How to Get Your First Promotion

You’ve made it through your first full-time position, congratulations! Getting the first position is the hardest part, but you’ve managed to break into the industry. You’ve got the experience and some new skills, but how do you take it to the next level?

Getting a promotionBelow are five ways to get to the next level in your career.

Act like you are already in the next position.

Once you’ve mastered the requirements of your current position, start learning about what’s required at the next level.

Let’s say you are the assistant account executive for your team. You are charged with maintaining media lists, keeping the department clip report updated and assisting the team as needed. What does an account executive do? They might take your efforts further and build relationships with contacts on the media lists, they might create custom media lists, they use the clips in the report to share results with clients, etc. Start emulating those actions.

Take inventory of your job responsibilities and see how you can take them a step further.

Become a resource for your department

Is your boss having trouble getting a client invoice approved through accounting? Having trouble getting timely numbers and results from your research department?

It pays to network, even inside of your organization. Get to know the different parts of your organization and make yourself a resource for getting important but tedious tasks done quickly.

Continue your education

Become involved in your local PRSA chapter. Attend monthly luncheon or happy hours. Join a committee or participate in a Twitter chat or webinar. There are so many ways to get involved with PRSA and it shows that you are invested in becoming a better PR professional.

A positive attitude goes a long way

We’ve all had days when you are just not feeling up to it, whatever it maybe. Or things may be stressful in your personal life. But remember, work is not the place to take out your frustrations.

Maintaining a positive attitude may seem insignificant, but your coworkers and most importantly your boss will notice if you have a negative attitude. Shooting down others’ ideas, not participating in team activities, showing disgust for tasks that you believe are beneath you will not get you promoted, but they can get you fired.

Learn to take constructive criticism

No one likes to be criticized. However, constructive criticism is crucial to advancing your career. Learn how to effectively take criticism and apply it to future situations and assignments. Incorporating feedback shows that you are a good listener and are mature enough to learn for criticism.

Most importantly, advancing and excelling in your career is a process. Learn from mistakes, apply criticism and feedback accordingly and cultivate your skills. You never know when the next opportunity will appear.

Victoria Lightfoot (1)Victoria Lightfoot graduated from Georgia State University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, concentrating in public relations. She is currently the PR coordinator at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and volunteers on PRSA Georgia’s College Relations Committee and co-chairs the Travel & Tourism Special Interest Group. Connect with Victoria on LinkedIn and Twitter (@Victoria_Lenese)

Three Easy Ways to Leverage Your Leadership Positions

Three Easy Ways to LEverage your leadership positionsYou’ve probably heard or experienced firsthand how hard it is to get a job (let alone a career relevant one) in today’s economy. Whether you are newly applying or just want to spruce up your resume, college leadership positions are an excellent way besides internships to showcase experience. However, it is not the title of the position that matters, but its how you emphasize those responsibilities to employers that can either make you stand out or go unnoticed.

Use the positions relative to the field.

While this might be obvious to some, having relevant positions can only be positive since it’s more in-line with the responsibilities of today’s PR practitioners. It is also a great moment to highlight the strengthening of your weaker skills, development of new ones or even the defining moment of identifying the sector that you enjoy working in. While the title can range from Publicity Chairman to Communications Delegate, make sure the duties they entail are relative to the field. Using these leadership roles can show your early dedication to advancing your career by showing interest in your professional development.  

Highlight transferable skills.

While a PR-centered position is great and easier to describe, showcasing other experiences through transferable skills is an excellent option as well.  Start by creating a list of all of your responsibilities and tailor your description of duties to emphasize relevant aspects before the non-relevant ones.  For example, as captain of the soccer team, training and assisting others, delegating responsibilities and managing conflicts are great management skills that employers are seeking. Ultimately, if transferable skills are presented in a manner that can be applicable to your next role, they become an optimal way to help your position appear much more credible and relevant.

Change your vocabulary.

It’s astonishing how just a change of words can make a world of a difference and get you hired. While “discussed and planned an event with peers/colleagues,” sounds good, “participated in an event development and execution group,” sounds much better and more professional. The key is to switch everyday words with action words. Assisted vs. helped; developed vs. planned. Don’t let your poor choice of words throughout your resume be the reason you didn’t move on to the next round.

Tip: Don’t lie. There is a difference between rephrasing and overstating. Nothing is more embarrassing or damaging to your credibility than showing up to your interview and having to explain the misrepresentation of your skills.  

While these changes might not seem brand new or revolutionary, they are easy enough to forget in the resume writing process. Remember, employers want to hire professionals and using your college leadership roles not only shows your capabilities of being a leader but more importantly your willingness to accept new responsibilities. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone like that?

Stephanie VelardeStephanie Velarde is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Business. She has a knack for crisis management, an interest in global communications and a guilty pleasure for event planning. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

Three Ways to Become Indispensable at Work

Three Ways to become indespenSableWhen I started my PR career, I focused on nailing the basics of PR – writing strong press releases, building solid media lists, writing great emails. I strove for accuracy and a job well done. As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve realized that while mastering the fundamental PR skills is paramount, I also need to always be looking for ways to add value to my organization. PR professionals who prove that they add real value to their organizations simply do better professionally – they are promoted, secure new jobs more easily, and are liked by coworkers. Here are a few strategies I’ve picked up on so far, and try to put in practice in my career.

Go above and beyond.

Basic advice, but many PR professionals just do what absolutely needs to get done per their job description. They complete tasks delegated by their supervisor, and leave work when they finish them. This is a fine approach to work, but it’s not likely to get you promoted quickly. It’s like the old saying, dress for the job you want, not the one you have.

Show that you are worthy of the job that you want, instead of just doing a decent job at the one you have. Be the person who offers to stay late to finish a big project, or take some workload off of a coworker who is over-burdened. Communicate your interests and ideas to your supervisors. They will take notice of the team members who demonstrate passion, creativity, and ambition.

Build strong relationships with your coworkers.

PR is based on relationships. We’re focused so much on client and media relationships, that sometimes we forget about the other important kind of work-related relationship: coworker relationships. Think about the kind of coworker you personally would like to work with. For me, that person would be trustworthy, friendly, positive, encouraging, collaborative, helpful, drama-free, professional – try to be that person at work!

When you genuinely like the people you work with and they like you, you’re able to collaborate better, advocate for each other and increase your productivity. Get to know your coworkers outside of the office. Coffee dates, happy hours and exercise classes are all great ways to bond.

Manage up and make your supervisor’s life easier.    

If you think about the purpose of a job in the most basic sense, it’s to make the life of your supervisor easier. This is especially true in an agency environment, where account coordinators support account executives, account executives support account managers, and so on.

Make sure every piece of work you turn into your supervisor – research, media lists, pitches, press releases, fact sheets – is absolutely spot-on and error-free. Attention to detail is so important in PR. Don’t drop the ball by turning in work with mistakes that could have easily been avoided by an extra review. When supervisors barely need to edit your work, they will appreciate you and ultimately view you as a necessary component of their own work life – making you irreplaceable.
If you quit your organization tomorrow, what kind of impact would it have on your team, and the company overall? Becoming indispensable at work is different from being good or even great at your job, and has everything to do with the value you add to your organization. What are some of your strategies for becoming that indispensable team member?

Screen-Shot-2015-05-21-at-11.23.51-PM-241x300 2Lauren Leger graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s degree in communication, concentrating in public relations. She started her career while still in college at Boston-based PR firm, Zazil Media Group. Lauren relocated to Dallas, Texas in fall of 2014 and began working atThe Power Group as a PR account executive. She recently took on a new role as Power’s manager of digital strategy, where she brings her PR expertise to the digital realm of the business. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Power of Perception in Your Career

The power of perception in your careerHow many clichés have we heard about perception? “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” “It’s the thought that counts.” Or a slightly deeper and personal favorite, “The difference between a flower and a weed, is a judgment.”

Our perception of the world around us influences our reality in more ways than we can imagine. And I think recognizing this, that the way we look at a situation can either improve or worsen our experience, gives us a great deal of power that few tap into.

Take rejection for example.

Rejection is often seen as a bad thing. And people aren’t wrong; it hurts to not get the raise you were hoping for, the dinner date you’d been looking forward to, the media placement you put SO MUCH time and energy into. Having to turn off the happy-ending movie of expectations playing on repeat in your head really, really sucks. No one likes being told “no.”

But there is a power in understanding the significance of the situation. If we can shift our vision of failure from a dead-end street, to instead an alley with many alternatives, we gain the ability to mold our future into something not only desirable, but preferable. Rejection doesn’t have to immobilize you into a mere spectator.

No, things may not be going according to plan… So what are you going to do about it?

There’s an offbeat idea that floats around the outskirts of mainstream acceptance, that with every decision we make, those pivotal fork-in-the-road moments, there is a parallel timeline that continues without us. The “what if” timeline. It’s a repeated theme we find in movies all of the time. You fail to catch your train before an important meeting at work… You may lose the account and in turn your job, forcing you dig deep to find your true passion and make a new life for yourself. OR… You might find a way to keep your job, move closer into the city and end up meeting the love of your life next door. If either timeline is an equally viable option at the start, the possibilities in how drastically different your timeline could unfold is enticing… What if there were no wrong decisions? (If you haven’t already, watch Sliding Doors staring Gwyneth Paltrow circa 1998.)

Now, while I don’t recommend dwelling on the literal idea dual timelines, I have to wonder; why can’t we see rejection in this philosophical light?

Getting told no, when you step back and think about it objectively, is simultaneously getting told yes (or at least maybe) to a handful of doors that would’ve otherwise been closed had you never been rejected in the first place. It is the pivotal step in scientific theory! Hypothesis, test, fail, repeat until a solution is found. Rejection isn’t a period at the end of a sentence; it’s a semicolon that can guide you on to something better.

It’s all about the way you look at it.

Couldn’t rope an investor to help get your start up off the ground? That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Think about this possible alternative: You’ll likely find an interim job and build your skillset in the meantime, continue to improve your start-up and perhaps meet your new business partner during the downtime. Then, without investors, you’d be free to run things your way, an option that would have never been available had the initial plan followed through.  

This idea isn’t limited to the business world, either. Think about how, if you dropped your initial snap-perceptions of people, places or situations, how things would look different (perhaps even more friendly) to you.  

Self-awareness of our perceptions can be an incredible superpower when used properly. When you recognize this, you won’t immediately act on those preconceived ideas of how you see the word “no.” You’ll pause. You’ll soak in both sides, and feel before reacting.    

Understanding that there are always (at least) two sides to every story means accepting that our perception of reality is likely dramatically different from someone else who experienced the exact same thing. It’s a scary thought, but it’s also a little bit liberating when you think of how you can change your reality, simply by changing the way you interpret the things presented to you.

In life, you can’t move significantly forward without taking a few risks. And we all know that walking on those rocky, risky, unpaved roads typically comes paired with a few unexpected missteps along the way. If you can take these speed bumps in stride, looking for the next alternative route without getting stuck at a dead-end in the road, you’ll be able to handle whatever rejections may come your way. Because being unstoppable isn’t about receiving all green lights, but hitting red lights, stop and “Do Not Enter” signs and persevering onward anyway.

rsz_megan_nicole_oneal_headshotMegan O’Neal graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, emphasizing in mass communications. She is currently the PR Specialist at Marketing Design Group and volunteers with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, freelancing for the public relations department. Connect with her on Twitter @megannenicole.

4 Tips for Building a Strong Professional Portfolio

Preparing for job interviews can be more than a little intimidating, and it’s probably no surprise to you that one of the major intimidation factors can be getting your portfolio together.

4 Tips for Building a Strong Professional PortfolioIf you don’t have a portfolio yet, you’re going to need one. Portfolios are the best way to show that you can walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Gathering the work you’re most proud of showcases your abilities and skills for future employers to assess.

Strong portfolios can come in a variety of types and sizes, and it’s up to you to decide what you think is best. If you’re just getting started or looking to revamp your portfolio, first decide what kind of portfolio you want:

Online vs. In Print

Online portfolios are great tools to impress future employers and get your foot in the door. There are plenty of free portfolio sites and website building resources like Weebly or WordPress that can make the creation process simple and maybe even fun.

An online portfolio can even add some personality to your name based on your site’s style and content. If they like what they see, it could be the reason you get called in for an interview. Or, they could just like the fact that you put the time and effort into creating a website.

A physical portfolio could also be the perfect tool for you. Your employers or clients may not want a marketing plan or social media report featured on your website for the world to see. That’s when a print portfolio can be handy as it will stay between you and the interviewer. Personally, I found it useful to have samples in front of me to share during the interview.

For example, when asked about my media relations experience, I can pull out a copy of my best newspaper or online placement. Bringing a physical portfolio is ensuring that the interviewer will see it because they may not have taken the time to check your online portfolio.

Quantity vs. Quality

Some professionals would say gather all of your work into a huge portfolio, but many others would say that you should just bring your top pieces of work. And again, it’s up to you.

Fresh out of college, I wanted to be prepared for any job responsibility they could ask me about, whether it be social media, writing, marketing plans or media relations. Therefore, I gathered all of my materials into a large portfolio binder separated into categories by tabs. I would easily navigate through my portfolio during the interview to pull out examples relevant to their questions and the job responsibilities. Organization is key with this approach.

A large portfolio can be overwhelming and intimidating, which is why some of you may prefer a smaller portfolio. Some interviewers even prefer it and may just ask to just see your top three to five pieces. In this case, it is easier to focus on the quality of your work as opposed to the variety.

Now that you have your options laid out, here are some tips for creating and using a strong portfolio:

  1. Think of anything and everything. To begin, gather all of your great work into one place. If you made it, wrote it or thought of it, put it in. Then choose your best pieces. You can always take it out later if you change your mind. Just make sure you have the portfolio essentials.
  2. If you’re going to do it, do it well. Don’t take shortcuts. After putting effort into it, you do not want to ruin all of your hard work because you got lazy. A little typo could tell a future employer that you aren’t careful or detail-oriented. This is especially true for websites. If you can’t put together a visually appealing website, it may not be worth doing at all.
  3. Don’t be shy about it. Not every interviewer is going to ask to see your portfolio or even samples of work. After putting effort into making it, be sure to show it off when you can. Try to work examples into your answers. For online portfolios, add a link to the bottom of your resume, email signature or Twitter profile.
  4. Leave behind some examples. If you’re showing off something long and detailed like a writing sample, the interviewer likely won’t read through the whole thing during the interview. Consider printing a few extra copies of your favorite pieces that seem most relevant to the position to leave something behind. I usually put two pieces and an extra copy of my resume into a folder or clear slip and hand it to them at the end of my interview for them to keep. It’s a great way to make sure your work gets their attention.

There’s always more than one right way to do things, and your portfolio is no different. It’s just one of the many ways you can stay competitive in your job hunt. Decide what works best for your work and preferences, commit to it and dive right in.

Christine Kappesser Christine Kappesser is an assistant account executive at Wordsworth Communications, a public relations agency in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Strategic Communications and minors in Marketing and Design. Connect with Christine on Twitter (@ChristineMaeK).