It was May of 2019 when I got the call. That one call I couldn’t miss. The call that would symbolize the beginning of my career as a PR practitioner.
I was in the middle of another job interview when our then HR officer told me over the phone that the job I applied for a few days ago was mine if I still wanted it. On top of that, she asked if I was available to start immediately. I was conflicted and didn’t know whether to jump from joy or cry considering the interviewer was still in the room. But one thing was for sure: I had a job. Even more special, this was my first writing job, my dream career.
Now, four years, a few Public Relations Society of the Philippines National PR Congresses, Chevron Volunteer Weeks, and countless articles and campaigns later, I’ve not only learned valuable lessons from the people I’ve met and worked with but I have also had a few enlightenment of my own to share. From pulling all-nighters and realizing cramming doesn’t work for me, having a breakdown in the bathroom (okay, maybe two or three breakdowns) to crafting my own work style and finding my place in the industry, here are the insights and lessons I can share:
Appreciating the job starts with a better understanding of the field.
When I started, I operated with only a vague idea of what PR is and how I fit in this new world. I thought that my work as a writer started and ended with writing, that I could perform in a vacuum and tune out everything else that was unrelated to my role or the tasks at hand. Client relations, reputation building and brand representation were just words or concepts. Editing wasn’t even in my idea of putting out copy, at least not the kind of editing I’ve been exposed to over the years. To me, once I got the OK of my supervisor, that meant my job was done and whatever came after was no longer my concern. This mindset, I know now, is a recipe for disaster.
PR is an ecosystem of companies, organizations or brands, audiences and PR professionals nurtured by the relationships they have built over time and by the nuances of their individual worlds. To appreciate fully the job that I have is to understand the entire PR process, including the different stakeholders — internal and external — and their roles in this ecosystem. The latter goes beyond talking to one’s peers and familiarizing oneself with their work, although that is a good start.
I started to look at the entire picture instead of just the portion relevant to me. I started to fully understand and appreciate the PR process and see the big picture from content ideation, planning and development to press release dissemination and even event execution. I also begun to see the value in my team’s content process and from it tried to establish my own. As a writer, I know the value of research, but I appreciate it even more so now. I want to stay interested and curious.
As one’s skills improve, so do one’s standards.
In my initial years in PR, my speed in writing was one of my concerns. I felt I just was not fast enough and beating deadlines while delivering on other tasks presented a challenge. With practice, however, I was able to fix this. The more I wrote, the more I was able manage my writing pace. This then gave me the flexibility and bandwidth to work on improving my turnaround time for other tasks. I noticed, however, that whenever I made minor mistakes or the speed or quality of my work slightly dipped I would punish myself because I deemed it unacceptable.
Over time and with my optimist glasses on, I learned to take this to mean that my standards — for my own work and that of others — are getting better, if not becoming more stringent. I have higher expectations of myself and the work that I put out since my definition of good has improved. For the same reason, I tend to be more critical of myself and my work. It’s like building muscle mass: The bigger you get, the more food you’re now required to eat to sustain the muscle you’ve built and the more you need to sustain the workouts.
Getting regular and critical assessment from my supervisor helped me see my progress as a writer, my strengths and points for improvement, and these tremendously kept my faith and confidence in writing. These assessments also made me believe that I am becoming a better writer. I noticed the changes in how I attack copy and plan the entire writing process, even including the editing part. I noticed how my thought process has evolved. All these came alongside the rise in my own standards for quality writing and quality work overall.
My next assignment now is to be kinder to myself when reviewing my work so I can continue improving and not to underappreciate the progress I’ve achieved thus far. This doesn’t mean, however, that I will be less critical of my own work but on the contrary, continue self-evaluation and further boost my critical thinking skills so I can continue being the best writer and editor I can be.
We have to seize every opportunity to learn.
When the pandemic happened and we had to work from home, which meant less time commuting to and from work, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I enrolled in a free course online to learn the basics of SEO and eventually content marketing. I realized how endless the opportunities are out there and how much there is to learn.
So, if you’re looking to make your extra time more valuable or you have some downtime or during a long break, invest in yourself by taking courses online . It doesn’t even have to be strictly about your current work — it can also be a topic you’ve been interested in and have been planning to learn more of. There are a lot of free courses online, and you can take them depending on your own availability and schedule.
I recognized even more so the value of attending relevant webinars and workshops, whether that’s on social media, marketing or consumer behavior. I believe I shouldn’t limit my choices to what I think is relevant to me now. Instead, I am being more open to topics that my future self will thank me for such as digitalization, AI and other technology-forward topics. I know for certain I will use the learnings one way or another one day, and if not the specific lessons then at least the discipline in nurturing the passion for learning.
But even with this new-found emphasis on continuous education, I also realized that learning is not limited to those channels. Listening to my teammates and co-workers from other departments gives me a glimpse into their creative processes or time management techniques — something I can draw lessons from. Following certain personalities and brands on social media not only provides a source of entertainment but also gets one in the loop on the latest trends. Even just being in nature or listening to people’s conversations in public places can spark an idea or a peek into people’s sentiments in relation to certain news events, trends or happenings in one’s field of work or country.
Good advice from good people may make us feel uncomfortable at first, but it will make sense eventually.
As an introvert, it doesn’t come natural to me to lead and be assertive or firm when dealing with others. When I got promoted I naturally got assigned a few new roles. Besides my usual daily responsibilities, I have to take on more leadership tasks and lead projects. All these on top of helping manage other members of the team and guide them in other aspects of the job.
I found it hard to get comfortable with my new role overall and the expectations that came with it. Anxiety took over me and I was overwhelmed. I even misread having the new responsibilities as being forced to become someone I’m not.
When I calmed down and examined the changes with a clearer mind, I realized that not only are my new responsibilities reasonable and doable, they are also aligned with the long-term career plan my supervisor had for me. I had to get over my personal worries and approach the changes with a radical mindset. I had to see what my supervisor saw in me and trust that with guidance and practice, I can conquer my new responsibilities like everything else I have vanquished in the past.
From filtering out my team’s task load and managing assignments and communication with other teams, overseeing one of the company’s social media channels from content ideation, creation to posting and monitoring, to raising quality standards for the broader range of content that I put out, I can say I have adjusted well to my new responsibilities and am excited about what else I’m going to discover about myself and my capabilities.
I consider it a personal victory to be able to stay and thrive in a role and industry in which I had no prior experience nor idea about. An even greater triumph is meeting good people, continuously learning from them and building friendships that go beyond work. There is no career, job or industry without any challenges, and it would be silly and unrealistic to wish for one. For without a little hurdle along the way, there is no learning and without learning, there is no improvement.