Before I started my first full-time job in public relations, I’ve heard a lot of ‘horror’ stories about the industry. Long working hours, highly competitive environment, twisting stories to deliver results… those are a few that stuck with me the most. I was doubting if I’d chosen the right field to build a career as my personality is the complete opposite to what is ‘supposedly’ normal in the industry.
I never appreciated working long hours just for the sake of creating an image of a hard-working person. I am a firm believer in efficiency and value my time so really, my worst nightmare is to stay in the office (or home office, as corporate offices are not really a thing anymore) until late and be the last one to leave just to prove that I am working hard.
I am not a competitive person, in the traditional sense. I won’t go above and beyond just to see someone else ‘lose’ or ‘score lower’ than me. I do, however, have some competitive characteristics but they mostly translate into high expectations towards myself and being my own worst critic. I am a team player, a kind that expects everyone to contribute equally, so the thought of a competition within my own team is off-putting.
I am also a terrible liar -so bad that I can’t even do it on the phone when no one is looking at me. My best chance at ‘twisting’ the truth is by literally not saying anything at all.
Needless to say, self-doubt was my ‘all time companion’ as I was starting out. I had a belief that my personal characteristics and principles would obstruct me from building a successful career in PR. But I can say now – I was overthinking.
When I started my first full-time job in PR, I was driven by curiosity and passion.
Passion for writing and working on meaningful campaigns, all of that was present in my role of Account Executive at health communication agency – Palin Communications.
But my doubts were still there: Will I fit in with the team? Will my skills and knowledge be enough to prove my worth? Will I have to sacrifice my personal life just to show that I am willing to work hard? Fast forward one year and my self-doubt has turned into self-belief. I do fit in, my skills are enough, and with constant guiding and support, I am seen as a valuable member of the team. After only one year, I was promoted and now taking more responsibilities to allow my confidence to grow further.
My self-doubt didn’t disappear immediately and, in fact, it has been felt by the team in my first few months. However, instead of focusing on ‘the doubts’ the team helped me to turn it into confidence with something as simple as feedback and personal tips.
One of the first onboarding sessions was dedicated to “How to be a hot shot Account Executive”. Reflecting on it now, I feel like it was perhaps the most valuable advice that a workplace could give to a young professional. Having a clear understanding of what is expected helped me to gain confidence as I could check-in with myself and others against specific benchmarks.
So continuing the tale of a PR newbie, I want to share some of my favourite tips, hoping that they might help someone else who is at the start of their journey in PR.
Talk straight. This one is very important as when self-doubting we tend to say more words than are actually needed. My learning – don’t be afraid to share your views and perspective and stick to the point. Being direct helps to push the doubts away and nourishes your confidence.
Be prepared. Nothing else helps with confidence as much as being prepared, especially with client meetings. Often young consultants tend to think that senior staff are there to do all the client-facing work, with juniors sitting quietly and taking notes as they don’t believe they’ve built enough expertise to speak up. But if you have prepared and know the project inside and out – your opinion is just as valuable.
Be a trusted person. At our agency, we have a formula for workplace trust.
Trust = C + R+ I / S, where C is credibility, R – reliability, I – intimacy and S – self-orientation. Simple and powerful. By reducing the focus on yourself and improving your credibility and reliability, especially in difficult times, you become a trusted advisor to your team and clients.
Seek feedback and learn. There is no progression without learning. Being aware of particular aspects that you need to work on makes learning more efficient, so really ask for detailed feedback at every chance you have. Learning new things also boosts our confidence as we feel more accomplished. So always say ‘yes’ to new tasks and opportunities, you will thank yourself later.
Each journey is unique and my learnings are by no means applicable to all cases. But the main thing I wanted to convey is, self-belief can help us achieve things (sometimes even faster than we think is possible) while self-doubt can only pull us back. So work your way out of it and bear fruit.