After several years at my first PR firm, I ventured 10,000 miles across the globe to an agency in Boston. I quickly realized that while there’s plenty of information for fresh grads joining the PR world, many of us are flying blind when it comes to a mid-career switch.
In many ways, switching agencies can present more of a challenge. To start, you’re carrying habits, many of which you won’t even realize until they’re challenged. You’re back at square one when it comes to relationships with clients and colleagues. And -- shock and horror -- you don’t even know how the coffee machine works.
Here are six tips to avoid awkward moments, get settled in quickly, and start producing great work with your new team.
1) You'll learn the clients. First, learn your team.
It’s easy to get caught up in a sea of new clients -- sifting through acronyms, reading past coverage, and learning what needs to be done. But that knowledge will be useless if you don’t know how to work with your brand new colleagues. Put down those campaign calendars and old press releases, and get to know your surroundings, your teammates, and the do’s and dont’s. After all, these are the people you want to do your best work with. It’s important to know who they actually are.
2) Yes, ask questions. But then shut up, and listen to the answers.
We all know there’s no such thing as a stupid question, but that’s only half the equation. Make sure that you’re not just asking, but are also taking in the answers that you get. Don’t be afraid to ask again if you didn’t understand the first time or if you need something clarified. And whatever you do, write things down.
3) Keep your past experiences in the rear view mirror, not in the passenger's seat.
You’ve lived and breathed your old agency for years, and it’s those experiences that have made you the PR professional you are today. But this is a new environment -- with new clients and new colleagues -- and things are probably different than what you’re used to. So while it’s important to refer to your previous work from time to time, don’t try and fit everything into your old methods, practices, and templates. A clean slate is a valuable thing.
4) Find a buddy, and make them your new best friend.
This is the person who you’ll be able to rely on for almost anything. Not sure how those new-fangled phones work? Ask your buddy. Need to get some advice on email etiquette? Ask your buddy. Looking for a lunchtime recommendation? Ask your buddy.
5) Put yourself in your new colleagues' shoes.
Remember when you were the experienced one and a new team member joined? What impressed you about them? What did you wish they’d done? Take those memories, and put them to good use. Everyone values a new colleague who takes the time and effort to be an active part of their new team from the get-go.
6) Be grateful.
It’s not all about you. Your new teammates have put in a lot of work to welcome you and make you feel at home while also balancing their existing priorities and deadlines. You should know that -- you’ve probably done it yourself. Show them you appreciate it. (Pro tip: brownies and cupcakes help.)