BOOST your PR career in 2018
About the author
Heather leads the CIPR public affairs diploma and digital communication diploma courses. PhD, BSc, PG, RSA, CAM
January is the traditional time to make resolutions. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us fail to last more than a few months before we’ve abandoned our good intentions. To help you follow though on any resolutions to make a career change in 2018, adopt my simple five-step BOOST formula and take control to succeed in the year ahead.
Step 1: Beginnings
One of the seven habits of highly effective people identified by author Stephen Covey is to “Begin with the end in mind”. His advice is to be clear about where you want to be so you can head in the right direction.
Careers are made up of beginnings – times when we take on new jobs or responsibilities – and becomings – times when we gain learning experiences and improve our capabilities.
To give your career a boost, review a recent ‘beginning’ point and assess how you’ve developed subsequently. Perhaps you took on the challenge of leading a project. Identify how this has helped you to become a better leader. Seek endorsements and add your new skills/achievements to your CV (resumé). Look at how project leadership could open up new opportunities for your career.
Step 2: Opportunities
Open yourself up to unexpected opportunities to give your career a boost.
The nature of work in public relations and communications is always changing. This means you need to adopt an adaptive approach to career development and capitalise on what Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz call “planned happenstance”.
They suggest we can learn from “beneficial chance events” by being curious, persistent, flexible, optimistic, and a risk taker when outcomes are uncertain.
Unpredictable or chance events play a role in most people’s careers, but you cannot rely on luck alone. Instead, you need to recognise when career-boosting opportunities present themselves, and create the conditions for more of these to occur. I use the idea of fluidity in career middleness to indicate that contemporary careers are a tapestry of experiences and decisions.
We need to craft a personalised career rather than waiting to be promoted up a rigid career ladder. Being proactive and opportunistic in seeking transformative learning experiences will help you to realise your potential and ensure career sustainability.
Step 3: Originality
Creativity is highly valued in public relations and communication careers. Essentially this means being an original thinker and someone who is able to question assumptions and come up with fresh ideas to solve problems. Anyone can learn to think in this way even if they don’t see themselves as particularly creative. The secret is to seek different stimuli (reading, experiences, people) and practice coming up with lots of ideas for all sorts of situations, personally and professionally.
When looking for a career boost, this step encourages you to develop your own sense of originality. Be clear about who you are and how you want others to perceive you.
Ask others what they think you are good at, what words they use to describe you, and what makes you original. Compare this to your self-perception and apply creative thinking to shift opinions towards a new you.
This is particularly important as your career progresses since we can easily become ‘pigeon-holed’ by our earlier experiences and achievements.
Step 4: Socialising
Maister makes a career boosting case for developing “friendship habits and routines”, such as acknowledging others’ successes and keeping in touch when they are experiencing difficulties. In these very busy times it can seem impossible to find time for professional networking, let alone to socialise with those who may be able to help with your career development. On the other hand, thanks to social media, it has never been easier to keep in touch and add mutual value to our professional relationships, building what Cook refers to as “trust networks”.
This is a reminder to avoid creating what Bauman refers to as a “matrix of random connections and disconnections” that he believes inhibits the development of a meaningful career.
Nevertheless, taking advantage of career encounters with others helps us to establish a place within informal and formal professional communities. Give your career a boost by investing time in nurturing your existing social relationships and developing new ones.
Step 5: Timing
We tend to consider our careers in terms of the time we have spent in particular roles, working for various organisations or since becoming self-employed. Chronologically, you may feel that 2018 is a good time for a career change or perhaps you’re too busy right now to think about your career development. But to quote from a John Lennon song: Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.
My PhD research demonstrates that careers in public relations are not a neatly ordered sequence of events that occur in isolation from what is going on around us.
Consequently, you need to be aware of the changing career context so that you are able to craft a career that gives you satisfaction going forwards. Career success can be measured as much by the quality of your experiences, as by the way we spend your working days and the resulting chronological pattern of your employment record.
The Ancient Greeks used the word kairos to refer to the right or opportune time. As we start 2018, it is important to be mindful that in careers, timing can be everything and be prepared to seize the moment.
There is never as good a time as the present to give your career a boost.
Bauman, Z., 2007. Liquid times: living in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Cook, K.S., 2005. Networks, norms, and trust: the social psychology of social capital. 2004 Cooley Mead award address. Social psychology quarterly. 68 (1), 4–14.
Covey, S., 1989. The 7 habits of highly effective people. Free Press, London. See: https://www.stephencovey.com
Maister, D., 2005. Young professionals: cultivate the habits of friendship. URL: http://davidmaister.com/articles/young-professionals-cultivate-the-habits-of-friendship/
Mitchell, K.E., Levin, A.S., Krumboltz, J.D. 1999. Planned happenstance: constructing unexpected career opportunities. Journal of Counseling & Development. 77 (2), 115–124.
Yaxley, H.M.L. 2017. Career strategies in public relations: constructing an original tapestry paradigm. Doctorate thesis, Bournemouth University. URL: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/29913/