Soft Skills Tips for New PR Pros

By Mark Mohammadpour

Every year I am so impressed with the quality of public relations students about to start their careers. Through PRSSA, internships, and student-run agencies, tomorrow’s leaders are learning in real-time how to strategize and execute campaigns that deliver business impact.

Knowing the challenges that new professionals face in the first several years of their careers, we need to support them by sharing experiences we’ve learned. At the 2021 PRSA International Conference this month, I led a discussion on soft skills that new professionals should consider when starting their careers.

Here are a few quick takeaways from the session.

  • Keep an active resume of accomplishments. It’s easier to update your resume and LinkedIn profile in real-time, not just when you’re looking for a new job.
    • How? Schedule one hour every month to write down all your accomplishments. Focus on writing your accomplishments using a Situation, Action, Result approach that shows quantitative impact (when applicable). An example: “I played a role in ACME’s growth this summer as it launched its new widget. Due in part to earned media and digital marketing activities I led, including writing two press releases, managing three social media channels, and designing a marketing automation campaign through newsletters, ACME sold out of its widgets online in 30 minutes!”
  • You’re hired to help solve problems. Lean in and offer solutions proactively by showing your critical thinking skills.
    • How? Instead of saying to your manager, “I need your help. I don’t know what to do,” say, “I’d love your thoughts before I go forward with solving this problem. I think we need to solve it by doing XYZ. Do you agree?”
  • Define your ideal role. Telling mentors or prospective employers, “I want a job in public relations” isn’t enough. When networking, updating your website or social media profile, or meeting with someone for an informational interview, consider the type of company you want to work for and the type of work you’re interested in doing. Sharing these will set you apart from others and will help those you’re meeting with to determine who to introduce you to next.
    • Examples include: “Interested in building earned media relationships for B2B tech start-ups,” “Passionate about developing paid digital marketing campaigns for small-to-medium wellness businesses,” and “Actively seeking an opportunity to work on influencer marketing campaigns for Pacific Northwest-based environmental non-profits.”
  • Let your skills shine outside of your day job. Volunteering on a board of directors for a non-profit will build lifelong connections and you’ll learn how to run businesses.
    • How? Start with your personal values, identify a topic you’re passionate about and research local organizations that align with those topics and values. Reach out and ask how you can get involved! Be sure to discuss with your manager first and keep track of the amount of time you spend so you don’t burn out.
  • Our industry is ranked as one of the most stressful, according to Careercast. We must make our mental and physical well-being a priority.
    • How? One quick way to do so is to schedule your time off proactively. In research I’ve co-authored with Dr. Elizabeth Candello of Washington State University, public relations professionals rarely take all their paid time off. As paid time off and sick days are a part of your total compensation, use this time to give your brain the break it needs. I encourage my clients and workshop participants to take at least one week off every six months, an extended weekend every quarter, and a day or half-day off every month. Work with your manager on this and have an active dialogue around taking time off so you can do so guilt-free.

My final piece of advice: one of the endless benefits of joining this profession is the opportunity to learn from each other. Ask any professional for advice for starting your career, and you will hear endless examples of valuable thoughts to take with you on your journey!

Mark Mohammadpour, APR, CPT, CHC is the owner and Chief Wellness Officer at Chasing the Sun. After spending his public relations career at Edelman and Weber Shandwick, and after losing and keeping 150 pounds over the last decade, Mark launched Chasing the Sun to empower public relations professionals to prioritize their well-being so they can shine in the family room and the board room. Mark’s keynote speeches, workshops, and individual, team, and enterprise-wide programs deliver relatable, practical, and actionable advice to help increase morale and reduce turnover. To learn more, visit chasingthesunpdx.com, contact Mark at mark@chasingthesunpdx.com, or connect with him on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

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