How to manage your career in public relations

The world is a crazy and uncertain place right now. The thought of starting out on the career ladder or chiselling any sort of plan might feel overwhelming. Whatever the challenges presented by today’s macro climate, there is opportunity out there in PR-land. With a career framework with a little flex and a few clear goals plotted as a bare minimum, you will be in a strong position. Afterall, you can’t reach your destination without plotting a route.

Over the years your friends, family and eventual managers should of course actively support your career development and life goals however, the only person present in your career from start to finish is you. Take control as you start your professional life and maintain that ownership and sense of direction as the years pass.

Know Thy Self

More and more school leavers or grads are being coached in deepening their understanding of how they tick, what they excel at. Power to you as self-knowledge is a powerful advantage to point in the right direction and keep you on course. I encourage you to go through an exercise defining your personal values, honing the code by which you live your life, a lens through which you can make major career and life decisions. You might land a good job on paper but if your values don’t align, you’ll spin your wheels or be prevented from making a full contribution.

Equally you should be clear what your strengths and weaknesses are. You could invite people you’ve interned with or worked alongside so far, even loved ones, to define what they see as your key strengths. It’s an affirming and enlightening experience once you get past the initial cringe. Similarly, you can access free tools online to further hone awareness of your own key strengths. Finally, something I personally view as career dynamite are psychometric profiles. Start with a free tool like MBTI, or work with a certified third party to get something little more personalised and heavyweight.

Network and Learn

  • Never stagnate, always be moving forwards in your career. Protect a slither of time to keep inspired, to keep learning. Intellectual curiosity keeps you interested and drives competitive advantage. Obama managed several hours of weekly reading when he was POTUS so we mere mortals can surely find a way to shoe horn in a few pages or the odd podcast!
  • Feedback is a gift, get used to hearing it, understand its power. If you don’t spontaneously receive regular feedback, ask for it at every opportunity you can
  • Don’t be obsessed with linear career paths. Don’t look left and right. Do benchmark and be ambitious but comparing yourself to others is exhausting habit to acquire
  • Look for people to learn from, peers and senior role models alike. Get in the habit of acquiring mentors throughout your career and in turn, be generous with your time as you progress
  • Learn to negotiate effectively to manage your career and your worth. Communicate your successes with humility and confidence. Make your case in terms of business messages, the language spoken by your target audience.

Set Career Goals (boxout?)

Take control of your own career and think about the type of work you want to be doing, the discipline, sector, skillsets; where and how? For big or small companies? Permanent or contract? In-house or agency? Perhaps, like the majority of those entering the workforce today, you feel like you’ve got a ‘few careers in you.’ Perhaps you’d like to start your own business in time or, found a new function for an existing employer. Human needs goals to drive motivation and success. Your employer will set goals for you but do they ‘feel’ like they’re right for your career path? Write some of your own e.g.

  • I want to be running my own P&L in five years’ time
  • Transition into xxx discipline by the time I’m 30
  • Write a business plan for my xxx side hustle before I’m 25
  • Get a mentor before Easter
  • This is your career, no one else’s so own it.

10 Commandments of Career Management (box out?)

  • Define your values – know your career goals.
  • Network.
  • Promote yourself – be known.
  • Ask the Captain (be known to those in the corner office)
  • Lift whilst you climb (karma).
  • You are more than your career.
  • No one can make you feel inferior without your consent (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • Working harder does not equal working smarter.
  • Don’t compare yourself to your neighbour.

Thanks to Jane Fordham for writing this career management guide in PR for us, we really appreciate it.

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This is part of our Beginner's Guide to public relations