my job, I understand it is important I expand my expertise and show my team I’m willing to put the work in to learn something new that I can add to my list of responsibilities.
3. Sign up for interesting and relevant vendor presentations, trainings and/or webinars. Then, take notes and share it with your practice group. In a big agency especially, this is a great way to get some visibility and become recognized as a source of interesting information within the company. Even if no one opens your email, by continuing to put yourself out there, people will recognize your name and may reach out to you for more information. Anything you can do to make yourself stand out among your fellow AAE’S in the agency will help you in the long run.
4. Write. All the time. Even if it’s offering to draft client emails for your VP or write memos for your SAE, it’s training and practice for when it’s your turn to communicate more with your clients. One of the biggest transitions from being an intern to working full-time is the amount of writing you’ll have to do, and sometimes, with little guidance. I’ve learned it’s something you need to take on yourself, and you’ll improve that skill by reading a lot and by drafting various materials for your managers’ review. You’ll then have examples to refer to at your disposal and will thank yourself later.
5. Be happy. Learn how to take constructive criticism and be happy to receive feedback from managers that actually care about your growth. It’s easy to become defensive and send a frustrated IM or email about a teammate to one of your buddies in the office. DON’T make this mistake – trust me. You may be surprised at how quickly word spreads in the office, and you don’t want to be associated with that kind of negative energy. If you’re having a problem at work, take the high road and bring the situation up directly with your manager. It’ll feel good to clear the air upfront and more likely than not, the meeting with end on good terms.
6. Namaste. Seriously – we all know a job in PR is stressful. It seems everyone is stressed these days. But remember, it’s PR not the ER. As the AAE on your team, people will likely give you tons of assignments and expect quick turnarounds. Don’t be afraid to push back and nicely let them know of your workload for the day. If you don’t have time, someone else will handle – it’s as simple as that! Just because you’re trying to prove yourself at this stage in your career, doesn’t mean you have to work yourself to the bone. The worst thing you can do is put too much pressure on yourself that you cannot produce good work. So, take a step back and work at your desired pace. You’ll thank yourself at the end of the day.
7. Network. Like, now. I always include networking as an important aspect in my guest posts because I feel it’s too important a tip not to. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd of junior-level staff at an agency, so why not do everything you can not to? Make small talk at the coffee machine, sign up for the kickball team and go to company happy hours. Don’t skip out on these functions, because they’re activities that bring teams closer and are great opportunities to make new friends at the office.
Jasmine Boaler is an Account Associate working in the Food & Wellness department at Ketchum New York. Jasmine graduated with a B.S. in Journalism and Public Relations from Ohio University in 2010 and landed her full-time job earlier this year.