The First Years In Public Relations

You just started. It is most likely that your title is "Intern." But you are here, getting paid (hopefully) and working at a real life agency. Excitement is in the air, and you wake up every morning ready to get to it... even if it is Friday morning and you are still a little hung over from partying the night before (don't worry no one notices).

Then you meet your colleagues; your fellow interns. At first it is exciting to meet people just like you. But then you realize who these people are; former presidents of the PRSSA, that one girl who's a Harvard grad, and that other guy who is twenty five and on his sixth internship somewhere.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide if these people are your friend or foe. But I will say, the more you get to know them now, the better off you'll be in a few months. Whether it be sharing what you're working on, swallowing your pride and asking for help when you need it, or helping each other out with resumes and potential job interviews, if you do it right, these people will be lifelong friends.

You’re in! You've gotten hired to your first real job out of college. There is a pretty deep feeling of gratification right now. Feel good about the accomplishment and then get to work. You will be busy. This will probably be the busiest you have ever felt; finals was busy, but this is different – this is persistent.

After about a month in, the adjustment period really begins. You may not realize it at first, but the changes are immense and hard to comprehend. At this stage, your financial life changes, your life becomes a routine, your social life adjusts to your work life, and then you begin to realize that you are at the bottom rung of the place.

This period is also a lot about learning – learning that while you are perfectly capable, people will be reviewing your work constantly, and sometimes tearing it to shreds. You learn about business relationships, the social circles that evolve in the workplace, and the ever present to-do list.

Most of all, this time is for work. You are busy and busy and busy. You feel stress about hitting deadlines and feel a lot more responsible for things than you did before. You’re also pretty tired – for the past four years you didn't wake up this early or work this late, so you don’t have the same post-work boost you did only months before.

Year two is a little strange. You start to grow a solid portfolio of work completed. There’s less learning time needed and you are getting more work done in a quicker period of time. You start to crave a few more projects and hell, you kind of feel like you should be paid more because you are clearly more important to the team than you once were.

Review cycles come and go, and you probably aren't satisfied with the result. Why wasn't I promoted? Why did she get a raise and we didn't? 3% bonus? Come on! That won’t even cover one month’s rent. It is important to realize that professional evolution is different from personal evolution. This is the time to learn that lesson. You've grown so much and are proud of what you can accomplish, but the recognition of this doesn't seem to stack up.

The truth is, you think you’re sprinting, but in the landscape of the business, you've just started to jog. Humility is a tough attribute to acquire, especially early on in a job, but you will get there. You will have days where things just seem disengaging and you will feel under-appreciated and probably won’t get the time you deserve.

But keep at it – you've grown so much, but that doesn't mean it is time to plateau. The ones that can fight through now and see through the long term goals will be better off. Be frustrated and be proud of your work, but vent, decompress, and then swallow your pride a little and keep pushing; this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Now you are a professional. You have enough work experience to get hired by other companies and have either received or are due for a promotion. This is when you start to question “what’s next?” The tough part is, you don’t really know.

You are probably more comfortable in the working environment than you have ever been. You show up, get your stuff done, and people trust you. Trust is sort of the dark-matter of the working universe; it is the true source of gravity that holds things together.

Things vary for a lot of different people at this point. You are either happy with your growth, have a good team and excited for what’s to come, or something might be missing a little. At this point in time, it is important to reflect a little.

You may start to wonder what else is out there and if something might be a better fit for you. Is the grass really greener on the other side? How do you find out? Do you apply for other jobs? Would you actually take an interview? What betrayal of your company!

Actually, it is perfectly natural to start to wonder. If you’re starting to feel curious, first off, explore your options in your current job. There are a lot more opportunities within your own company than you probably realize. If that doesn’t cut it, do your homework – not just on what else is out there, but what you really offer and if you had to, could you sell it?

Either way, the “next job” process is more grueling than you will expect. It isn’t the same as your entry-level search. The stakes have changed and so have the opportunities (this is still referring to your current job as well, not just prospective ones). Just be sure to seek out advice, ask questions, and try to be as realistic as possible – failure is inevitable – it will just depend on how you react to it.

Some of you may already been working in PR for three years and think this is pretty ridiculous. It might be, but it is based off of what I have experienced, and the stories that people have told me. We’re all still growing and all at different rates, so if this doesn’t sync up to your story, tell me about it.

Posted in Communications, Industry.