10 lessons I learned in the first 10 years of my career 

During my final year at university, I couldn’t wait to start work. I’d already completed two summer internships and lined up a job with one of those employers, a PR agency that I’m happy to say I’m still in touch with today.

I graduated in the summer of 2007 and, a decade later, I’ve learned some important lessons that I’m confident will serve me well throughout my career.

So here they are, my top 10:

1. Keep in touch with the people who helped shape your career

A good piece of advice I received early on was “never leave a job on bad terms”. In fact, leaving on the best terms possible has meant I’ve been able to keep in touch with my mentors and call on them years later for advice.

The CEO of my first PR agency and Marketing Manager at my most formative job are the two people I still call on today and I’m so grateful for their continued support. If you can find these people for yourself, hang on to them. Their counsel is invaluable.

2. Get a professional qualification

Five years ago, I completed my Diploma with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. When I started, it had been four years since I graduated and I was really missing the challenge of education. I won’t lie, it was tough studying and writing assignments while working full-time but I was lucky to have the support of my employer who contributed funding and a few days off to attend seminars in London.

I’m proud to hold a professional qualification and it definitely got me thinking about the industry in a more considered way. I also made some great friends who really understand the challenges of doing what we do…

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3. You don’t have to be first in and last out at night

It is far more important to prove that you can manage your workload effectively and deliver to tight deadlines when you need to. Staying late to get things done is sometimes inevitable but it’s not worth doing it just for show.

4. Really get to know your colleagues

I’ve met some people through work who have come to mean a huge amount to me. Not only does it make the day go faster if you like those you’re working with, it also means you have a reliable sounding board to get you through the tough days and someone to celebrate with on the best days. Take the time to get to know your colleagues – you won’t regret it.

10514571_721712872297_2935786205960374607_n5. Never stop learning

It’s easy to get complacent when you feel like work’s going well but with the world moving as quickly as it does, things can change in an instant. Even if you don’t have the budget for formal training, you can sign up for free webinars and evening training/networking sessions where some really influential people come to speak. PR Moment, PR Academy and Social Bakers are some of my favourites for this type of informal training.

6. Regularly talk to others who do a similar job

My job title doesn’t mean that much to people outside of the industry. “What’s a Comms Manager?” is a very common question. Talking to people who understand what you do can be invaluable if you work in a small or one person team and need to float an idea.

Attend networking events, join groups on LinkedIn, make contact with your counterpart in other regions of your organisation. It all helps.

7. Keep records of your own development

…because no-one will do it for you. It’s so important to have a record of your success to look back on and it’s invaluable when you decide it’s time for a new challenge. You won’t need the finer details of every campaign you’ve ever run, but if you can refer to examples of quantifiable success (percentage increases, award wins, customer feedback), you’ll be one step ahead of the competition’s vague assertions of their worth.

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8. Stand up for yourself

The very worst bosses can be bullies so it’s important that you know what you have achieved and arm yourself with the facts to back it up. I once went in to a review meeting unprepared and I’ve always regretted it. If I’d had the figures in that meeting, I would have been able to definitively prove the value of my work, rather than getting railroaded by unfounded assumptions.

9. Take a career break

This is one that probably won’t feature on many people’s lists but I can’t recommend it highly enough. Not only can you quickly gain valuable, transferable skills when you’re in a challenging and unfamiliar environment, I genuinely believe it makes you a more interesting and well-rounded person.

Not convinced? I’ve written more on the topic here: Is taking a career break ever a good idea?

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10. Don’t take things so personally

This is a lesson I’m still trying to learn. I’m grateful that I’ve developed the self awareness to know that if I’m given nine positive pieces of feedback and one suggestion for improvement, I’ll obsess over the negative. Knowledge is power and I’m going to keep trying to take my own advice on this one.

Have you got any other lessons to add to the list? If so, please comment below.

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