It’s May 12, 2011, a day for which you’ve been waiting four years, the day you graduate from the University of Tennessee with your public relations degree. As for me, it’s been two years. Two years since I donned my cap and gown after just barely finishing my final class project on which I worked a whole semester. Two years since I started my career in public relations at The Tombras Group. And boy, have I learned a lot in those two years.
Obviously, at age 24, I still have a lot to learn, but here’s my advice for your first couple of years as a public relations professional:
1. Bridge the generational gap.
Let’s face it; Millennials often get a bad rap. We’re called lazy and entitled and have been named the ‘Me’ generation. But I have found that in order to gain credibility in the workplace, you must learn about and relate to the other generations of people with whom you work. Be willing to teach them about the new technology on the company computers, help with a task you think is mundane and work every day to break the generational mold by leaving any sense of entitlement at home.
2. Take some time for yourself.
Yes, you do look awesome to your boss when you come in an hour early every day and stay an hour late. But eventually that midnight oil is going to burn out, and you’re going to leave your supervisors disappointed that you’ve started to decrease in productivity. Maintain a level of productivity that impresses your bosses on a regular basis by working smart. Just because you come in early and stay late, doesn’t mean you’re any more successful than your coworker who works smart during work hours. That being said, if you do have to work late or come in early every so often, it’s not the end of the world.
3. Stay organized, consistent and dedicated.
Nothing is more impressive than an employee you can always count on to be organized, consistent and dedicated. Stay on top of things like projects, deadlines, paperwork and schedules, and always be able to deliver on everything for which you’re responsible.
4. Speak up.
As a young professional, it can be intimidating to speak up in a meeting or a brainstorming session. Don’t just speak up for the sake of speaking up, but really think through what you’re about to contribute. That goes for asking questions and pitching ideas, too. In a workplace setting, words are currency. Provide good input and you will buy yourself credibility and respect.
5. Network, network again and then network some more.
I saved this piece of advice for last because it is the most important. Networking is the way you’ll get a job, the way you’ll meet your mentors and the way you’ll make crucial business contacts. Go to luncheons, attend happy hours, join professional organizations, network with your parents’ friends, keep up with your college and high school friends and professors, and connect on LinkedIn with everyone you meet (or even hope to meet). Out of every internship/job you will apply for, the only times you will even get an interview will be because you had made contacts at that organization.
Try your hardest and you will look back on your first two years in the profession fondly. Oh and someday when you think it’s a good idea to wear those super cute, yet uncomfortable, heels to an 8-hour press day at the Capitol building in Nashville … Just don’t.
Taylor Griffin is a Public Relations Account Executive at The Tombras Group.