While attending Joshua Radin’s latest concert (which was FABULOUS!), the chorus line of one of his classics, “You Got Growin Up to Do,” really stuck with me. It had me thinking back on what kind of “growing up” I’d done over the last year.
Almost one year ago, I made a decision to do some growing up both personally and professionally. That led this southerner to move 1,100 miles north from the bright Music City lights of Nashville, Tenn. to Boston, Mass. So naturally, hearing the song and being (literally) shut in from the blizzards–(Mom, you were right about the weather)– provided plenty of time for reflection and introspection.
First, this beautiful city has broadened my personal, cultural, and professional experiences beyond what I had imagined. It’s challenged me to meet new, wonderful people. Thanks to the experience of waiting for winter to pass or standing in line to eat at places like Giacomo’s, I’ve also become a more patient person who now believes that many good things in life come slowly, take time and are worth waiting for.
Uprooting and starting a new career at a new PR agency has also challenged me professionally and helped me grow in ways I never thought possible. By exposing me to different working styles and experiences, I have a much broader way of thinking about my career possibilities.
While moving to a new city or agency may not be in the cards for every PR pro, here are three things I would encourage any professional to think about as you “grow up” this year.
Taking responsibility means asking.
Whether it’s getting a promotion, becoming a better writer or landing a client in the Wall Street Journal, growing professionally means taking personal responsibility to meet those big hairy, audacious goals. Above all, I’ve learned you must be smart about the responsibility you ask to take on. First, figure out if they’re reasonable goals for you or your client to attain. Then, examine if they add value to long-term goals. If the answer is yes, also ask:
- How do I get there? This question helps you create a plan of attack for success, identify resources, support or mentorship needed along the way and a timeline to keep yourself accountable for meeting goals.
- How could I have done it better? Getting the job done is great, but part of growing professionally means asking for feedback and understanding how you can improve and lead projects more efficiently in the future. Taking responsibility for your professional growth means not being afraid to ask for feedback
Leadership doesn’t always mean doing. Instead, I’ve learned that leadership is more about listening, encouraging and empowering team players with the confidence and skills they need to stand on their own. If you do everything yourself instead of asking others to share responsibility, you selfishly stunt your peers’ growth in the process by taking away their opportunities to learn, make mistakes and become better employees.
Teamwork really does make the dream work. Coming to SHIFT, knowing it was an agency built entirely on teamwork, was incredibly terrifying to me. Previously, I’d only ever worked as a “one-man show,” and always assumed leadership meant “doing everything” while keeping a smile.
Over the last year, working in a team (shout out to Team Firestarter!) has not only made me a much happier PR pro but it’s also proven why going at it alone is an extremely bad idea, especially for PR work. The “one-man band” structure can stifle PR creativity, stall future-forward thinking/planning for clients and kill opportunities for employee growth and learning.
If you don’t have the opportunity in your current role to practice PR in a team, I suggest starting inner office work groups to foster more collaboration and offer peers the opportunity to work projects outside of their current client roster.
All in all, I believe you should never stop growing, both personally and professionally.