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The Public Relations Career X Factor
How to make your mark when breaking into the PR world.
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 by Cori McKeever
Chandler Chicco Agency

Cori McKeeverIt's nearly January, and in just a few short months, commencement speakers across the nation will be addressing thousands of students who are entering the "real world."  

For the public relations profession, this means that a new crop of bright, young practitioners who are eager to prove themselves are about to enter the marketplace.  These prospective graduates will leave the safe haven of college life and enter the exciting, and sometimes frightening, working world.

Many students believe that college will have armed them with all the necessary tools for success.  However, smart graduates will realize that the practical learning they receive once they begin their new job will match their education within a matter of weeks.  Ambitious new professionals will quickly learn that by mastering a handful of intangible factors, they will make their mark faster than the rest.  Those who want to get ahead in the PR profession will be wise to heed the following advice:

Exude confidence, but not arrogance. Some people starting their first PR job are hesitant to voice their opinions and ideas when appropriate, causing colleagues to question their enthusiasm or value. On the other hand, some new employees are so secure in their abilities that they appear arrogant, which can impair their relationships with their colleagues and employers.  The trick is to find the right balance and walk the line between providing thoughtful input and appearing to be a know-it-all.

Identify a mentor. Every professional, regardless of level, has a person they turn to for unbiased guidance.  A mentor can help you navigate an often frenetic first year by providing sage advice and by offering to be a sounding board for your questions.  Choosing a counselor and establishing a mentoring relationship early is one way to get ahead of the game.

Realize that mistakes will be made, but do not make the same ones twice.  Every professional makes mistakes.  The key is to learn from these blunders and commit to not repeating those errors again.  Handling first-time mistakes with grace and professionalism shows maturity and will gain respect from colleagues and peers alike.

Burn the midnight oil. There is no longer such a thing as a nine-to-five job.  Getting ahead doesn't just mean arriving early or staying late, but doing so enthusiastically and willingly.  Smart professionals will proactively offer themselves for extra projects where they can demonstrate their worth.

Commit to being a student of the industry.  Staying on top industry trends is key to getting ahead.  Read the latest journals and PR trades, attend seminars and join professional groups in order to stay one step ahead and impress an account director.

Recognize there is much to learn.  Those fresh out of college have gained a great deal of academic knowledge, but are only on the cusp of the practical education gained from joining the industry.  The humility that comes with realizing one is "green," and the willingness to make the effort to gain as much experience as possible is the surest way of making a mark.

Cori McKeever is a public relations practitioner at the Chandler Chicco Agency (CCA), the nation's largest independent healthcare public relations agency.  Since starting her career at CCA five years ago, Cori has worked at the 
agency's New York City and London offices on various U.S. and 
international accounts. Currently, she is based in the agency's 
Washington, D.C. office and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

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