Whether it’s your first day or your second year on the job, there are several ways to get the most out of your first few years after graduating. Being a new professional is exciting, eye-opening and sometimes a little intimidating. Not sure how to set yourself up for success? We’ve got a few ideas that will make a good start. Welcome to the new professionals bucket list.
1. Find Your Passions and Dig In – This is the perfect time in your career to try everything and discover what you love…and what you don’t. Raise your hand for any opportunity that comes up in the office, even if it seems like something you’d never enjoy. Ask to help the digital guru. Sit in on a brainstorm. Learn a new research software. As you experience all the avenues of our industry, you’ll discover what you’re good at and be able to passionately hone those skills. Plus, you’ll be more of an asset to the company because you’re well-rounded.
2. Sit on a Junior Board – This is something both of us are extremely passionate about – and we think you should be too! Most nonprofits are always in the market for a little pro-bono help, especially when it comes to communications. Find a charity or nonprofit that really resonates with you and see if you can volunteer, or even better, join their junior board. This is a great way to give back to your community and to meet other young professionals. If you’re not sure where to start, some cities have junior board search engines, or you can visit volunteermatch.org to find an organization perfect for you.
3. Find a Mentor – Finding a mentor in your professional life can be intimidating. Remember, acquiring a mentor may not be as daunting as you’re making it! If any of you are fans of Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” (and if you’re not, we suggest hitting up Amazon right now), you’ll remember her entire chapter on mentors. She reminds us not to “ask anyone to be your mentor,” but instead, ask people both senior and junior to you for specific advice. This could be as simple as “Can we grab coffee sometime and discuss how I can make my press releases more engaging?” By doing so, you begin fostering an organic mentor/mentee relationship.
4. Become a Mentor – Practice the flip side of No. 3. Both of us were lucky enough to have a plethora of supportive mentors while we were students, and I’m sure you did too. So, you’re a young professional now – it’s time to pay it forward! As we’ve said before, mentoring is so important to the success of your career, but so is being a mentor. You can start by reaching out to your own college or university. Do they have a mentoring program? If not, can you help start one? But, if you’re like us and moved far away from home, you can also reach out to the schools, or PRSSA Chapters, in your area.
5. Try Getting Down and Dirty – Be willing to get down and dirty and pour all your effort into your tasks. Sometimes you’ll be tasked with seemingly monotonous or menial assignments, but they’re actually the backbone of a much larger project. So, raise your hand and get excited! You’ll gain firsthand knowledge of all the small details that go into a successful project or campaign, which will make you a better leader down the road.
6. Grab Coffee with your PR Idol – Is there someone in the industry that you’ve always looked up to, but never approached? What better time than now! Senior-level people in the public relations world are almost always willing to grab coffee with a curious up and coming professional. Whether your idol is in your city or not, there is no time better than when you’re a new professional. If they are not in your city, try scheduling a time with them while you’re on vacation or a work trip. Or do the old-fashioned thing and set up a call! You will learn so much in those thirty minutes, and who knows, maybe your PR idol will turn into your PR mentor!
7. Expand Your Experience – Try a different sector of PR! This is a great way to discover what you’re passionate about and where you can learn the most. You’ll also be more qualified for serving clients from diverse backgrounds. Additionally, try working in different practice areas, even if it’s in the same office. Think you love the consumer practice? Volunteer to help with healthcare or crisis communication needs. You never know where you are most equipped!
8. Join a Speciality Networking Group – While PRSA is a great way to learn about our field, your personal education, and professional development, shouldn’t stop there. Like PR, most industries have networking groups specific to their concentration. Do you work in-house at a technology company? Join a professional tech organization. Are you in a corporate responsibility sector of a PR firm? Join a CSR networking event. These groups are a great way to dive deeper into your projects. Then you won’t only be the go-to person when it comes to communications, but you’ll also be all-knowing of your industry!
9. Attend a PRSA Event – Making the transition from college, and PRSSA, to the workforce, and PRSA, can be very intimidating at first. But, you have to take the plunge! The best way to network with other PR Young Professionals is to attend a PRSA event. Find a friend at work and ask them to attend with you. PRSA will not only make you smarter when it comes to industry trends, but it will also give you a strong network of people just like you.
10. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone – Perhaps most importantly, decide from the beginning of your career that you’re committed to growing professionally and personally. Do what scares you, whether that means moving to a new city or asking someone to lunch. You’ll never grow until you expand your viewpoint and embrace new perspectives. There isn’t just one right path in our industry, which makes the opportunities endless and the future exciting! Choose to seek those opportunities and discover what you love.
You’re only a new professional until the newness wears off. This is your chance to be the rookie, make mistakes and impress your co-workers with your fresh insight. Adding these 10 items to your bucket list (and probably a few more) will set a pattern for continued success and development throughout your career. So get going — your career is waiting.
Lindsey Young is a May graduate of The University of Alabama, finishing her term as UA PRSSA president. During her time in PRSSA, she participated in two Bateman Case Study Competitions, attended seven nationwide PRSSA related conferences and hosted a regional conference. Along with PRSSA, she worked for her student-run firm, Capstone Agency, as a media relations specialist for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Lindsey is currently working in Chicago as the New Business Development intern for Burson Marsteller’s U.S. team.You can usually find her looking for the best place to cheer on the Crimson Tide or catching up on Saturday Night Live. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter!
Taylor Shelnutt graduated from The University of Alabama in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Information Sciences (Public Relations) and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. She served as the firm director of the PRSSA nationally affiliated student-run integrated communications firm, Capstone Agency, and worked directly with The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Taylor spent the past two months as a Summer Fellow at Ketchum Chicago and has loved learning the ins and outs of agency life! Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter!