3 Major Things I Learned from My First Job
- Back To Basics
During my half-year stay at a certain company under Oglivy & Mathers, I’ve learned that public relations is a hard, challenging, burning-not-only-the-midnight-oil but your liver as well, fast-paced, heart-stopping job that requires quick-thinking, fast typing, numerous bottles of eye-drops to moisturize dry eyeballs, a steady head in the face of a client’s sudden proposal or crisis…and… I could go on.
It’s also an extremely rewarding and challenging job, that brings a sense of satisfaction at the end of each project or event that overshadows anything negative prior the events. The sense of accomplishment you share with your teammates, the sense of awe that you’ve created something big with your teammates, is inspiring. Sometimes it brings tears to your eyes when during an event, everything doesn’t just go exactly the way it was planned, it also invoked the very emotions in the audience and atmosphere that we wanted.
Self-growth usually mirrors the fast-paced environment PR is renowned for, but most newcomers are at risk of early burnout. In spite of the challenges PRs face (like long-working hours), I stayed on for half a year because it was rewarding. Like solving and overcoming problems we faced pushed my brain until it made leaps of logic and discoveries that I didn’t know possible until that moment. Like accomplishing something big.
You’re constantly pushed out of your comfort zone and it is extremely hard not to grow in that kind of environment. I loved that.
But first things first, let’s get down to this listicle of the things I’ve learned in PR.
- Pacesetting- As an English major graduate, we were grilled with the skills of looking and being open to every possible angle when analyzing anything. (Usually it’s literature). But in PR, we’re expected and encouraged to look ahead, to be 2 steps (or more) ahead of managers and clients, to be more future-oriented, meaning as we make one decision, we have to anticipate the potential consequences or questions that our clients might throw at us, and prepare accordingly. At first, I flailed aimlessly, as I didn’t have an idea of what lay before me. It was after looking to my managers for advice did I eventually grasp what ‘being 2 steps ahead’ meant.
An instance of this was during our preparation of our client’s event for TGS this year. I was in charge of finding e-sport teams from universities to participate in our opening show and other programs. It was an uphill battle, because university had already let out students for the winter holidays, and knowing this would affect how the teams could meet up at TGS, I told my manager in advance that students might ask for transportation fee since they wouldn’t be in the Taipei or Northern Taiwan area, and in order to avoid this, while I’d still message teams and clubs in all of Taiwan, I’d concentrate mostly on finding teams with teammates based in the north. Also, telling our client in advance meant other giving them a heads up on a potential slight change in the budget plan, but also it reassured them that we had their best interests at heart.
Luckily, I rounded up the required amount of teams to compete in our TGS event. One team did ask for transportation fee and we suggested our client to either provide the fee sans post-event gift, or vice versa. In the end, everyone won. (Well, except for the teams we found; they were annihilated by our client’s sponsored e-sport pro team.)
- Delegating- I’ve always prided myself at never turning an assignment late during my college years, yet I came extremely close to missing deadlines during my work in PR. After self-reflection, the one major root of this problem was delegation.
What I learned from this experience was how important delegation was and when to look for help, especially eventually knowing how much work I had on my plate. I had been under the dangerous belief that I was supposed finish all the things my project leader handed me.
The moment I knew I was behind on our schedule, I informed my project leader, yet I didn’t outsource the most time-spending part of the report to (our already overworked part-timers), where I could concentrate on getting the other parts of our report done.
Work is different from school work, and in PR, you’re usually pulled in different directions at the same time. As a result, it is vital to mange your time and energy in the right places before diving into your work. Prior this report, I usually handled parts of a whole assignment and the project leader would compile everything together. I lacked self-understanding of the amount of time I’d usually work on a particular assignment, or knowledge of how much time should be spent on the report I was assigned to.
This lack of self-understanding directly influenced how I handled the assignment during its planning period. The first major report I was assigned with was due 5 days after I received first notice. I planned a day to compile all the information I needed for the report, a day of deciding and inserting the contents into the powerpoint and briefing my manager for the first check-up and then another day to revise and another check-up. The last day would be the final check-up and sending it to our client. There was no room for any potential game-changing situations, as I already knew I was on a tight schedule. I told myself I had to follow this schedule at all costs- no buts. In hindsight, that didn’t seem very smart at all.
What I didn’t anticipate was how our clipping report was half-finished, therefore I spent some time collecting clips, creating the clipping report and putting it into our PR Report of the event. At the same time, I was contacting the media for product review for a different client, and in between doing a section for a proposal. I was a day late in my plans. We only managed to give the client our report on time with the eventual help of the project leader. I witnessed first-hand how my project leader, who beforehand didn’t participate much in my report, quickly became acquainted with the whole situation (a must in PR where crises could happen at any time), and how a plan with no back-up plan could easily become overturned at the slightest moment.
- Back to Basics- In the face of everyday work and challenges, we usually forget and overlook the very basics in our work. More often than not, it’s usually misspelling, wrong punctuation, details in our reports, or the right attitude. For me, it was the details that got me. Sometimes, despite checking and re-checking, I would still miss some details that were quite obvious once they were pointed out. I would then enlist the help of my colleagues to overlook my works as well; two pair of eyes are usually better than one.
Another is attitude. We can get complacent. We can let our guard down, we’re no longer on our toes. Sometimes it’s a good thing; meaning we’re settling into our job, that we’re gaining experience. Sometimes it can mess us up when we least expect it. The truth is to find that balance between being embracing everything thrown at you with enough openness and the steadiness that comes with experience.
So, I left my job.
I eventually left because I realized I could not relate to my clients. Despite my passion for getting things done and getting the desire results for anything our clients asked, I could not find the passion to run the extra mile for my clients. Relating to my job is everything and important to me but yet knowing my reluctance to understand and giving my client more, I knew PR wasn’t right for me. I asked myself why, and this little voice gave me the answer that had been with me since elementary school: You want to write.
So, write I shall. Hopefully I’ll find a job that incorporates everything that I like. I’m leaning towards journalism.