PR Advice to 21 Year Old You

It’s my birthday soon. Not a big birthday, but the one-before-the-big-one. I’m not depressed (at least not past a point that some alcohol won’t subdue) but these annual milestones do get you thinking. What have I learned? What do I wish I’d done differently?

What advice would I give a younger me?

PRnewsonline posted a great article during the week with a roundup of member comments on the topic “advice to your 21 year old self.”

Then, at a recent training session in Belfast I found myself beside a very savvy young marketing graduate who was putting herself through the course to try to get her foot on the first rung of the industry ladder. And there I was, giving advice like I’m qualified to!

Perhaps I am. But like most folk, I wasn’t at 21. So what advice would I give a younger-me?

- Start at the bottom, you’ll get there

I did start at the bottom, but I despised it. I came from the pre-recession graduates who thought a degree meant we were owed our place rather than earning it. What I should have done? Carried out the menial tasks, noting what I learned from each, without letting it affect my sense of self-worth.

- Don’t expect too much of yourself

So many times over the last decade I’ve taken on new challenges and tasks without the faintest idea how to execute them correctly. Largely because we’re all told that we have to push ourselves to prove ourselves. What I should have done? Accepted the challenges without being afraid to ask for help and without fear of messing it up.

- Expect more from others

People tell you to look for mentors, to learn from leaders. No one warns you that you will encounter some pretty awful human beings in the working world, and no university degree will train you how to deal with it. So like many, I accepted it. What I should have done? Placed the same expectations on my colleagues and seniors as I put on myself.

- Set yourself apart

Like the savvy marketing graduate last week, I had a good idea that I needed to add experience to my CV and I did this by volunteering in my spare time. I didn’t keep up with industry news the way I do now. I didn’t foresee the digital movement and I didn’t start blogging until I was already in a senior communications role. What I should have done? All of the above. Sooner!

- Remember you’re in it for love not money

It’s all too easy to get your self esteem and job satisfaction from the little take-home box at the bottom of your wages slip. I see a lot of young people today fixated with pay rises, I was too. So much so I almost worked myself into the ground to increase my salary by £15,000 in just 4 years. What I should have done? Realised that, once you lose the joy in your work, no amount of money will make you wake up happy (unless you have so much you don’t have to work at all!)

- Have more fun, loosen up, you’ll be a mother soon!

I didn’t party or travel nearly as much as I should have, so fixated was I on jumping up the career ladder before family life loomed. What I should have done? Taken a year out, went to the other side of the world, picked fruit in a field! Experience life. Because life doesn’t stop just because you have a family and neither will your career. In fact, you’ll be a better employee for it.