Opinion: How to future-proof young leaders

Opinion: How to future-proof young leaders

Erin Salisbury, senior project manager for Ketchum’s global research and analytics team and PRmoment’s Young Professional of the Year 2018, presents four top tips to help young leaders get the best out of themselves and their teams.

The communications industry is evolving at lightning speed, and is being impacted by ongoing developments in consumer perceptions and attitudes, changes in technology, and increased access to and use of data.

I recently, and honestly unexpectedly, was named PRmoment’s 2018 Young Professional of the Year. While this is an incredible recognition for me personally, it also shows how the industry is beginning to understand the value and importance of specialists – particularly in the data and analytics field – and how young specialists can drive innovation and smart thinking in the workplace.

On the heels of this award, I wanted to share some advice and learnings from my professional journey. I hope these will help other rising stars across marketing and comms be the kind of employees and young leaders they hope to be.

Get a mentor – or more than one

One of the most useful things I’ve done in my career is to establish relationships with mentors. Luckily, Ketchum has an amazing mentorship scheme where you can choose to be paired with someone in a different location, or to mentor someone more senior than yourself so it’s a true two-way relationship.

As a junior research analyst in Chicago, I was paired with one of our creative partners in San Francisco. Not only has she helped me navigate personal business challenges, such as negotiating for promotions and raises, but she has also been an amazing connection to understand what’s happening and working/not working in another area of our business.

Beyond this, I’ve also learned a lot from those around me. My personal and business achievements are a result of being surrounded by smart, hard-working and dedicated people every day.

Diversify your experience

I started my career as a 19-year-old intern in New York, working on traditional research projects such as survey writing, traditional media analysis and gathering competitive intelligence. Once I was hired full-time in Chicago, I quickly moved into the sphere of digital and social analytics to learn the basics of social listening and digital measurement.

A few years later, I saw and advocated the business case to expand my role internationally, and moved to London to grow the team in the UK – all in the space of three years.

Thanks to these varied experiences, I am prepared to work with data wherever it comes from – which is critical as the access to and use of data continues to increase. It’s also allowed me to think more creatively and strategically about client problems.

Work hard, but also work smart

I used to think staying at work 12 hours a day and taking on as many responsibilities as possible was the only way to demonstrate value. This changed when I received feedback during a review that one of my biggest development areas was delegation.

This was a big lesson for me because I didn’t trust others to do my job “right” and wanted to make sure everything was perfect. In reality, I was missing out on mentoring junior individuals on the team who were also eager to learn. I immediately started delegating projects to the right people, so we could rise as a team and I could take on new responsibilities.

Another aspect of “working smart” is staying abreast of the tools and technologies that can support our everyday jobs. Artificial intelligence, natural language processing and automation are helping us get to the insights we need quicker than ever before – and should be capitalised to maximise efficiency.

Learn the business of the business

In the early years of your career, take every possible opportunity to become ingrained in how your business functions and what goes into the financial admin of keeping it going. Being knowledgeable about running a business efficiently and driving revenue is the most universal skill you can have.

Taking these four steps can help you continue to evolve and adapt to not only stay relevant, but lead in a way that future-proofs yourself, your company and your clients.

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