I realized as I sat down to write this that I had graduated from college nearly two decades ago—and that at that time, I had no clue what a career in public relations meant or how to go about it successfully.
Thankfully, I have been able to work at some great companies, with smart people and amazing clients—oh, and I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy myself along the way. But what advice would I give my 20ish-year old self now?
Be Prepared: The most successful PR campaigns are the result of good preparation—establishing goals and objectives, developing key insights, understanding stakeholders, creating a strategy and executing through solid tactics. Approach the start of your career in public relations the same way. Set your goals and do the research to identify where you would most like to secure a position. Develop an understanding of the unique business practices and key insights for your area of interest. Speak with the stakeholders—find out what they are looking for and develop a solid strategy to showcase how you can meet their needs. Once you secure a position, leverage your strengths and build on the necessary skill sets through your day-to-day tactical execution. Repeat often as you move your career forward.
Work Smarter: Public relations is often fast-paced, deadline driven and service oriented—and at times, peppered with curve balls. It is almost never 9 to 5. Learn and adopt strong organizational, time management and prioritization skills early on—and then use healthy doses of common sense and good judgment to make sure that you are able to efficiently and effectively deliver high-quality work. These block and tackle skills will serve you well.
Love the One You’re With: Your early career in public relations may not be filled with dream jobs and clients at dream companies—but each position, assignment and company can provide you with valuable insights that you can use to build a dream career. Embrace each and every opportunity to gain experience—sometimes it is just as important to know what you don’t want as it is to know what you do want.
It’s Not Always Bright Lights: PR can be an extremely exciting and dynamic career choice—creating campaigns that shape public opinion, developing engaging platforms that can change the world we live in or launching the hottest new product with the hottest spokesperson—that can earn you and your company or client time in the spotlight. But, getting to bask in that glow usually comes after many long days (and nights), as well as weeks and months of research and planning, identifying and overcoming challenges (both big and small) and lots of old fashioned grunt work. To be successful, you must be willing to work just as hard—if not more so—when the spotlight is off.
To Thine Own Self Be True: Be thoughtful in your choices and build a career that brings you a high level of both professional and personal satisfaction—and one that you are proud to tell people about. Because at the end of the day, if you aren’t happy and don’t feel good about what you are doing, then is it really worth it?
Lainey Canevaro has worked at Edelman for 14 years. She is currently SVP, Edelman Consumer Marketing, Chicago. Her clients include Burger King and Brita.