Eight Lessons I Have Learned in my Professional Experience
As a senior English major who has spent four semesters interning with the Pearce Center for Professional Communication, I’ve learned a few lessons along the way. Some came easily while others I had to learn the hard way. After reviewing my time here at Clemson and at the Pearce Center, I’ve put together some important lessons that I learned in my professional experience.
1. Fake it ‘til you make … in general and for the most part
When people are not confident in their abilities, they tend to undersell themselves. It’s important to recognize the skills that you bring to the table. I’m not saying to apply to a position you are certain that you cannot do, but if you are seeking a new opportunity outside of your comfort zone, try to carry yourself with confidence. It’s valuable to learn how to articulate how you can use, strengthen or learn new skills.
2. Keep a notebook to keep track of everything you have going on each week
If time management isn’t your forte, invest in a notebook where you can see your week at a glance. Putting my to-do’s in a check-box format helps me visually track where I am with my workload and brings about a feeling of accomplishment when I’ve finished everything.
3. With clients, communication is key
When talking to clients, be sure to communicate what you’ve accomplished, any obstacles you encountered and your plans going forward. One way to enforce transparency is to put all project materials in a shared Google Drive. I also like to send a recap email detailing what has been done and what still needs to be done.
4. Create a tentative action plan to hold yourself accountable
Making an action plan is a way to put down in writing what you hope to accomplish and by when. Setting a hard deadline will keep your priorities in check.
5. Don’t feel guilty for asking for an extension, taking a break or re-delegating work
I’ve found this particularly relevant for any type of writing-based deliverable where many different things can go wrong, be it writer’s block or inconsistent communication between collaborators. Saving time to breathe, re-organize and sometimes take things off your plate will do wonders for your stress level. Just be sure breaks and extensions are few and far between.
6. Save your deliverables for your portfolio (if appropriate)
When it comes time to put a portfolio together, having many diverse forms of media are always a good idea. In terms of writing, make sure you have a variety of pieces that have different tones, writing styles or formats. Always make sure your deliverables are free to share in a public space.
7. Have one project or task that pushes you out of your comfort zone
On top of playing a role in diversifying your portfolio, it’s always beneficial to make an effort to challenge yourself. It helps you to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable while also opening up new opportunities for the future.
8. Don’t be afraid to be assertive if you need to
For the most part, it’s easy to slip into being over-polite when dealing with colleagues or clients. While being polite is a valuable quality to have, being overly polite can muddy communication and suggest leniency where the project doesn’t provide room for it. Don’t be afraid to be firm when you need an action item from a co-worker.
As a young professional, I am constantly learning, and as I step into the real world after graduation, I anticipate that this list of lessons will grow. But for now, consider these words of advice.
Written by Hannah Rohaley