Adjusting to your first full-time public relations job
This is the first post in a three-part series discussing the first year in public relations for those who recently graduated and landed their first jobs.
As much as I’d like to tell you the first three months of full-time public relations work will be a breeze, I want to be honest. Your first three months will most certainly be exciting and fun, but they also will be full of unexpected challenges and frustrations. To address and navigate those, here are a couple things to expect, as well as a few survival tips.
The Three-Month Slump
I’ve noticed many of my friends early into their first full-time jobs mention they consistently feel exhausted and often find themselves crashing early in the evening or choosing Netflix over happy hour. I call this the three-month slump, though it may be less than that.
Your internal clock should adjust after a few months, so don’t fear if you find yourself feeling too tired to have fun during the week. Most people I know, including myself, soon snapped out of the slump and hit a stride.
If you want to overcome the slump and have the energy to meet friends after work, consider doing the following:
- Hit the gym. When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is wake up early to go to the gym or hit the gym right after work. But working out can actually enhance how you feel and perform at work.
- Have a healthy afternoon snack. Here are a few snacks nutritionists recommend.
- Drink some caffeine. According to a study covered in The Washington Post, caffeine is most effective between 10 a.m. and noon and between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Proceed with caution to avoid becoming caffeine dependent.
- Get enough sleep, but not too much. Overcompensating by frequently getting more sleep (i.e., more than 9 hours) is actually bad for your health.
Not having a plan, and freaking out about it
If you’re like me, your entire collegiate life was spent pursuing goals that included get a great job. But one day you may be sitting in your well decorated cubicle and realize, “Crap, I don’t have a five-year plan. I don’t even have plans for this weekend!!” and then proceed to have a mini panic attack.
As easy as it can be for you to freak out about the fact that you don’t have a plan, don’t do it – at least not yet. My advice is to celebrate that you got a job (likely with a salary and benefits), moved out of your parents’ house (if you were lucky) and graduated. Focus on adjusting to your new job and making a good impression for a few months, and then worry about setting long-term goals.
With that said, you must not forget to start out focused on getting to the next level in your current position. Do set goals for that.
One way to do this is to write down what you want to accomplish within your first year at the company, and then sit down with your supervisor to talk through your goals and ask if he or she has any to add or revise. There’s a chance you could get a promotion before the end of your first year, and you should know what it takes to get there.
Even if you’ve had multiple internships, including one with your employer, your first job will be challenging. Adjusting to full-time, fast-paced public relations work will be full of great moments, but it can also be overwhelming.
Here are a few tips for adjusting:
- Speak up, and ask for help. The worst thing you can do when you have a stack of work and are still learning the ropes is keep quiet and not ask for help, especially if you don’t think you can meet a deadline. If you’re not comfortable going to the head of the team for advice, ask a younger colleague who can relate.
- Find a mentor within your company and a mentor outside your company. Both will be critical in putting things in perspective and helping you navigate your first job.
- Get to know the people you work with. You don’t have to become bffs with your fellow assistant account executives, but taking the time to greet people every morning and occasionally eat lunch or get coffee with colleagues will help you feel connected and comfortable in the office.
Additional survival tips
- Build a PR posse. Peers who also recently started their first jobs can rely on each other to celebrate achievements and talk through frustrations.
- Take a break from organizations and volunteer leadership. You worked hard, overcommitted and overachieved for about the past four years. It’s OK to take three months off from going to meetings and volunteering. Give adjusting to a new setting your full attention, and then, once you feel comfortable, branch out and get involved in the community.
- Fight the urge to isolate yourself. When the three-month slump hits, it can be easy to isolate yourself and lose touch with friends from college. Relationships are hard to maintain when your friends and family are miles away, but keeping in touch as best you can will help maintain the relationships you built.