Your career in public relations is a work in progress
To have a great career in public relations, in fact in any discipline, you must have passion for what you do. It is a cliché for sure; people so often talk about how important it is to be ‘passionate’ about work. But, here’s why we at Briggs Communications we know it’s true: passion is the one thing that gives you the mindset – the constant hunger, the get-up-and-go – that motivates you to drive change and claim direction in your professional life. And to keep this up over your lifetime, you should always see your career in public relations as a work in progress.
In their book, The Start-Up of You, Reid Hoffman (executive chairman of LinkedIn) and writer Ben Casnocha shrewdly explore this concept, describing it as a state of “permanent beta”. Hoffman and Casnocha derive this idea from the Silicon Valley start-up practice of keeping a “beta test phase” label on products well after they go to market, to emphasise they’re still a work in progress. This idea is famously embodied by established tech and entrepreneurial brands like Apple, which Steve Jobs called the “biggest start-up on the planet”. Jobs was committed to ongoing improvement and learning, a fundamental factor in Apple’s stellar success. As Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young”.
Passion gives you the fortitude to overcome challenges and to strive for ongoing improvement in your work. Mostly, people who have great careers do a lot to carve out their successful pathway. If you want a great career in public relations, passion is your best friend because a great career won’t land in your lap. You build it thoughtfully, with determination, and an investment of time, money and effort; nothing will happen unless you take action. This is why career coaching or mentoring can be so valuable in helping you identify where your passion lies, and therefore where your investment is best spent. In this Ted Talks clip, Larry Smith gives an engaging explanation of why great careers don’t happen without passion: Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career.
We believe in the power of passion because here at Briggs Communications we don’t define a ‘great career’ by the job title on your business cards, or the wage you earn at your job, or the number of hours you do or don’t work, or the name of the companies for which you’ve worked. We believe a truly great career is about satisfaction – about being paid to do something you enjoy every day (or nearly every day)! If you do something you don’t enjoy, those practical matters become the focus and will quickly divert your attention from what’s really important for your career satisfaction. But, they become incidental when the tangible work you do every day is intrinsically satisfying. Your career in public relations is a work in progress
Maintaining a hunger for learning and continual improvement will ensure you have a constantly fresh and relevant perspective as you work. We’re often reminded that we can improve brain and memory function as we get older by being mentally active – bring on the sudoku and crosswords. The same concept applies to improving professionally as your career matures – enter a commitment to lifelong learning.
Leaders from business, academia and politics concur that ongoing learning and professional development (lifelong learning) has many benefits. In 2002, the Council of the European Union made a resolution to increase the application of lifelong learning programmes within the European Union. This commitment was based on “the importance of lifelong learning for competitiveness and employability” read more Adult learning: It is never too late to learn. They define lifelong learning as: “learning undertaken by adults after having left initial education and training”. They established that increasing the incidence of lifelong learning would be critical to achieving the Lisbon strategy’s objectives of economic growth and social inclusion. John F. Kennedy summed up the relationship between learning and professional development in saying, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.
To find your passion, think about what kind of public relations work you ultimately want to do every minute of every day. Then find a way to do it; to monetise it, and do it. This might be through a job with a company, or in freelance work, or in a combination of paid and volunteer work. Value your happiness enough to commit yourself to doing something that has meaning for you. Authenticity is central to this. If you don’t believe in your personal brand or the brand of what you’re selling or producing for a wage – then take those first steps towards change. Steve Jobs explained his own experience of this saying, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.
Good public relations professionals understand strategic planning, so Briggs Communications’ practical suggestion is that you approach your public relations career with some strategic planning principles. Define your goals with blue-sky thinking; don’t get bogged down in logistics when you formulate your vision. Make your goals optimistic and ambitious, but flexible enough to withstand the practical realities of change and the need for you and your skills to evolve accordingly. The world will change, you will change, and your career plan must be supple enough to accommodate these changes. In a robust communication strategy you set critical success factors and check points to monitor progress at which point you have an opportunity to adapt or realign things to account for external factors and unexpected hurdles. Your career approach should be no different.
Having the right mindset and being passionate about your work are vital to maintaining professional adaptability throughout peaks, troughs and redirections. Seek some mentoring or career coaching to get you started or to give you a boost when you feel things have plateaued; Briggs Communications has seen clients get great value from this career investment. See your career as a work in progress and you will set yourself up for success, as Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha suggest, “See each day is an opportunity to learn more, do more, grow more”.
Co-authored by Briggs Communications and Astrid Leslie