Key learnings – Not for your client’s campaign, but from my career to-date (that I wish someone told me about earlier)
By Sophie Roubicek
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen, heard or said the term ‘key learnings’ I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d probably have around $50-$100.
Being asked regularly for key learnings across any work executed should come as no surprise to a PR professional. We can always learn – even when campaigns are considered a success.
One thing I’ve never done, however, is reflect on the key learnings from my own career. Five years in and even though I have a long way to go, starting out as an Account Executive and now being a Account Director there are (more than) a few lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
Whilst they might not be totally mind blowing, I’ve found these learnings are imperative when starting out in this industry and setting yourself up for success.
- Re-read your emails. Not in a … “you sound too forward here” or “maybe you’ve used too many exclamation points (IMO use however many exclamation points you want!!!)” …kind of way, but thinking a little more critically…do I really need to be saying all of this?
Personally, I add way too many unnecessary words in my emails. Condense! People aren’t impressed by your three paragraph, 10 bullet point long email – only say what’s important or benefiting the conversation. Does it even need to be an email? Could it be a slack message or even a call?
Also before you hit send, check your spelling.
- Surprisingly, people can’t read your mind. For so long I was worried that transparency around how I was really doing at work would make people think I was inexperienced and inefficient. However, transparency around your workload is one of the most important parts of finding success in an agency.
You are constantly juggling a never ending to do list (we’ll get to that), last minute client requests and maybe even a little crisis every now and again. Be upfront, realistic and manage expectations from the get go (internally AND externally).
Say yes to tasks but provide reasonable deadlines. If it’s urgent, review the week ahead, what can be pushed? Who can be flexible? And what can you delegate? Your team is there to support you and want you to succeed.
- Set boundaries. In 2021, I recognised the importance of setting boundaries. Working from home for longer than ever before made me realise I had no boundaries. As much as people in my life advised me to set them, I didn’t. In fact, it was like I didn’t understand the definition of the word.
We did a training session on boundaries towards the end of 2021, and it was eye opening to say the least. I realised I was the one who had set unrealistic expectations, not my employer. Our senior leaders encouraged us to block out lunchtimes, get out for fresh air, take meetings on a walk, finish early on Fridays, and take days off for our mental health. If my employer was encouraging flexibility and balance, why had I been so determined to ignore it?
In 2022 I’ve learnt to set boundaries and it is genuinely working, I am feeling more motivated and less overwhelmed, a couple of tips:
- Turn off work notifications on your phone; email, teams, Whatsapp – nobody is emailing you with an emergency. If it’s really THAT urgent, they will call.
- Plans are important. Whether it’s a gym class, dinner with friends or trying out a new recipe that if you don’t start at 5:30pm, you’re probably ordering Uber Eats, No matter what, DON’T CANCEL. Prioritise the things that make you happy, because no matter how stressed you are, these moments will always leave you better positioned to tackle whatever was stressing you out.
- Clean out your calendar. Can that meeting be an email? Or can it be a 5 minute call? Learn to clean out your diary like you would your fridge at the start of a week. Free up time to get the work done instead of just talking about getting the work done.
- To-do lists are there to be helpful, not to stress you out. Some of the best advice I have received is how to structure a to-do list.
Last year, I got to a point where my to-do list felt never ending and unachievable. I felt completely overwhelmed, there was too much to do and not enough time. Every task seemed as urgent as the next and I couldn’t get to it all.
It may seem obvious to some – how to get the most out of your day and structure the week ahead – but this is not an art I had mastered.
I would write one big list which didn’t identify priorities, it identified clients and every task at hand. I reviewed the list by which client had the most tasks and tackled it from there. I don’t advise this approach. It wasn’t strategic nor productive.
I have since made some adjustments and it has completely changed my productivity and work life balance (extreme, I know). I structure tasks by day, what needs to be done in the next 8 hours. I was never able to cross everything off my list at the end of the day, because it was literally impossible. Now, I am realistic about when I am going to get things done, assign it to a day or even assign it to the following week.
It’s important to take it day by day, be flexible when you need to and have the autonomy to move things around (by being transparent and setting boundaries…see, it all relates). You can’t get a week’s worth of work done in a day and no one expects you to.
Right, in the spirit of realistic to-do lists, I feel like that’s enough for today. I highly recommend writing your own key learnings and doing some reflection. The only reason I learnt all the above was because my managers took me through their key learnings, providing me with pearls of wisdom and some much needed advice.
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