19 Years and Counting
July 26, 2018
I almost can’t believe it. Today marks my 19-year anniversary at Barokas Communications. For some reason, this seems more momentous to me than turning 40, likely because it has required intentional and consistent hard work, and a lot of blood, sweat and (sometimes) tears. 19 years sounds like a long time as it’s definitely not the norm in terms of tenure anymore. Maybe I’m turning into my parents, but that’s a blog post for another day. The great thing about working at an agency is that I have worked with more companies, and in more facets of PR, than I could even try to count. Over the last few years I have worked primarily on the operations side of the agency, which is a whole new job unto itself. My experience is essentially made up of hundreds of different jobs under one overarching brand.
As I was thinking back over the last 19 years, I thought of all the useful skills I’ve acquired – how to write a creative pitch in under 200 words, how to provide feedback to a client who might not want to hear what you have to say, how to stay calm during a crisis when everyone else is at an emotional high, and on and on. While these things are valuable, they are not the biggest lessons I take away from the experience. The most important things I’ve learned transcend an industry, company or client and directly speak to things that make for good life experiences.
Here are a few key lessons learned over the years:
One of the original BPR sayings, is “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This applies to so many things in life – landing the perfect job, pitching a story, advocating for a cause you care about, etc. I’ve heard some people say they don’t want to feel like they’re “bugging” someone by being persistent, but I say squash that idea. Be relentless, go after what you want as nobody else is going to do that for you.
A lot of people use empathy and sympathy interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. The Oxford living dictionary sums it up best: “Empathy means the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, whereas sympathy means feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.” I believe that practicing empathy makes you a better friend, family member, colleague, mentor and coach. As the great Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote should come with the hashtag #truth permanently affixed to it. Empathy can change your perspective on a situation and help you make good decisions when it comes to your interactions with others – both personally and professionally. Having empathy benefits the other person and you.
Listen, Listen and Listen More
This has been one of the biggest learnings for me over the last 19 years. As companies grow and evolve, there is more and more listening that needs to be done. I used to feel that people, clients in particular, expected to have an immediate answer or recommendation for every question in real time. As I grew in my career, I found that not to be true. It’s better, and less stressful, to ask questions, listen to responses, and ask more questions until you get to the heart of the matter. From there, it’s easy to provide guidance that’s on the mark and accurately addresses a situation. This applies to receiving feedback as well. Listen, receive it openly and take the learnings as constructive.
Hard Work Pays Off
I am a strong believer in becoming a student of your profession and putting in the extra time and effort to get a step ahead. Investing in yourself is always a good bet. If you get knocked down, get up again. Find the silver lining in the difficult situation. You can learn from it and approach a situation with more wisdom and a new perspective the next time around.
This holds true for me in all areas of life, but especially in work and athletics. A little over three years ago, I was involved in a bad bicycle accident during STP (for those of you not from the Northwest, it’s a 200-mile bike ride from Seattle to Portland). I broke my elbow, forearm and wrist, and hit my head so hard the only thing I actually remember is the sound of my helmet hitting the cement). I knew it would be a long road to recovery – one that would require hard work, both physically and mentally, each week. I set a goal to complete a triathlon the following summer as it’s always easier to put in the hard work when you have a goal in mind. Through the ups and downs of recovery, it was determination to reach that goal that paid off (and the encouragement and investment from my hubby, trainer and PT!). Hard work always rewards you in the long run, even if you can’t see it in the moment.
Work Life Integration
I’ve always found the ‘Work Life Balance’ mantra as something difficult to achieve in reality. I feel it implies a defined beginning and end to each of these things – work and life outside of work. A 9-5 approach, opposites sides of the scale. For me, it’s easier to reframe this and look at life through a lens of ‘Work Life Integration.’ Sometimes work might start early in the morning or require a late night, and occasionally it creeps in to the weekend. And sometimes personal things come up that must be addressed in the middle of a workday. I’ve personally found that viewing these things through a holistic lens lessens the stress that can comes when one area slides into the other. Life is dynamic and it requires flexibility.
I hope the above learnings contained some useful tidbits for those reading this post. Here’s to many more great years and exciting things to come from Barokas Communications!
19th birthday image credit: http://insidestl.com/wb-seg-3-advice-for-intern-alexis-on-her-19th-birthday/1966594