[Jas' note: I'm thrilled to welcome Niki Ianni, a fellow Temple University alum, to the blog with a great and timely post.]
Six months ago to the day, I put on my new Macy’s clearance rack suit, smoothed my hair, double-checked my briefcase for all the basics and took a deep breath as I walked confidently into the next phase of my life – the start of my post-graduate career.
The all-nighter study sessions, thousands of draft edits and hundreds of internship hours… everything I worked for in the past four years had finally paid off. While getting here had not been an easy feat, full of dozens of applications, gallons of coffee and the occasional mental breakdown…with hard work and determination, I secured my dream job working as a public relations specialist at the largest animal protection organization in the country.
For those who are preparing to start their careers or have already just begun, here are my three biggest pieces of advice for you that these past six months have taught me:
It takes time. You know the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, there’s actually a lot of truth to it. I’m not sure why I thought I could leave my first day of work knowing everything and being able to do everything – but I did. When it came time to submit my first press release to my director for review, my stomach was in knots.
I remember apologizing in the email… something along the lines of, “Here is the release for your review. I’m sorry it’s not perfect!” I’ll never forget her response: “Niki, I don’t expect it to be perfect… nothing ever is. You’re still learning.” Sometimes you just need to remember that all of your colleagues who have been there for years started off exactly where you are and eventually they grew, too… with time.
You’re going to make mistakes. Probably more than you’d like to admit. But that doesn’t make you a failure – it makes you human and it teaches you lessons you might had otherwise never learned. I’m a firm believer that it’s not the mistakes themselves, but how you handle them that really defines your character. You can cry and hope the mistake goes away, or you can take responsibility and fix it. I’ve sent out releases with a typo, or hit send too soon. I mean, in my first month I accidentally called a reporter in Seattle at 6 a.m. (I forgot about these things called time zones) and woke her up. Not my shining moment.
While I was horrified and for a few brief moments thought, “Okay…surely this is the one to ‘end’ my career,” I instead found ways to resolve each problem and instilled practices that would prevent them from ever happening again. Because that’s the thing about mistakes – it’s okay to make them occasionally, so long as you never make the same one twice.
You have a voice – don’t be afraid to use it. I’m fortunate to work with a team of highly accomplished and talented professionals who have been honing their craft for many years. So naturally it was a bit intimidating to call these people my colleagues because in comparison to their experience, I felt way out of my league. Remember you were hired for a reason. Yes, your co-workers may have been in the industry for a decade and have a great deal they can teach you, however don’t discount the skills and knowledge that you can bring to the table as well.
Sometimes it’s your lack of experience that can be your greatest asset as you’re able to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that may have never been considered before. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions – it will only make your team that much stronger.
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can remember is to believe in yourself. Believe in your talents, your knowledge and your skills – because this opportunity didn’t just come to you; you created it. Never lose sight of that.
Niki Ianni is a recent Temple University graduate where she majored in strategic communication with a concentration in public relations. At Temple, Niki served as the former director of PRowl Public Relations, Temple’s first student-run PR firm and was an executive board member for Temple PRSSA. She now resides in the Washington, D.C. area where she works as the public relations specialist for The Humane Society of the United States.