So you just graduated from college and are part of the lucky 50% who actually have meaningful employment. Employment in your chosen field of public relations, no less. Congrats!
Now what? You’ve read all the blog posts about what to expect in your entry-level position: Low pay, long hours, grunt work, and low pay. But what about advice on how to do your job well, or be noticed, get ahead, and get paid slightly more? Here are six counterintuitive ideas to help separate you from all the other Assistant Junior Account Coordinators.
1. Never Promote Your Clients
It’s a sad truth, but the media doesn’t care about your client. Never. Except if your client is Apple, in which case, disregard this pointer and go enjoy a drink with an umbrella in it.
Media cares about the story. They care about how Bob was an expert wood carver, lost his hands saving 100 orphans from a fire, but through a miracle prosthetic operation, just won the National Whittling Championship. The fact that your client designed, manufactured, and donated the prosthetic hands that made this possible is immaterial.
Learn to craft your pitches as stories. While the media might not care about your client, they will be included in the coverage. It will be hard to train your clients to think this way, but in the long run they will have more success with stories than self-promotion.
2. Get Drunk
Maybe not drunk but at least go out drinking. Drinking is a social activity and a time where you can talk shop while not looking pushy, absorb knowledge without seeming clingy, exchange cards without feeling awkward, and buy a round for someone from whom you might need a future favor. It helps build your social and professional networks in a setting that connects you to people in a deeper way than any email or LinkedIn invitation can.
A night out might help you pay rent, too. Study data shows that those who drink earn 10-14% more than their teetotaling counterparts.
Tweet-Ups, media happy hours, journalist hangout bars, beers with the boss. Drink them all up.
3. Learn to Say “No”
You want to be a team player. You want to be someone who can be trusted, that looks for and accepts extra responsibility, and can be counted on to say, “Yes.” But you can’t be everything to everyone, so learn to say, “No.”
Don’t say “No” because you are lazy or scared.
Say “No” because it is the right thing to do, for yourself and your agency.
Say “No” because that client request is outside the scope of retainer.
Say “No” because that “can’t-miss” story idea is really marketing fluff that will damage your reputation with media for future pitches.
Say “No” because you already over-serviced that account by 15 hours this month and it is eating away at your agency’s profit margins.
Say “No” because you are an individual who has a right to a life outside of work.
4. Be Seen Less Around the Office
I was always taught that to be noticed by the boss, I needed to follow the George Costanza rule: Be first in and last out of the office. Except actually do it. Don’t just lock your keys in the car and leave it parked out front.
In reality, if you want to be loved by the people who need you most, your clients, become a ghost around the office. Every time someone asks, “Where’s Bill?” the answer should always be given with a shake of the head, “He’s out with the client again.” Being out of the office will get you noticed, in positives ways you wouldn’t expect.
It is easy to “defriend” someone you rarely see. Make it as difficult as possible for your clients to do that to you. Remember, your boss hired you, but it is your clients who will get you fired.
5. Be a Terrible Multi-Tasker
There will always be more work to do than you can get done. Trying to do two or three or seven things at once won’t change this. What will change is the quality of your output. And it will be worse.
Turn the cell phone to silent, or better yet, off. Block the time-suck social media sites and set a schedule for checking your email. Prioritize your day and block out time of each project. Client emergency? They can call.
6. There Is Such a Thing as a Stupid Question
From kindergarten, teachers have told us there are no stupid questions. They were lying. There are stupid questions and it will reflect poorly on you if you ask them.
How do you know if you are asking a stupid question? Good question.
Stop for a moment and think: If someone else asked me this, would I reply with a “Let Me Google That For You” email? If the answer is yes, don’t ask it. Save your boss’s time, and patience, for organizational or institutional questions that demonstrate you are thinking about the big picture and not struggling with the minutia.
As much as I would like to say these tips always work, probably only 60% of the time do they work every time. So, use them when you can and don’t be afraid to create your own ways of doing things.