Almost a year ago, I published a list of unwritten rules any entry-level employee (or intern) in the PR and marketing world could take to heart and learn from. It was true then and it’s true now: College gives you the building blocks, but you have to put them together to create a career you love. I’m pretty sure there’s a Tetris metaphor here, but I’ll refrain.
Now it’s time for an update. Showing some love to hardworking Account Executives and those a couple years out from graduation, here are my five unwritten rules learned on the job:
1. Think strategically. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind. Open an email, dash off a response, on to the next project. Write a creative brief in a mad dash and send it away. Post something on a client’s social handle without thinking about hashtags, links, etc. Break through the mental clutter. The most useful people are the ones who take a step back and ask, “Why are we doing this?” and “Is there a better way?” Sometimes we have to work tactically, and sometimes there is no better way, but we’re stronger team players because of that critical thinking.
2. Get lively. Think office life can’t get any more boring? Don’t contribute to it, then! Spruce up your desk with a houseplant. Add an exclamation point to your internal emails. Be the one consistently saying “Hello!” to those you pass in the hall. Trust me, being a ray of light in the office is much more fun (and fun to be around!) than a gloomy raincloud.
3. Break free. If you’re feeling stuck or bogged down with your current work or projects, speak up. None of your managers will know you’d like some help unless you ask. Talking with coworkers about your struggles feels good and is a necessary outlet, but when you’re ready for the winds of change, talk to your boss.
4. Try not to be so hard on yourself. You probably went through four years of college (or more) to get where you are today. You worked really, really hard, so be proud of that. Even if you’re not living that Pinterest-perfect life (and if you know someone who is, call me, because I’d love to find out their secret), there’s a lot going right for you.
5. Go hard or go home. Learn Mandarin. Write the first page of that book you’ve had in your head for years. Sleep if you need to recharge. Hell, even just take a walk over lunch. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s the concept of “vegging out.” I love to be entertained as much as anyone, but no good can come of spending night after night watching TV or scrolling through Instagram waiting for something better or more exciting. You have to be your own champion. No one can do that as well as you.
Ryan Collins is Social Media Program Manager at AKHIA.