Since graduating college in 2013, I’ve worked in public relations and public affairs, which I guess makes me a seasoned entry-level professional, if there is such a thing. When it comes to PR/PA, I won’t pretend to know everything. I’ve still got a lot to learn. But I do know a thing or two about what it takes to do well as an entry-level professional. Here are my 5 take aways:
- Learn to love what you do
That’s right, it’s not love what you do. It’s learn to love what you do and it’s an important distinction. Truth is, as an entry-level employee, you aren’t calling the shots. Accounts are assigned. Projects can be time-intensive and tedious. When you’ve earned your stripes, you’ll have more autonomy over what you work on. But trust me on this one: a little enthusiasm goes a long way. Learn to love what you do and people will notice.
- Be yourself
In this business, personality is key and it is better to have one than not. Of course, you must be professional at all times, but always remember that being professional does not mean having to be dull. Personality is refreshing. This is a very face-to-face, team-oriented business, and you want to pass the “2am pizza test.” If you’re wondering what the 2am pizza test is, it can be summed up with this question: When you’re working overnight with your team on a project, who do you want to be eating pizza with at 2am? Make sure the answer is you. And the best way to do that? Be yourself.
- Speak up
I promise you, you’re on the team for a reason. When you have something of value to say (or ask), go for it.
- Take ownership
No matter how big or small a project may seem, take ownership of it. Whether it’s collating papers and compiling briefing binders or it’s conducting and analyzing in-depth policy research, give it your all. Ultimately, both are a reflection of you. So approach each project as if your name is tied to it… because it is.
- Go home
If one thing is true about this business, it’s that there’s always more to do. But if one thing is true about life, it’s that there’s always tomorrow. I know first hand how hard it can be to step away, even for a few hours, when you are passionate about your work, but go home. Seriously. It may be tough, but making time for yourself is imperative. You owe it to your teams, your clients, and most importantly to yourself to be on your A game.
I hope my trial-by-fire learnings help those currently in or about to enter the field (I’m looking at you, new grads!). Let me know your thoughts about what it takes to succeed as an entry-level professional!