By Susan Rink, President and Owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC
Throughout my career, I have been blessed with mentors and role models who have taken time to provide guidance, wisdom, a sympathetic ear and – upon occasion – hard truths to help me along. So as I have graduated into a “senior practitioner” role, I am deeply committed to sharing my experiences with those who are just starting out on their PR adventures. To me, it is both a way to give back to my profession and to invest in its future.
Over the past 10 years, I must have spoken to more than 100 college PR/Communications classes at American University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University and most recently, the University of North Carolina – Charlotte.
While my topics have ranged from crisis communications and strategic planning to “The Wacky World of an Internal Communications Professional,” the topic that drives the most engagement with both undergraduate and graduate students is, “How to Survive Your First Year in the Workplace.”
The reason for that is simple: Most colleges and universities are focused on building professional toolkits, with emphasis on research, measurement and strategy. But even professors who have come from the “real world” of PR don’t have time in their lesson plans to provide useful tips for dealing with workplace politics, finding a mentor or advocate, and dealing with the realities of today’s workplace. And that’s a darn shame.
Some of the topics I cover in my workplace survival presentation include:
- How to know whether this opportunity is a good fit for you (it’s not just about the salary)
- Why it is important to have both a mentor and an advocate (and the difference between the two)
- When to listen and absorb, when to speak up, and how not to get sucked into workplace politics
- What others can learn from you
- How to demonstrate interest in advancing your career without seeming too pushy
- What to learn from bad bosses as well as good ones
- What to do if the organization turns out to be a bad fit
As you can see from the list, these tips could apply to just about any profession. That’s not a coincidence, since some of them come from my work experiences prior to moving into PR/Communications. I’m sure that as you read this list, you are thinking of your own survival tips and what you might share with a group of young professionals.
Which leads me to this piece of advice: Get out there and tell your story. The young men and women who are preparing to enter the workplace are eager and willing to hear how they can survive and succeed in their careers. They are looking for someone like you to share knowledge and experience with them.
If public speaking isn’t your thing, that’s fine. Reach out to the young professionals in your organization and offer to mentor or guide them. They will appreciate your time and your wisdom, and best of all, you may even learn something new from these bright young minds. Like what the heck Snapchat is and how to use it.
About the Author
Susan C. Rink is president and owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC, which helps their clients talk to and listen to their employees during times of change. Her clients range from global technology, retail, manufacturing and hospitality companies to professional associations and “think tanks.” Prior to forming Rink Strategic Communications in 2007, Susan spent more than two decades in employee communication leadership positions with Nextel Communications and Marriott International. A long-time resident of the Washington, DC, area and former chair of PRSA-NCC’s Independent PR Alliance, Susan recently relocated to South Carolina where she is learning to drive faster, speak slower and cook really good grits.