Blind Leading The Blind

Woman Holding Hands over EyesI am a young PR professional and while no longer entry level, I am by no means seasoned either. I joined the social media world to learn more about my career and the industry. I’ve had the opportunity to meet great people along the way, mostly beginners but also some veterans, both of which have taught me more than I ever learned in school. I’ve participated in the many PR chats that our community moderates like #pr20chat, #prstudchat, #u30pro, and #journchat. I always walk away learning something new. But recently I’ve noticed more of my peers giving advice on issues that aren’t so black and white and it’s frequently in instances where they don’t have enough experience to back it up. My generation gets a bad reputation for being “entitled” and it’s because we feel we know everything. Well we don’t. My name is Christina, I’m in my mid twenties and proud to say I don’t know everything and hope I never do.

There are pros and cons to this “know-it-all” mentality. Shocking, I know. As I talk with professionals across a wide spectrum of careers, they always compliment our motivation to be the best. We soak up information like a sponge. We are confident in our opinions and give advice on all topics, even when they’re not so relevant. In this community we help each other by discussing our experiences. We compare those experiences with ours and decide what to do next.  I mentor several students/interns, which includes helping them in their job search.  I edit resumes, discuss what I did to get to where I am today, and what I would have done differently. I rely on knowledge I previously learned from my seasoned mentors to my current mentees. Yet at the same time, I encourage my mentees to be creative and do what they feel will work for them. I don’t have all the answers, I only have experiences.

Millennials need to take the same approach in the work place. My biggest pet peeve is witnessing an argument between a Millennial and a seasoned professional because the Millennial doesn’t understand why the seasoned professional is stuck in a traditional world. We’ve all been there. We just can’t get frustrated. Do I think young professionals can teach seasoned pros something new? Absolutely. But a major con to this “know-it-all” mentality is how stubborn we are. Yes, there is a need for reform, especially in PR, but it’s not going to happen over night. Do I get frustrated with industry professionals who are dead set on old traditions? Yes. But remember they’re successful because of their knowledge and have learned from many years of experience. That’s why when I want to discuss campaign strategies, I’d rather go to a veteran professional. By doing so we’ll combine new ideas with a solid business model.

As a generation, we are stubborn. We believe our way will be, or is, the right way. It’s not. So next time you start dishing advice to senior level executives and you’re getting frustrated because they won’t see why your way is better, stop. Listen to what they’re saying. Chances are you’ll learn something new. If not, aren’t we just the blind leading the blind?

(Note: Also check out “Dear Millenials: Your Parents Lied To You” byBill Sledzik, PR educator at Kent State University, and Open Letter to Millennials by Todd Defren, principal at SHIFT Communications.)

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  • Great post as always! So insightful and definitely a takeaway article for anyone, not just those in the PR field, but for anyone in Gen Y in the professional world.

    It's great to know that you have ideas and even better if you have a boss who listens to those ideas, but like you said, “stop and listen to what their saying.” It's crazy how much you can learn!

  • jolynnelyon

    I'm a journalist-turned-pr-type, and I'm amazed at how much I don't know. And, like you said, I have a lot of company. Both fields are changing so fast, I've gone to pr conferences aimed at students and discovered I'm not the only 40-plus person there–and I've learned from the experience.

  • katie b

    thanks for a great post. it's always encouraging to hear that someone else feels the same way. and thanks for the great advice.

  • @jaykeith

    I absolutely love this topic, and I'm going to weigh in as an old (er) person with a combined 10 years of experience in journalism and PR and a LOT to still learn. One of the things that I love most about the younger generation of PR pros that I follow, interact with, and read about is that they have passion. They want to learn, and they are hungry to move up the ladder quickly. That's fantastic and I applaud them for it. It can actually be infectious, and what a quality for others to feed off of. Many I have a great deal of respect for.

    What is a bit disturbing about some in this group (and I stress “some”) is they obviously feel that because they have read some books, follow certain blogs, and engage with a larger, experienced community that they are somehow now experts in SM or PR. They then make outrageous claims and bold statements about how things should work, should run, and what success ultimately looks like, even for larger companies when they’ve never actually worked for one. Some recognize their lack of experience and offer their opinion in the context of gaining knowledge, but others really believe they know more than seasoned professionals. For me the lack of humility among some in the early to mid 20's crowd is a bit unsettling and something that I think would serve them well in the long run.

    I've read posts from authors where it's been painfully obvious that they really don't have any idea what they're talking about, even though they speak as if they do. I actually feel sympathetic because inaccuracies and false claims jump off the page, but are framed as bona fide facts and truths. What worries me most is that in the comments these posts typically get a slew of “couldn't agree more!” and “you’re 100% right!” type praise from followers, which empowers the authors to continue. Just because other inexperienced people back it up doesn’t mean that what’s been put on paper is accurate. Never have I seen someone in the comments say, “You’re dead wrong on your facts and here’s why.” No one wants to rock the boat and call someone out for being young, inexperienced, and having no business commenting on a topic that it’s clear they have little to no idea about. I know I wouldn’t, especially if I genuinely like the person.

    Seasoned PR pros got to where they are for a reason. They’ve been put through the tests and fought the battles, learned from real life mistakes and taken beatings from bosses, media, customers, their community at large, or the clients. It’s really easy to say, “we should be doing things THIS way” when you haven’t fought those battles and don’t have a perspective on how and why that probably won’t work in the overall framework of the company/agency etc. Every idea sounds great in a vacuum, but real life doesn’t work that way.

    But at the end of the day, I guess that’s why we all commiserate on topics in our field, so we can gain a greater perspective and learn from each other’s mistakes. But I think some humility (on both sides, admittedly) would probably go a long way to tamping down the whole “look at me, I’m someone to listen to, and my voice is one that MATTERS!” attitude that I’ve seen permeate social media. Let’s not forget, disagreements can be a good thing.

  • sandralm39

    Brilliant post!

    I have witnessed so many changes in the time I've worked in a PR firm. Lately the changes have been enormous (yes, that big). Social Media has taken the PR world as we know it, and smacked it around. Traditional PR does not work the same as it did before. Seasoned PR pros have to find the time and energy into learning all about Facebook, Twitter and all the other new tools that are offered. The message of a press release has to be condensed in a set amount of characters because we don't have time to read the whole thing. Old and new are not speaking the same language anymore.

    I can only imagine how someone who has been in this industry for 20+ years to have to sit and listen to someone that has just started, spew knowledge on social media and it's benefits. I think their brain feels like it will explode. Then you have people like my boss who want to always be ahead of the game, and faces the new trends head on, and armed.

    Thankfully, my job is not in PR. Quickbooks just forced me to upgrade after three years of the same ol, same ol.

  • Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed the post!

  • You make a great point, we can learn from each other. It doesn't have to be one way is the right way. Thanks for commenting.

  • Laney

    Took me a day or to catch up, but I really liked this post. What's really interesting for me now, is being in a position where I have some experience (3ish yrs) there are people under me now. And they take an argumentative tone with me too. And sometimes I just want to say “Hey there, I understand what you are feeling. Chill and lets try to work through this.”

    It has made me wonder if our generation is a lot more competitive than others. So much so that we aren't willing to really listen to what we are being told or taught.

    I do think working with another Millenial in this capacity has made me look at my work differently. It's also made me up my game.

  • KA

    I've noticed a lot of young people confusing new modes of communicating (social media being one) or new technology as the message and not as merely a medium for communicating the message. Yes, incorporating social media into your communications strategy is important, but not at the expense of neglecting the big picture.

    Most fairly intelligent people can learn how to use social media sites and the like or a new device by simply playing around with it for an hour or so; however, learning to be an effective communicator and practitioner can takes years of education and experience to master.

    As a fairly young person myself, I'm realizing each day how little I really know in comparison to the vast amount of knowledge that is out there. There's certainly something to be said of the hubris of youth, and it's not always a bad thing. Many of the necessary risks a person needs to take in order to be successful in life require at least a small dose of it.