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The top 5 things that keep me sane at work

April 16, 2013


Time in a PR agency can be measured in dog years. I’ve been in consulting for over a decade now, so that’s about 70 years in normal career time. I reckon I should be able to retire; sadly, my superannuation fund doesn’t agree.

PR consulting is an emotionally intensive game. When you’re winning (clients, media hits … whatever) it’s inspiring and satisfying. When you’re losing clients, when nobody on earth wants to run your story, when you have a client that sucks your will to live … well, there are some tough times to be had. I guess every job is like that in some ways; maybe PR just attracts emotional people.

When I had a particularly rough day recently, I threatened to disappear to an ashram. It’s become a bit of touchstone for me and my colleague David. On a good day, the Ashram Rating is low; on a bad one, we start googling the closest ones.

But all jokes aside, work can be tough. The things that keep us here, doing what we do, come down to the people we work with and the cool work we get to do. So I decided to make a list of the things that make my job awesome, and which keep the Ashram rating to ‘low’ most days.

1. Friends – I’m pretty spoiled, in that I work with a bunch of people who totally rock. Whether we are having $3 Friday drinks together (seriously, that exists in Sydney!) or they are staging an intervention when I can’t possibly write the proposal I need to write, friends are what make work … well .. less worky.

2. Mentors – It was a good day when I decided to come and work for the inimitable Tom Buchan. He’s had a profound influence on my career, starting from the time when I handed him my first new business proposal and he told me the writing was ‘shit’. He was right, it was. Tom and a bunch of other smarter, more experienced people have made a big difference to my career. Everyone needs at least one good mentor.

3. Asking for help – It’s no use having either friends or mentors, if you don’t reach out to them. People aren’t mind readers; if you want their support, you often have to be very explicit about it. They generally love giving it, but it’s up to you to show a little vulnerability.

4. New stuff – One of my clients is a career management expert, and he says that the key to staying engaged in your job is to keep ‘stretching’ – doing new, different things that challenge you. Sometimes, you need to proactively look for things that get you outside the orbit of your everyday work. Put your hand up for a taskforce, teach yourself to make an Infographic (I have, but I suck) – whatever you can do, find ways to make it new and different

5. Martinis – sometimes, alcohol is the only way to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Wine is fine too.

What about you? What gets you through the tough days?


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  1. I totally agree with your top 5 and would say that it applies to all client facing jobs, not just PR. However I would make it a top 6 list and add – working with and developing junior staff.
    I get a lot out of teaching people working under me and watching them develop over time. It’s definitely a perk of rising up through the ranks. Also, a task that I find routine and mundane is often a new and exciting experience for them and I get to feed off the excitement and energy that they bring to work.

  2. Shaun Wootton permalink

    Great post! Re: sh*t writing… you can’t beat a bit of Tom’s tough love, can you? Please kick him, I mean… say hello from me. Greetings from London!

  3. I love the concept of an ashram rating. One of my best work friends actually sent me a link to a property listing in Udaipur with the currency conversion worked out. I think that’s almost the same thing! But yes, couldn’t agree more that it’s the people all the way … and the drinking …

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