Learning The Ropes

Businesspeople conversing at the water cooler

For those who know me, many would say I trust too easily, and I’d agree. It has its benefits and faults but at the end of the day I trust until proven otherwise. However after being in the “working” world for a couple of years it’s come to my attention that PR developed a well deserved reputation for being a “dog-eat-dog” world . Inspired by Kristen’s post about departing and starting anew, I remembered what it was like to start my 2nd job and learn the ropes of a new corporate culture. Here are a few things I believe helped me:

Listen. This will be hard for us extroverts who want to tell all and jump right in to the mix but stop and sit back. While you’re getting coffee in the morning, remember what people share and make note of what they *don’t* share. Pay attention to well respected co-workers that are within your experience level and age range. See how they carry themselves and interact with everyone from the office manager, CEO, and intern. Maintain your individuality but make sure you are presenting yourself well to new co-workers.

Ask questions. This has two components to it. A) Ask questions to gain a better understanding of the corporate environment that you’re working in. This will help you when trying to understand simple office protocol. B) Ask questions whenever you have a doubt about a project you are working on. Remember: “He who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he who does not remains a fool forever” (Chinese Proverb).

Voice an educated opinion & your passions. There is nothing wrong with voicing your opinion or suggestion at the work place. We often work in teams because each person contributes something different to the task at hand. All I say is make sure you honestly think before you suggest your well thought out idea. That should eliminate what I call, “word vomit.” I also suggest discussing things you’re passionate about. I’ve been given new accounts because the managers knew I would work on it diligently because I genuinely loved the topic.

And to bring us back to the top: trust sparingly. This goes for people within your company or even people you meet networking. Fortunately for me, I have TJ 🙂 (#coworkerlove), but it took time. Finding a confidant is hard. You never know who will have  ulterior motives (It may sound crazy but we’ve all been there). Don’t assume that because everyone dislikes the manager and talks about it, that you can too. I’ve heard horrible stories from friends being set up in that situation. If you believe you’ve found someone you can trust, share small things that if revealed you would have no problem discussing them.

These are just some of the many things I’ve learned along the way. What would you add? What are rules you live by when you start a new job?

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  • Oh, my blushes! Thanks, stina.

  • Danielle Culmone

    Great post Christina! I agree with all of your advice and can relate as I tend to be an oversharer.

    I think one of the most useful skills you can have as a publicist is to know what to share and what not to share. As PR people, we have to be open and spread the word, but the more you work in the industry, you learn what to filter in and out.

    With clients, I always feel that maintaining professionalism at all times is best. Even if you are personally close with a client or colleague, you always have to remember your working relationship.

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  • I especially agree with asking questions when you are in a new career environment. It can be tempting to try to “strut your stuff” and show off your shiny new skills. This will completely blow up on you , however, the first time you make a stupid mistake that could have been prevented with a simple question.

    My personal mantra is to try to never say “No” to a client. If I am not sure how to answer their question or do what they are asking, then I am honest with them. I simply say “I don't know, let me get back to you on that one” and quickly find the smartest person in the room who can help me out! – Tara

  • Oh me too, I am queen of TMI. I think it's because the rule that many people live by, “Would you tell your Dad that?” doesn't apply to me. But that's another story.

    I couldn't agree more, professionalism is key in the work place whether with a colleague or client. Just stay true to yourself also. I sometimes give myself a hard time because I will compare what a friend considers professional to how I act. So for me, I jut try to remain respectful.

  • Tara great advice. I think that goes for a lot of things we deal with, whether it's fielding a client's question or one from the media. No one wants to hear no. Just try you're hardest to find the answer!

  • Russ Barclay

    Christina: You grow wiser than even when you were a student…and then you were already a genius, and a Great American. I should get you to speak to my current students. I shudder for them going out the door, so naive and generous.

  • missmotorcade

    excellent advice, stina – and it applies across industries. great stuff for job switchers generally (and it happens so frequently these days, we'll all get really good at this in no time…).

  • Prof! This totally made my day!

    I had no idea you even subscribed to PR Breakfast Club or read the blog, so thank you! I'm positive that any student of yours is ready for the outside world.

  • Thanks Sherri – you're right – this translates to all careers. Glad you like'd the post!

  • I'm like 55 hours late to the prbc party because I'm just now going through my Google Reader.. but when I was reading this post, I found myself just nodding my head along, agreeing, especially when I got to the bit about voicing your passions. That company didn't hire you to hear 'yes' all the time. Nobody wants a yesman, no matter how much you feel the need to fit in. They value your opinion, so voice it!

    I think it's also important to add something like, remember to keep your hobbies outside of work. If you played guitar for fun on the weekends before the job, make sure you remember to do that even after your job starts. It's easy to get wrapped up in a new job and adjusting to a new routine can take time, but those hobbies, as silly as it sounds, can be easily forgotten. Utilizing that creative/hobby-activity part of your brain is important, too, and can provide a lot of balance in your life. Woooo for commenting hours and hours later! 🙂

  • jeffespo

    Like LAF, I am late to the party. You make a lot of great points especially on the learning who to trust and the asking of questions. I would also note that it is important to show that you have a personality slowly but surely as well.

    I should heed your advice on making thought-out statements. I've been at my job for three years now and still blurt out things that come to me before my brain has a chance to formulate a full-blown course of action. If a new guy/gal did that, I would probably wince in a meeting.