Public relations is a fast-paced, deadline-oriented industry. The rigors of balancing multiple projects for multiple clients and colleagues can be overwhelming, especially early on in your career. I’ll admit I shed a few tears, was stressed, scared and overwhelmed from time to time during the early days of my agency and corporate career. However, I did learn a few lessons and created some techniques that helped make me a more focused, poised and subsequently more productive and happy professional.
Here are a few tips and suggestions for entry-level and senior PR alike.
- This is PR. We aren’t doing life-saving surgery, fighting a war or walking on a tightrope over a pit of ravenous hyenas. Ok, it may feel like that sometimes, but while the work we do is important and meaningful, generally speaking it is not something over which we should be shedding serious tears or stress. Perspective is a great thing.
- I always play the “worst case scenario” game. When I am really swamped or stressed, I ask myself: “what is the worst thing that can happen if I miss the deadline? Make a mistake? Upset my boss?” Hopefully the answer isn’t really as awful as your stress is indicating.
- Don’t be so sensitive. Your boss or client criticizes your work, or worse, you personally. Learning to take constructive (and even negative) feedback is an essential element to career success and life success. Not everyone is going to love your work all the time. Your ability to take the suggestions or criticisms, learn from them, NOT dwell on the negative will serve you well.
- Put out the hottest fires first. Learn to prioritize and assess what tasks are truly the most urgent. Although all assignments are important, you must figure out how to assess various shades of urgency. Ask yourself Question #2 on this post to help determine priorities.
- Speak up! If you say yes to everything without letting your clients and supervisors know what other important work you are doing, you will get overwhelmed. In PR, you’ll be given us much work as you can handle, so handle as much as you can, but learn to also TELL others what you are doing so the quality of the work doesn’t suffer.
- Step away. As you feel your stress rising, take a moment before you crash. Get up, go get a drink of water, stretch (yes, stretch your body), walk outside for a bit. Taking a few deep breaths away from your desk really will help you.
- Find a mentor. Identify a colleague or a friend that you respect and trust. Find a colleague that seems to maintain his/her poise even in intense situations. Bouncing ideas or struggles off this person will help you to see things more clearly. It is hard to have perspective when you are in a stressful environment.
- Don’t get distracted by stressful colleagues or friends. Rehashing the negative encounter with a colleague or client doesn’t always help and it makes you look like you cannot handle pressure. In fact what was likely small incident may turn into an issue if you immediately react. Everyone knows someone who always has a negative story to share. Don’t become that person. Take an hour, or even day or two and move on. If you are still bothered by something after a few days, perhaps it is something you should discuss with a peer or trusted mentor.
- TURN THE PHONE/COMPUTER OFF! Are you attached to your personal electronic devices? Try not to check work emails or for that matter, personal texts, around the clock. Carve out time during work day where you don’t check emails for a half hour. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll get done.
- Take time to read a book at night, exercise or get some sleep. You must do something to shut off your brain each day. Find that thing and do it religiously.
Finally: Laugh. Having a sense of humor about yourself and your business is healthy. Take pride in what you do, but never forget to actually enjoy it.