A few of the larger organizations I’ve worked for include ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ on their list of core values. Unfortunately, most of the employees are unclear as to what that actually means and how they are expected to display entrepreneurial characteristics in their daily activities. Within a smaller organization or a startup, this may be more easily realized given the inherent mindset and culture of the work environment. But for larger organizations, corporate bureaucracy, complexities, control, and investor pressures bring a host of challenges and barriers. Established brands, organizational hierarchies, and endless policies and procedures can breed complacency.
No matter the size of the organization you work for, or even if you are in fact an entrepreneur launching your own business, proactively incorporating core elements of an entrepreneurial spirit is vital to distinguishing oneself in a sea of talent, building professional excellence, and achieving long-term success.
Like many seasoned practitioners, I’ve often been approached by individuals seeking advice as they begin a career in the field of corporate communications and public relations (PR). Usually they ask for my opinion on what it’s really like to work in this profession day-to-day, or the best way to build a successful and fulfilling career.
There are loads of advice and numerous suggestions out there which are generally spot on. However, I always offer the caveat that there are certain factors making each experience unique. Things like geographic location, corporate culture, business or industry focus, company size, and executive leadership are just a few circumstances that can individualize an experience, for better or for worse.
For me, I came into the field in a non-traditional manner versus a more direct route. I didn’t set out to be here, but this is where I ended up. I actually prefer that this was an evolution for me as I think that brought me greater insights into people, the role, and the clients I serve.
Based on my personal experiences, as well as those I know in the industry and the paths they forged, I’ve compiled my best advice for anyone wanting to launch a career in corporation communications and PR.
Remember how excited you’d get as a kid when it came time to take a field trip? To hop on a school bus and leave the monotony of the classroom for a day so you could engross yourself in something new and different. It was a refreshing break from the confines of four beige walls, uncomfortable desks, and boring books. You got the chance to interact in a more dynamic environment and socialize with your closest friends. It was a limited opportunity to become immersed in a real life, hands-on setting versus the mind-numbing daily lectures and textbooks.
As adults, we don’t always get those same opportunities, or maybe we do and just don’t think of them in the same way as we used to. We may view that off site trip as a business meeting or networking event, which completely depletes our energy levels and makes us want to crawl back into bed. But more than likely, as busy professionals we just don’t create those experiences for ourselves—with our overloaded calendars and endless task lists. We never make the effort to push ourselves outside daily routines to experience something different and gain fresh perspective.
Over the past several months I’ve had the pleasure of attending many local networking and learning events. It’s been a fantastic experience, helping me to immerse myself into the Chicago business, tech, and creative communities after being heads down for far too long. The growth in Chicago has been exciting to see, and the tech and startup world here continues to boom.
These events are a great way to meet new people, connect with potential employers or prospective clients, learn about the latest trends and technologies, and even get inspired on current projects. However, showing up to networking events when you don’t know a sole can be an intimidating process. I’m not a shy person and like to think I can engage in conversation with the best of them. Like many of you, I’ve read numerous books and articles on how to network effectively. Yet I find that many of us still make a few rookie mistakes, or even presumably get so comfortable with a set of people that we forget how many newbies are around who could use our welcoming support.