I Refuse To Be An Uninformed Junior Staffer

22 Oct

“The more questions you ask, the smarter you become” was nailed in my head by my fourth-grade teacher. At the time, I didn’t have a clue how much it was going to prepare me for my future. As an entry-level agency employee (especially at large agencies), it is extremely easy to get lost in your day-to-day tasks and miss the big picture.

Yes, we build the media lists, tweet, post the Facebook updates, write the pitch e-mails and work on various other tactical projects. But, do we understand which strategy supports our client’s objective? Do we fully understand what goes into yearly planning? And, how did we become the agency of record for this new client?

If we expect to grow and develop, we don’t have time to get lost in our work and forget to ask those important questions. While working for Weber Shandwick, the North America President Cathy Calhoun shared with me the importance of not getting lost in the weeds and finding the right moment to ask all of the appropriate questions.

Thanks to the evolution of social media, we – junior staffers – have a wonderful niche at a lot of agencies. The right moment to ask all of those questions which will help you become a more strategic-thinking professional could be at a simple dinner. Reaching out to one of your VPs and saying “Let’s go see ‘The Social Network,’ then grab some dinner so I can pick your brain” is easier than you think.

Let’s not be clueless because it will only hurt us in the long run.


What else is important for junior staffers to be aware of in the agency world?

18 Responses to “I Refuse To Be An Uninformed Junior Staffer”

  1. Patrick October 22, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Great first post, Kion! Your fourth grade teacher really knew what he (or she) was talking about. While interning with General Motors, I asked so many questions about everything and my employers encouraged it. My questions helped me to really catch up on my knowledge of the auto industry.Since then I’ve been reaching out to others via social media on questions about a variety of topics in public relation and I’ve learned so much from my online friends.

    Keep up the good work and I look forward to your next post!

    • ThePRNerd October 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

      Thanks, Patrick! Tapping into social media networks is another great source to grow and develop — glad you mentioned it. If it weren’t for my social pals, I would not have half the knowledge I have today.

  2. Brittany October 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Great first post! I’m all about asking questions and did it my first two weeks like no stop. Know I ask questions when absolutely necessary though at the same time I’m always thinking will I get a look of you should know this. But I guess it’s true, you’ll never know until you ask. Can’t wait to read more 🙂

    • ThePRNerd October 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

      Thanks, Brittany — glad you digged the first post! Seeing how we both started our jobs at the same time, I am right there with you! Even though I am past my first two weeks, I still ask a lot of questions — especially the ones that will help me gain a better understanding of what we’re doing strategically.

  3. Jay October 22, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    It’s been a little while, but I’m sure it still applies… on the whole, PR programs and entry-level agency jobs don’t do a lot to teach the basic rudiments of business. Pick a big industry (music, aviation, retail) and read every business-section story that comes up for that industry in the NY Times, WSJ and USA Today. Just a daily scan. I was amazed at how just doing that helped me understand a lot of business concepts that applied to my clients in completely separate industries.

    • ThePRNerd October 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

      Thanks for the great advice, Jay! This is very true — a daily scan came make a huge difference and it’s on my “improvement” to-do list. Understanding the business concepts that apply to clients makes everything else much easier.

  4. Mark Taylor II October 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

    Congratulations Kion! You’re off to a great start. You’ll get the most out of any career (no matter what level you are on) by asking questions. It shows that you care about what you’re doing and will create many opportunities in the long run. I’m looking forward to reading more posts.

    • ThePRNerd October 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

      Thanks, Mark! You are right — asking questions is something all team members should be doing. There is always a teachable moment for someone.

  5. mcwilleyfactor October 22, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    Great post, Kion – well done! Finding the balance between asking questions and knowing WHEN to ask questions is a tactical skill that is far too often forgotten. Thanks for your keen insight and your willingness to share your gift of PR gab!

    • ThePRNerd October 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Mike! Finding the balance is indeed a skill that’s often forgotten — I hope this serves as a reminder!

  6. Derek Ross October 27, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    Spoken like a true professional! You’re taking the lead and defining your own future in this industry. Like you said, many Junior Staffers don’t take that initiative to see how they can grow and gain all of the knowledge they can from their current position so they can take it to their next job or project. Your manager is going to be too busy, more often than not, to reach out to you initially to find out what you want to know more about, etc. It is up to those Junior Staffers to make the first move and lead that dance. Great Post!!

    • ThePRNerd October 27, 2010 at 7:02 pm #

      Thanks for the thoughts, Derek! A lot of managers do have a lot on their plates and it is up to junior staffers to be proactive and seek out the information we need to get to the next level. I completely agree!

  7. Brandon Vaughan October 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm #

    Another great opportunity to learn from the veterans in your office is to take advantage of any mentorship programs that your company may offer. All employees, regardless of level, are encouraged to have multiple mentors at my company and a culture of mentoring goes a long way!

    • ThePRNerd October 28, 2010 at 12:52 am #

      Good point, Brandon! We have a mentorship program as well and it can be a perfect opportunity to grow and develop.

  8. Elissa November 8, 2010 at 3:24 am #

    Kion! How did I miss the introduction of this blog. Firstly, I love being along for the ride of your career trajectory…and how you’re navigating this journey.

    The role of the junior staffer is key – and senior staff (like me) quickly discern who has ‘it’ and who doesn’t. The ability to ask questions and comment judiciously is key – showing added value and not just to hear the sound of your own voice.

    The point you make about understanding the client’s objectives is most important – this is where you learn about strategic direction and priorities. Understanding this – and adding to this conversation – will be key to moving up the ladder.

    • ThePRNerd November 9, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words and sound advice, Elissa!

  9. Team Burns November 9, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Kion, I’m very short on time at the moment, but I wanted to let you know that I have been checking out your blog when I get spare moments, and I like the work that you do. It’s good stuff, and I’ll leave a more thoughtful comment at another time, but I know with the launch of your blog, support when you can get it is great too.

    You are a savvy young media professional, and you are going places. I will look out for you.

  10. msbeautybitch November 10, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    While working together at Weber, I was always astonished by your ability to ask the most thoughtful questions relevant to the “big picture”. As an intern one often gets hung up on the small details of the job that often doesn’t really matter. You inspired me to think big and ask questions! Great post, Kion.

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