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How to nail your career in 2013: words from the wise

January 13, 2013

Are you ready to nail it in 2013?

Nail what, you ask? Well, everything. Health and fitness, finances, career.

I’m sure you already have your gym membership sorted, and have paid off your Christmas credit card (yeah right!).

So, onto career. Well, luckily for you, I have consulted the experts on that front.

Since I’ve shared lots of my own career advice here on the blog, I asked some of the stars I work with at Buchan about how they’ve succeeded in their careers to date. These are my mates who have done the hard yards in PR agencies, and now lead awesome teams that do great work.  They also have some spot-on advice for climbing the ladder the right way.

Sara Blasing, Head of Technology (and a former Microsoft account lead for Waggener Edstrom over in Portland and Seattle).

  • Unite as a collaborative leadership group – this counts at all levels. Find your peer group (create one if it doesn’t exist) and work together to proactively manage and solve problems you see at your organisation.
  • Know how to achieve results through others – this is a common mistake of many middle managers in our profession – they become control freaks and don’t trust anyone under them to do the job as good as them. The best managers empower their direct reports to succeed and do the work they want them to, how they need it to be done.
  • Communicate – up/down/sideways. Make sure you always let people know what is going on. This helps build trust in your and your works and helps you avoid being on the defense to micro managers.
  • Tend to the weeds – Details are important. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s and always follow through with your superiors.
  • Don’t be a whiner – One of the most destructive people in an organization is the whiner. Whiners aren’t necessarily public with their complaints. They don’t stand up in meetings and articulate everything they think is wrong with the company. Instead, they move through the organization, speaking privately, sowing doubt, strangling passion. Constructive criticism is healthy, but relentless complaining is toxic. Don’t be one of these people rather be the one that identify these people and replaces them.
  • Work hard, play hard – remember that we aren’t saving lives here (as David Leahy says, it’s PR not ER). This job is stressful and you are always on call in client service. But know when to make the call and prioritise your personal life/play over work or you will burn out.
  • Be ambitious (or maybe better said as “proactive”) – you need to be a person/culture that supports big steps and powerful beliefs. Always participate, have a point of viewand raise your hand.  Proactively identify solutions and up-level appropriately
  • Take the long view – If your culture is dependent on this quarter’s earnings or this month’s sales targets, then it is handicapped by short-term thinking. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in five years. The culture needs to look ahead, not just in months but in years and even decades.

Kyahn Williamson, Account Director, Investor Communication

  • Your internal profile is just as important as your external profile – don’t always prioritise client work over internal initiatives.
  • Don’t wait to be given the responsibility or opportunity – step up and take on new tasks – no matter how small, without waiting to be asked to by your manager or client
  • Service is paramount – at the end of the day clients are buying people – your technical skills might be second to none, but if you can’t deliver that with excellent and consistent service and reliability, and get your client to understand the journey you’re taking them on, they won’t value the work you do – or the results you get as highly. Or as Tom Buchan would put it: you’ve got to have the theatre.
  • No one likes surprises,  so don’t sugar coat things – our job in PR is not only to ‘sell in a story’ or get great media coverage – we need to understand the risks associated with the work we do, and prepare our client adequately.

David Leahy, Account Director, Healthcare 

  • Never turn down a meeting: Whether it be with a recruiter, another agency or a client. You never know where these people will end up, where your career may take you or where your paths may cross again.
  • Be a decent human being: This may sound obvious. However, our industry encourages a lot of high-achieving, smart, career-driven people to join it. As a by-product they can often be driven to the point of being difficult. So by being approachable, relaxed and generally a decent egg to deal with, you’ll stand out.

PR not ER

Thanks Ky, Blaze and David for being generous with your wisdom!



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  1. Lots of great reminders, especially “tend to the weeds.” What better time to do that than the beginning of a new year? Details either seal the deal, or come back to haunt you.

  2. It might sound bleeding obvious but, not just for you PR guys, I would add:
    * know your grammar, don’t rely on spellcheck, and proofread every little sucker.
    I’ve seen reputations tarnished and credibility shot (especially in boardrooms) by what you might think are humble little typos.
    Especially the headings! They are often overlooked in the proofreading but they are the first thing the client or other reader sees.

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