Career advice

Career Advice for a Budding PR Professional

Imagine you had a time machine and you could visit a younger version of yourself as you entered the workforce for the first time. What advice would you give yourself?

I’ve been pondering that question since my cousin Kate, who just graduated college with a degree in public relations, asked if she could “pick my brain.” She’s clearly off to a strong start with some corporate lingo and a willingness to ask for help.

Here’s what I advised her:

Know What You Want

So many of us fell into our careers. Don’t let outside circumstances carve your career path. Make methodical decisions based on your deepest desires. Take this time now to examine every potential public relations avenue —crisis, nonprofit, technology, event planning — through as many informational interviews as you can muster. Navigating a career change down the line isn’t smooth sailing.

Power Your Performance with Passion

During my first PR job, I was on fire to impress my bosses, clients and co-workers. That unbridled passion led me to establish my own public relations firm. If you want success, work harder than anyone else and suggest new ideas that will make you shine. Feel a sense of urgency about generating results.

Hone Your Writing Skills

The act of writing will undoubtedly dominate your days, no matter what PR path you pursue. To learn to write, read. Find different writers you admire and type their exact words onto the page to get a feel for their styles. Share your own writing with others and ask for feedback. Relish the opportunity to sharpen your skills. Your positive attitude will flow through your work.

Nurture Your Network

I’ve lost connection with so many valuable contacts that I had years ago. I regret that I haven’t made more of a concerted effort to keep in touch with people I used to work with. Set up your LinkedIn profile and actively nurture long-lasting connections for your mutual benefit.

Learn to Deal With Adversity

My first boss in the field used to say, “no babies died over this.” Most of the time, that’s true in the world of public relations. Mind you, this bit of advice came days before she departed the agency and left me in the lurch to train myself as the company imploded. You’ll experience failure and encounter difficult people, so learn how to deal with turmoil and tyrants.

Lock Arms with a Mentor

I can’t imagine where I would be without my mentor, Jeannette Paladino, the author of this blog. She’s been like my fairy godmother. Through her guidance, I improved my skills. But more importantly, I learned how to expand my abilities through constructive criticism rather than shutting down.

Two things she taught me: 1) Be guided by the “Doctrine of Completed Work,” meaning never turn anything in to your boss or client until it’s as perfect as you can possibly make it. 2) Paint a picture in the reader’s minds with your words.

Starting off with a clean slate is a golden opportunity I’m sure many of us wish we had right now. I envy my cousin as she gets to custom design the career of her dreams. My most important piece of advice to her is: believe with a whole and happy heart that you can achieve what you want and you will.

What advice would you add for my cousin Kate?


Amy Dean career advice PR professionalAmy Dean is President of Dean Public Relations. She communicates strategically and creatively across traditional and new media channels to keep businesses top of mind and at the heart of their industry’s discussions. Dean provides a range of communications consulting to raise the visibility of her clients including strategic communications positioning and key message development, media relations, press releases and bylined articles, social media strategies and execution, and seminar and webinar services.

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  1. Excellent advice, Amy! I definitely agree that following your passion is important for those of us who have been working for awhile. That is much tougher to do when you’re just starting out. But one can certainly drive one’s career in the direction of one’s passions and then pursue them full tilt once you’ve got some experience behind you.

    I also agree that Linked In, mentorship, and networking are key components to building any career. Good luck, Kate!

  2. All great points Amy, but for me what drives it all is knowing what you want. I worked as a life and small business coach for years and it’s amazing how many people who are well into their adulthood still have no clue what they want to do with their life. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Wonderful advice! !The one that struck me most is that most people fall into their careers. Whenever I’ve spoken to a recent college grad about this, they give the look – you know, askance. But then I tell them that I didn’t grow up dreaming of being a restaurant equipment salesman, nor had it ever dawned on me in college. Yet I had a super successful career. Being open to possibilities is so important, I think. And I would never have made it, had I not been the lucky side-kick of many mentors in the industry.

  4. Learn to deal with Adversity. I think this is a big one these days. I just saw a documentary on how all kids get trophies these days in sporting competitions and that it can lead to a population where entitlement is the norm and adversity something never needed handling. It seems that kids grow up believing they are more wonderful than they are and cannot handle it when someone gives them a C (for instance) in a test. Learn to handle adversity as life will throw some, if not a lot, your way.

  5. Sage advice Amy. Your cousin is off to a good start!

    One thing to add because the distilled wisdom is quite rich.

    Remember when you are networking that we all network for the same reasons. To find a job, to find an employee, to find a customer. With that perspective, always be connecting to discover how you can help others. Once you get known as the go-to person, you’ll find people will be going to you for just what you want.

    Best wishes, Kate, as as you go out and find work you love.

  6. I agree all great advice. I would add don’t fear rejection. You’ll apply for many jobs, and hopefully you’ll get your pick of the lot; but you may not get selected after a long interview process. No worries, you’ll land a job that will make you happy. Be persistent and learn from your mistakes in the job search. As a workshop facilitator at an urban career center, I see many promising candidates miss their opportunities only to bounce back and land the prize. You’ll do well, based on what your cousin says about you.

    • Excellent add Bob! As I wonder, “why didn’t I think of that?” it reminds me of another point to add: celebrate the successes of your colleagues! It’s easy when you’re first starting out to feel hyper competitive as you try to prove your value to your bosses, clients, etc. Sometimes this can lead to feeling jealous of other’s people’s wins. She shouldn’t fall into that trap! It’s corrosive to the spirit and clutters the mind. Generous feelings towards co-workers will generate an abundance of opportunities to grow, personally and professionally.

  7. Hi Amy and welcome to Jeannette’s blog!

    I agree with everyone that your advice to Kate is excellent. I can’t think of a thing to add.

    I wholeheartedly endorse building relationships on social media sites like LinkedIn and finding a mentor is some of the best advice that we can offer.

    I am not surprised that Jeannette was your mentor. She is always there to help others. It was nice of you to use your article as an opportunity to acknowledge her.

    It sounds like you may end up being Kate’s mentor. 🙂

  8. Wonderful post, Amy and Jeannette – I really like this suggestion, “Find different writers you admire and type their exact words onto the page to get a feel for their styles.” I would never have thought of doing that but it makes so much sense to practice writing this way. Subconsciously you’re going to pick up some great skills. ‘Learn to deal with adversity’ is another favourite here because sooner or later you will need this skill.
    Amy, I do want to wish your cousin Kate all the best as she enters the corporate world.

  9. If I had any advice, it would be to tell her to get her foot in the door as fast as possible. After college, I had difficulty find a career in my field. This was mostly because I was planning on returning to the military.
    When I finally looked for work, my degree was no longer valid, even with work outside my career choice, I had no more advantage than a recent grad. The might have had more advantage, since they are recent grads and have not had a chance to forget what they learned in school,
    Get a job in your field as fast as you can.

  10. Great advice, Amy. Just would like to add that learning coding, or even better, programming is essential. No matter what you do everything nowadays is about digital products and companies. And that concept really applies when it comes to PR in our global world. If you try getting funding for a startup product or service that is not digital you are almost certain to fail.

  11. You’re so right Doreen. It’s easier to pursue our passions the more we know ourselves and that understanding comes with age. Maybe Kate can close the gap between her present and future self by talking to as many professionals as she can to assess what resonates most deeply with her. I never got that advice when I was her age.

  12. Jeanette and Amy, what wonderful advice to those looking to start their careers in PR, or in other areas too. I wish someone had mentored me at a young age and helped me determine what it was I wanted to be and how best to go about and what it was going to take. So many of us just fall into our career paths I think. Very helpful!