Jim Bakken, a 2001 graduate of our PR program, spoke last week in my management class. He confirmed some things the students already know about landing a job. Yes, social media expertise is highly prized. Yes, excellent writing and presentation skills are required, as are quality internships, but he surprised students when he shared some rather old-fashioned ideas for advancing quickly on that first job.
Now, Jim knows a bit about getting ahead. Following an internship with the Dallas Cowboys, he joined McNeely Pigott & Fox, a PR firm in Nashville. Several promotions later, he added responsibility for screening all résumés the agency received. In 2010, Jim joined Peritus and was charged with opening and building the agency's first office in Alabama. Two years later, the new office is profitable and running fast.
When students asked Jim what they need to know to advance quickly on the job, he responded that it's less what they know and more what they do. He then specified four time-tested behaviors:
• Arrive early for work. You'll be noticed. (The three students who arrived late for Jim's talk will forever remember this point.)
• Complete big assignments early. If you're given an assignment on Monday that's due on Friday, work hard to complete it by Tuesday or Wednesday. This demonstrates your commitment and capacity for work.
• Volunteer to help others complete their projects – and then do so pleasantly. You'll gain friends and build trust.
• Always carry a pen and notepad. When you meet with the boss, or anyone else, make a few notes. You may not need the notes to remember what you were asked to do, but the act of taking notes demonstrates respect for the other person.
In short, positive work behaviors are always in fashion and probably more appreciated today than ever in our frenzied, I'm-too-busy work world.
Bruce Berger, Ph.D. is Reese Phifer Professor of Advertising and Public Relations at the University of Alabama and a member of the board of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. Previously he was VP of PR at Whirlpool. His column focuses on PR students, young professionals, and education. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.