By Anne Buchanan, President at Buchanan Public Relations
We run a robust internship program here at Buchanan PR and take a deeply personal interest in helping our interns transition into fulltime employment in the Real World. One of our fall interns recently left us to accept a fulltime job. It got me to thinking about all the tools I hope we equipped him with – as well as one that will be new to him but is critically important in launching his career.
Here’s a parting gift to Jeff and all of the terrific interns we’ve had the honor of mentoring over the years: Dear Jeff, Sydney, Mike, Brendan, Diana, etc., etc. –
It’s been a while since you left us as an intern. You’re probably fully ensconced in your First Real Job by now.
I’ve written several blog posts that contain business tips for young PR pros just starting out. But I have a different post for you.
I am going to reveal to you The Key to the Kingdom. The One Thing that will make the difference between success and failure in your first job. It’s a skill you didn’t have much need to develop as an intern, when you worked for multiple account team members.
But now that you’re in the Real World, you’re going to need this one. Because success in your job boils down to a single factor. Your relationship with your boss.
You see, no matter how skilled you are, no matter how beautifully you write, no matter how masterfully you pitch, no matter how cutting-edge your social media skills are, it will count for nothing if you don’t build – and then nurture – a great relationship with your boss.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret about the Corporate World. Most executives are terrible bosses. We try hard, we want to be good managers, we want to lead and inspire and teach. But deadlines and budgets and cranky clients are always getting in the way of our being the boss you need us to be.
What does that mean for you? It means that you must take responsibility for building a great relationship with your boss. You almost need – dare I say it – to manage your boss.
How do you that? Ask yourself this question every day: “What can I do today to make my boss’s life easier?” If you learn to solve problems (and if you’re really good, you’ll anticipate them) for your boss, she will begin to see you as absolutely necessary to her and to your organization’s success.
Here are a few other tips for you as you launch your career:
1. Absorb everything she has to tell you. Expect to be overwhelmed your first few weeks. When I started my first job at an agency – an unusual jump from Corporate to Agency – I later observed that it took me almost a year to know what I didn’t know. Carry a notebook at all times and jot down anything important or puzzling.
2. Ask (intelligent) questions. One of the counter-intuitive skills you will learn over time is that sometimes it’s better to remain silent and not reveal your ignorance. But at the beginning, you get leeway to ask a lot of questions. Take advantage of your early days to ask colleagues questions that will help you match your work to the culture of the
organization. What time do people go to lunch? When do workers go home at night? How do people communicate in the office – by email, phone or in person?
3. Try to gauge your boss’s work rhythm. Some managers don’t mind you popping your head in whenever you have a question. Others may prefer more formal, scheduled chats. Observe how others interact in your office, and model the behavior that seems most preferred. If you really want to impress a new boss, ask him: “Are there better or worse times to come to you if I need help or have a question?”
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for regular feedback. Don’t expect to get regular feedback (although you might luck out and have a boss who offers it regularly). It would be fine a month or so in to ask your boss if you can sit down together and get some tips on what you’re doing well and what you might improve upon. You’ll probably impress her, just by asking for this.
5. Express your gratitude. Don’t forget to occasionally thank your boss for the opportunity to work there. As you know, this is a very competitive job market.
Good luck, guys.
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