Valerie Merahn Simon serves as a Senior Vice President at BurrellesLuce media monitoring and measurement, and writes a national public relations column for examiner.com. She is also co-founder and host of #PRStudChat, a monthly twitter chat between PR professionals and students moderated by Deirdre Breakenridge. She can be found on Twitter or LinkedIn.
As a collegiate the rules of the game are fairly straightforward. You start as a freshman and move ahead one semester at a time. You are graded in every class, and while you may not agree with every evaluation, you know where you stand. Then you graduate and suddenly face the prospect of a semester which may end at any time… or linger on indefinitely. The climb “up the corporate ladder” can be rather intimidating when you are just starting out. Here are 8 tenets that have helped my career progress from an entry level administrative assistant, to a Senior Vice President.
- Work hard. Intelligence, creativity and experience are all important, but they are not enough. If you want new opportunities, you’ll need to demonstrate your dedication to your organization and your commitment to your colleagues and clients or customers through your daily efforts.
- Respect the importance of your current role within the organization and understand why this is of value. You probably won’t be given the most glamorous tasks the first day. Find the glamour in the tasks you are given. I recall some of my early responsibilities included answering phones when our receptionist was at lunch. I focused on the fact that I had the opportunity to make a first impression with clients. I was the hostess to our party and every call was an opportunity to demonstrate a world class service experience. Pride, as well as confidence, are important traits in an emerging leader!
- Respect others and their role within the organization. I have hired a former boss and had former reports become clients. I know an assistant who went on to become a producer and colleagues who have moved on to be clients. Look for the value in each individual and recognize their contributions.
- Recognize the impact of all of your communications, both internal and external. Frustrations come with every job and how you manage them is an important indicator of your potential to lead. Each action has the ability to impact your reputation. As the low person on the totem pole in an industry that is known for high pressure and tight deadlines, you may not always be treated as you “deserve.” Don’t take it out on someone else. Act with intention; be the leader you hope others perceive you to be.
- Observe. Take every opportunity to learn. Make sure that you leave the office a more valuable employee than when you were when you arrived. Every day I make a conscious effort to learn from my colleagues, my clients and our partner companies. Social media has expanded the network of people I learn from each day. Some have more experience, some have less. I learn from those I respect, and I take care to note those behaviors I do intend to mimic.
- Exercise your passion. But always be cognizant of the difference between passion and drama. Enthusiasm, devotion, commitment and focus are tremendous traits. Hysteria and theatrics are not. My career has been driven by a passion for the media, the PR industry and the opportunity to provide world class service (I loved In Search of Excellence).
- “No” is usually the wrong answer. While I hear it is important to learn to say “No,” the fact is, ”No” it is a word most bosses and clients simply do not want to hear. And while I fully subscribe to the importance of not over promising, “No’ is s a word I try desperately to avoid. I have found that oftentimes, the real problem is not with getting an answer, but in identifying the real question. Make sure that you understand your client or bosses underlying need, not just the question they have asked.
- If you are stagnating, move on. My first job after graduating college was at a nonprofit. Though I was passionate about the mission of working to build the capacity of individuals and organizations in education and related fields to work together – across policies, programs and sectors, I found myself struggling in an administrative role that consisted of a great deal of filing and faxing, and offered little opportunity for growth. I was determined to stay there for a year; however a mentor offered me some wise advice, “Why do you need to stay for a year? If you are stagnating, it is time to move on.”
When contemplating new opportunities however (and if you have followed these eight tips, I promise you will have plenty of opportunities), be sure you don’t forget to look at the opportunities within your own organization. My next job did last well beyond that one year milestone; in fact more than 14 years and numerous promotions later my role as an account services representative in a regional office has evolved into a senior executive role in our corporate offices.
Professionals, what other principles do you believe are critical for success in “the real world?” Students, what concerns do you have about the road ahead? Leave a comment- I look forward to discussing!