This morning, like most others, I was scrolling down my Twitter feed. I came across a blog post by Marcel Klebba (@marcelkl), describing what he’d learned from his first month in PR.
One week into my year in PR at Microsoft, this made me want to collate my own thoughts on my experience so far. Without getting too PR-specific this early on, here’s a few things I’ve learnt from starting out somewhere new.
1. Make a collection of wise words
I had loads of good conversations during my first week which helped me shape my ideas about the year ahead. Everyone has a unique piece of wisdom which they’re usually willing to share if you ask. Sticking to a chosen few of these thoughts will probably be really helpful somewhere down the line.
The problem I found is how easy it was to have all those conversations, start my role, and instantly forget about them. I’ve made a ‘good advice’ note on my phone now, which I’ll keep adding to as time goes on.
2. Don’t be scared to do things your way
During my first few days I fell into a habit of looking to others when making a decision, no matter how small. Should I stand and wait at that table, or that one? Does this count as ‘smart/casual?’ Especially when in a new environment, your instincts try to make you do whatever anyone else is doing.
Remembering that almost everyone else is looking for that same reassurance is important in building your own confidence. There’s no secret club of people who magically know exactly what to do, and in many cases a definitive answer won’t even exist. Just because no one else is doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Learning to back my own judgements in this way is something I hope to get better at as the year goes on.
3. ‘Networking’ isn’t what it sounds like
Other interns have told me that being advised to ‘network’ totally puts them off doing so. For many, the word reinforces the assumption that they need to come across as polished professionals with an endless supply of insightful things to say. I think it’s better to see ‘networking’, at this point, as just ‘talking to people’ – about absolutely anything. Having only just arrived, we don’t need to act like we have all the answers. Just having casual, friendly conversation has worked pretty well so far.
‘Talk to people’ > ‘networking’.
4. Learn without defending yourself
Something I noticed a few days ago (the first of many realisations this year, I’m sure) was that whenever I was being taught something, I would reply by outlining what I already knew about it. Similarly, when receiving feedback, I’ve often found myself justifying my decisions rather than just taking it on board.
Learning how to learn, without self-consciously explaining myself, is another thing I plan to work on.
5. Don’t prioritise contributing, yet
So far, I’ve imposed a fair amount of pressure on myself to contribute when I probably don’t need to. Rather than measuring success based on what I put forward, it might be better to focus on what I can take away.
When the right moments to contribute arise, those ideas will surely be more valuable by taking the time to learn first. For now, and perhaps generally, asking interesting and (sometimes) challenging questions should come before trying to answer them.
Marcel’s post can be read here: http://marcelkl.co.uk/mumbles/my-first-month-in-public-relations/#more-1865