I’m a lucky guy. Most days I wake up I’m excited to go to work. I work with clients and people I respect and enjoy spending time with. I have creative freedom in my work. I have flexibility in my schedule. And, at the end of the day, I live and die by my own decisions as a business owner. Starting my own business has been the best thing that’s happened to me professionally, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I have each and every day.
But, that hasn’t come without a ton of hard work. It also hasn’t come without the help from A LOT of people.
My head spins when I think about all the people who have helped me get to where I am today.
I think of Deborah Ely-Lawrence, one of my first true mentors when I worked for an accounting and consulting firm named RSM McGladrey about 10 years ago.
I think of Nikki Gibbs who I worked with and for at Beehive PR. Nikki taught me a ton about the art of consulting and building teams.
I think about Candee Wolf. My first de facto client. Someone who took a chance on me when I needed it. And someone who’s been one of my biggest supporters.
I think about Gabby Nelson. Another early client, and another staunch supporter. But, maybe more importantly, a good friend.
I couldn’t possibly list all the people who have impacted my professional life the last 16-plus years. Much like parenting, it really does take a village. But, I can do my part to give back to an industry and community that’s done so much for me. It’s why I co-founded HAPPO (next chat is next Thursday, remember!). And, it’s why I continue to create The HAPPO Report each week. Speak at APR classes. And, give my time to younger pros or job seekers whenever I can. I just see it as the right thing to do.
So, today, I thought I’d give back by providing 9 tips to the next generation of PR counselors. A few pieces of advice that have helped me through the years. And, tips I think can and will make a difference for you at some point along the way. Take these to heart–I did, and at one point or another they’ve all made a difference for me.
I don’t think I need to elaborate here. But, I will. Here’s a little insight–when times are at their best, that’s when you should be the most humble. Think about it. If you’ve achieved a great deal of success, chances are that came as a result of hard work, luck/timing and help from others. I’m not discounting hard work, but those other two have an awful lot to do with it, too. Remember that. And act accordingly.
2–Don’t tell people how great you are–let others do it for you
Too often, I hear younger counselors listing out their accomplishments. Or, telling me about how many great job offers they’re now getting. Or, telling me about the awards they’ve won. Instead, why not heed tip #1 and let your peers do the talking. If you’re really as great and coveted as you say you are, your friends and colleagues will be singing your praises every chance they get.
3–Ask questions. A LOT of questions.
Any counselor will tell you the secret to consulting is asking questions–the right questions. Because, guess what happens when you ask questions? You listen.
4–Be a joiner.
One of the best decisions I made in my career was joining PRSA. That led me to join a committee, which led to me joining an APR study group, which eventually led to me joining the MN PRSA board. All of that led to many, many friendships. A few jobs. And my current role as a small business owner. You get the idea. Be a serial joiner–the benefits will be many.
5–Patience young grasshopper.
You know the most common topic I hear about when chatting with my younger colleagues? Getting that next job. We all want to climb the ladder. We all want a better job. But, there’s a reason they say patience is a virtue. Patience means battling through difficult situations, instead of running and looking for a new job (I’m guilty of this one). Patience means staying put, even when you think opportunities may be few and far between with your current employer. Patience means staying in one job for more than six months when you don’t get that quick promotion. I’ve learned this lesson the hard way–don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made.
6–Be careful what you wish for.
Sure you want that VP role? Keep in mind, those senior roles comes with a pretty hefty cost. Namely, a lack of personal time and a high degree of stress. Have you really monitored what your bosses boss does each evening? Chances are, it’s not hitting the bars. Just be careful what you’re aspiring to do. Once you get there, you might not like the harsh reality.
7–Don’t be a boss–be a leader.
There is a difference. Bosses use language like “me, my, mine, yours.” Leads speak in terms of ours, teams and us. Big difference, right? Don’t be the kind of manager that tells people what to do–be the kind of manager who inspires. Who motivates. Who employees want to emulate.
8–All you have is your reputation.
Remember, after all the titles. All the money. And all the cool events, parties and campaigns, all you have is your good name. Make sure you take that seriously. Very seriously. Jobs, campaigns and awards will come and go. No one will remember most of that stuff by the time you decide to hang it up. But, they will remember your name. What you stood for. Your passions. Make sure manage your own reputation every bit as diligently as you would your clients.
9–Don’t believe the hype.
I know some people who have some pretty damn cool jobs. And, they have a lot of people telling them how great they are. How much they want to work with them. How impressed they are with them. Don’t fall prey to maybe the biggest gaffe I see happening today (especially with younger pros): Don’t believe the hype about yourself. Stay humble (tip #1 above). Stay curious. Always keep learning. And, most of all, remember where you’ve been and stay true to who you are.
Those are my nine tips for today’s younger PR counselor. What about you? Any advice for the next generation?
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Photo courtesy of quinn.anya via FlickR Creative Commons.