My friend and colleague Melissa Chang, director of marketing for Aloha Tower Marketplace and PR/social media queen and Honolulu Advertiser blogger, wrote a thoughtful post the other day titled “Welcome to my life” about the realities of public relations and misperceptions of our profession. I think she hit the bullseye (and some) as she shared a tale about a recent day at the office. It’s exactly this kind of chaotic schedule that attracted me to the profession more than nine years ago. I really believe you need to have some kind of “madness” within you to enter a career in PR. Just ask my wife…I’m sure she’d agree.
After graduating from UH Manoa in 1999 with a journalism/PR degree in hand, I fully understood what I was getting into when I got my first PR job at the now defunct PRWorks in Waikiki. After completing an internship and working part time there as an assistant account coordinator (don’t think you can have a lower title than that), it taught me that PR was a tough job that required a thick skin, long hours, sometimes working on the weekend, a lot of “grunt” work to start, and the ability to work with a bunch of different personalities to get the job done. Oh, did I mention the low pay? Who cares! It was the perfect job and I couldn’t wait to start!
As an eager 20-something at the time I did it all. I faxed, photocopied, filed, stuffed envelopes, made coffee, got the bosses lunch, answered the phone, took the mail down to the post office, took meeting notes, compiled horrendous clipping reports, and probably a lot more that I can’t remember. Not the most glorious of jobs coming out of college, but one that I loved. And I must have been pretty good at it because in short time, I was promoted to account executive. My attitude was work hard, learn everything I could, show my bosses I could do what was asked of me well, exceed their expectations, PAY MY DUES, then wait for the rewards to come. And they did.
Sure things are different now. I get to work with great clients, deal with important business people, develop and execute exciting PR initiatives, and manage a great team. But I still have the same attitude today as I did when I started at PRWorks and came to McNeil Wilson Communications in 2000. I take nothing for granted, am still learning something every day, and striving to deliver to the best of my ability. It doesn’t hurt that I had great mentors along the way like Craig Miyamoto, Deborah Sharkey, David McNeil, and David Wilson. Ultimately, I attribute my work ethic to my parents who always supported me, pushed me to do my best, and never let me give up. It’s also the attitude I try to instill in those I work with.
As a supervisor of people and workloads now, it’s hard to dismiss Melissa’s observation about the growing Generation Y work force coming into the marketplace. It’s also a subject of great discussion lately. In her post she writes:
“Yes, it (PR) can be glamorous, but you have to pay your dues and put in the hard work it takes to get there. If you are the type who physically punches in at 8 and out at 5, and demands to have a balance of “me” time, get a government job. If you are fresh out of school and looking to start at the top, call all the shots, make top dollar, and not have to do much but look pretty, … good luck.”
It’s the reality every company is facing today. A story in the Daily Mail describes Gen-Y as “those born after 1982 who expect everything to fall into their laps but who, in reality, massively overestimate their own abilities.” Yikes!
I’m still trying to figure out if this is a fair way to characterize this talented pool of “young-uns,” but one thing is certain in my opinion. This new work force is at our doorstep and cannot be ignored. The challenge for us Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers is to find ways to peacefully co-exist with Gen-Y, manage their expectations, keep them engaged and motivated, and show them that a little hard work never hurt anyone. Will this be easier said than done? Either way, I’m up for the challenge!
If anyone’s got some best practices to share, I’m all ears!