Every year about this time, young graduates email me about PR internships and job opportunities. These messages often come with a request to meet up so they can ask me a few questions about my own career and get some advice. Here’s the questions I usually get:
How did you get a start in your career?
As a young mother, I was part of a women returners’ group exploring career choices. Our group facilitator had arranged a tour of Ottawa’s Civic Hospital, so that we could see for ourselves the many jobs and career choices in healthcare. I saw female doctors, nurses, technicians, technologists, cooks, cleaners and therapists. But I couldn’t see myself in any of these jobs. Then I asked the woman who was giving us the tour….what’s your job? She explained she worked in the PR department and described some of her duties. Now, this sounded better. I could see myself in a job like that. She told me about Algonquin College‘s PR Diploma Program, and I applied the very next day.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
Getting my first agency job is a definite highlight. I started my career working for a Canadian crown corporation writing internal newsletters and stakeholder magazine articles. It was a very good job, but it was boring. On my first day at Datanews (later changed to The Reputation Managers), a PR agency based in Milton Keynes, UK, I knew I was in the right environment for me. It was fast-paced, varied, demanding and I got to work with some brilliant, creative people.
Another highlight was when working at a boutique agency in Washington DC. I put together a media tour in which our client was interviewed by The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, CBS, The Boston Globe, The San Jose Mercury News, The San Francisco Chronical and the LA Times plus about a dozen tech trade media. I was really proud of that work.
Starting Strive PR, my own agency in the Isle of Man is another highlight. I arrived on that island not knowing a soul and started knocking on doors. Soon I had sizable book of clients and a couple of employees. It was fun. I learned a lot and made a bit of dosh doing it.
I really enjoyed speaking at last year’s IABC World Conference in Toronto and being invited to attend SXSWi as a mentor. Both events provided unique experiences, and I got to meet marketing and communications professionals from around the world.
What were some low points?
Losing clients is never nice. The first time I was in the front line of an agency firing stands out as a low point. I didn’t see it coming. I cried on the train on the way home. I felt humiliated and ashamed. But with time and experience I’ve learned not to take these things personally. Sometimes business relationships turn out well, some times they don’t. It’s never the end of the world.
Do you have any advice for young professionals starting out?
Find a charity or a good cause you believe in and volunteer your time and talents. You’ll meet people, make friends and gain crucial real world experience. Employers love hiring people who are motivated to volunteer and who have passions. This is the x-factor that often makes the difference in a job interview.
If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would it be?
I stayed five years in my first agency job, and I should have left after three . Being a productive, dependable writer meant I didn’t get many chances to try new things. Two years is a long time to feel frustrated and resentful.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Doing cool work with smart people. That’s where I always want to be.
Will you hire me?
Maybe, but not necessarily. I hire only when my firm has a real need for particular skills or talents to support client work. I hire people who are smart, motivated and productive. I hire team players who work well independently. Is that you?
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