Not that you need the reminder, as I’m sure you’re currently experiencing it but when it comes to your career everyone is full of advice. From where to apply to what events to attend, it’s an endless sea of “you should’s” and “remember to’s.”
It comes from a genuine place of wanting to help you avoid some hard-learned lessons. However, there are consequences of all this sage advice being passed around. After spending 15 years working in PR, it’s safe to say I’ve got some advice of my own. But it’s not quite what you’d expect.
Ironically, my advice to young PR professionals is to ignore the advice that is being given so readily—especially these three:
1) Know what you want
It’s impossible to know what you really want out of a career straight out of the gates. The best thing you can do is to go out and try everything. You don’t need to be reckless but use this time to follow your gut, take risks and learn as much as you can. There’s nothing better for this than working at an agency. You’ll get the chance to work on a much wider range of clients, industries and projects in a time frame that the corporate world could never compete with. Go out and get as much knowledge and experience as you possibly can in your early years because you never know how it will serve you 5, 10 or even 15 years down the line.
2) Build your network
Many times who you know will trump what you know. But for this to ring true, it’s critical that the people in your professional life get value from you. You can’t glad-hand your business card to someone at an industry event and expect something in return from that small exchange. I’ve been fortunate enough to have never needed to apply for a job. While that might sound shocking or downright conceited, I believe it comes down to how I network. When I meet someone, I don’t think of how this person can benefit me. Instead, I think of how I can bring value to this person. To do that, I connect points of value across my network and bring people together. Introducing two people who would enjoy working together, sharing a story idea with a journalist or identify news that is a good fit for someone’s CEO. These small connections do two things, they build trust, demonstrate my capabilities organically and authentically, and give someone immediate benefit without them having to commit to coffee, introductions or work. Connect points of value for other people and the favor will be returned many times over.
3) Stay on the path
Ok ready? This is the most important one! Repeat after me: there is no path; at least not a singular path that everyone should take to succeed. Nor even a path you should take to succeed. One of the most overwhelming aspects of being a young professional is the idea that there is a path to follow or a ladder to climb. Worse is that if you make a mistake or even take a break then you’re off the path. Forget the path. If something feels like a good idea right now, go try it. Then, if you decide in six months that it isn’t the right fit for you, you can change your situation. In the meantime, you will learn crucial insights about yourself such as what you really want out of your career, what you will never do again and what counts as the right thing for the wrong reasons. These days there is so much emphasis on getting the path right that we forget about the joyous journey of learning and developing as professionals. Free yourself from the fear of veering off the path and take the risks that will bump your career to the next level.
It’s a double-edged sword, these early years of your career. The possibilities before you are endless but you have yet to possess the on-the-job skills that will help you hit the ground running. The best advice I can offer you is to keep an open mind about what a dream career really is.
Try a bit of everything early on and let your interests guide how you develop your skills. Over the years, remember that the good you put into the lives of others will come back to your own. Finally, don’t get too tangled up in “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” and know that the best career path for you is the one you’re already on.
Cerys Goodall is an accomplished marketing communications professional who started her career working with Neptec – a Canadian company that enabled NASA to return to space. Cerys became skilled at navigating the relationships between the technology-provider, NASA, the CSA and the astronauts themselves to best-position Canada’s role in the historic event. This work led Cerys to build a career working with technology startups seeking international growth including CAE’s Presagis, BTI Systems, NGRAIN, Freshbooks, Kobo and LEAGUE.
At global eReading giant Kobo, Cerys built an international team with localized integrated marketing communications programs across public relations, community relations, partner relations, and digital media. Under her guidance and strategic positioning of the company, Kobo catapulted from Canadian-darling to global success in her first year. When then-CEO Mike Serbinis exited Kobo to build his next startup, LEAGUE, Cerys joined the team as VP of Marketing to launch the company. Building its brand, consumer base, digital marketing experience, and Serbinis’ own Think Bigger narrative, LEAGUE’s brand was ideally positioned for a successful $25M USD Series A in less than two years.
Now at InnerSpace, an indoor location intelligence platform, Cerys heads up marketing by creating compelling corporate narratives and ownable thought leadership programs, as well as leading client services and product delivery for the company’s Fortune 500 clients.