Surviving your first year in public relations is no easy feat and not for the faint-hearted. There will be sleepless nights, stressful days, deadlines to meet and a myriad of requests and demands you feel you simply cannot meet.
Having just completed my first year in PR, there are five key lessons I’ve learnt to ensure you get to your desk, five days a week, with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
1. Use those around you
Not literally. That could be an HR issue. But understanding that colleagues are there to offer help and guidance whenever, and wherever you need it, is one of the most important things I took out of my first year working in the industry. Whilst they may be your seniors and (naturally) have a more intricate knowledge of how to “PR things”, this never means they’re above offering help. Whilst you may feel you should sort things out by yourself, which is important as well, knowing that there are others to help when needed, is a fantastic safety net to have as you develop and hone skills throughout your first year.
As Dumbledore said in Harry Potter, “Help will always be given [at Hogwarts] to those who ask for it”, and the fact is no different in your first year working in PR. One of the most important lessons I learnt in the first year of work, is that asking for help never denotes stupidity or inability, it is simply a way to learn from others who have been in the same position you have.
2. Don’t be afraid of potential problems
Problems do – and will – arise in your first year of working in PR. It’s inevitable. Whether it’s journalists not picking up your pitch, or a venue for an event which falls through at the last minute, issues and obstacles will fall at your feet. Whilst it seems to be the trend with PR professionals to want, and expect perfection, problems out of your control are a certainty. There will be nights when you lay awake, worrying about, and dreading the day to come, because of a seemingly impossible problem you have to find a quick solution for. But don’t let that one problem define your first year. It does take time to learn how to deal with these issues (something I’m definitely still doing!) but there will always be a solution, regardless of how drastic and dire the problem may be. Learning to trust your instincts and account for potential issues is one lesson which, as difficult as it may be, is an integral part to surviving your first year in PR. Just remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Acknowledging that things take time and there will always be problems – and solutions – is the first step in ensuing you survive those nails-bitten-to-the-quick moments, and the first 365 days of your PR career.
3. PR yourself
You’re never just representing a client, company, or a brand. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you’re representing yourself. At any time, in any place, you should be “self-PR-ing” which is a great practice in creating a name for yourself and a sure way to get through the first year of work with a solid reputation and the beginnings of a network. Whether it’s as simple as making sure your shirt isn’t tucked into your underwear, or maintaining a high level of professionalism in your writing and relationship-building, representing yourself in the best possible way you can is one of the most important stages in the beginning of your career.
“Character is much easier kept than recovered”- Thomas Paine. Starting off with a good reputation and ensuring you maintain and foster it, is the best way to get through that first year of work, where making a name for yourself form the bricks and mortar of your future.
4. Love what you do
Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great works to love what you do.” This is, without a doubt, the most important lesson I learnt in my first year of PR, and something which the yardstick to which I compare my success to. Without enjoying what you do, what is the point? If you wake up of a morning and begrudgingly get ready for another day of making others look good, then PR is not for you. Loving what you do, regardless of what profession you’re in, is something you’re taught in primary school, and something you see and understand as you enter the workforce. If you love the job you’re in, you’ll survive. You’ll be happier, releasing more endorphins, and therefore, do better work, and the days when you’re not too certain whether you can do it, will be far more infrequent and inconsequential.
If you make a mistake, don’t let it ruin how you feel about your job. Mistakes are simply small detours on the road to success, and signposts of hard work and dedication.
5. Don’t forget to have fun
There will be days where things just don’t go your way. All you have to do, is remember that everybody has these days. Don’t forget to smile when you get into the office of a morning, celebrate success and never let your mistakes define who you are in PR.
The day before I started full-time work, my mum reminded me that burning out in your first year is something of increasing commonality, and that not having the time to smile or laugh means you’re not taking everything out of life you can. She reminded me of a quote from Dame Edna, which reads “Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.” Finding the time to have fun is key to getting through that first year, and from what I can tell, every year after that.
Written by Will Roach