By Megan Nipe
I’ve been playing basketball since I can remember.
Where I’m from, in Minnesota, players aren’t technically allowed to start playing in-house basketball until you’re in second grade. However, by the time I was in first grade, I was already taller than everyone a year or two ahead of me, so they made an exception. Since then, I’ve been learning the ins and outs of this game physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Now, in my biased eyes, there will never be anything quite like sports. Yet during my time at FinePoint PR and with my experience in public relations as a whole, I have seem similarities between the skills needed for PR (and possibly any business field) and sports.
Here are my top four similarities:
Real Skills take time to acquire.
When you start something new, it’s normal to want to be good right away. I’ve always felt like that… and it’s probably because I never have been. Starting out in athletics, it was actually one of my older sisters who was more naturally gifted. Thankfully, the stubbornness I was born with (God bless mom and dad for their patience) wouldn’t allow me to quit something until I was able to figure it out. Today, I fully believe that work ethic is what landed me a full-ride basketball scholarship to college.
The same thinking goes for public relations. When I started at FinePoint I looked like a deer in headlights… at least that’s what it felt like. Now, as my internship is ending, I feel as though I’ve gained knowledge within different aspects of this business I never knew existed. I’m not naive to the fact that I still have a long way to go in fostering my own skills in this business, but I know I’m better off than I was before. More skills will only come through more time and experience.
Before you can lead, you have to know how to follow.
I’ve seen and heard it plenty of times before: newcomers who want to step in and lead a team without any prior example of what to do, and maybe more importantly, what NOT to do. When you don’t like the way a season or even a practice is going, it’s easy for anyone to want to step up and take over. We all think we know what’s best… I’m sure I did at one point. However, it is crucial to watch those who have more experience and have been there before. Watching them handle a tough situation or attempting to keep a team encouraged through a tiring season is what is going to make you a better leader. If anything, you might learn what NOT to do because it was unsuccessful by those who tried it before. That’s exactly what my co-captain and I did this past year. We knew exactly what we didn’t want this year to be, and in our final season, we acted accordingly. Also very important, from past experience, we knew how to gain our teammates respect so they would listen to us.
At this point in my PR career, by no means do I think I’m ready to lead. I could intern for another year and still probably not feel that way. However, I do feel more confident when it comes to helping an incoming intern and giving them the dos and don’ts of working here. The only reason I’ve been able to acquire that knowledge was through watching and learning from my boss and talking to other people who had previously worked here.
Never underestimate the knowledge of someone who’s been there before you. It can really save you.
When you want to quit, suck it up.
I’ve been there. So. Many. Times. Some days will never end, you feel like your body is falling apart, and it seems as if you are the only person making mistakes and getting constantly yelled at. I would dare to say you never really competed in high-level athletics if you’ve never felt this. The thing that’s hard to remember in that moment, is that your success is most likely right on the other side of those types of days. You can never truly be successful if you quit when things get tough. Through two ACL tears in five years and a more than serious contemplation of quitting early in my college career, I am beyond happy and proud of myself that I never quit. Some of the best days of my life have happened since then and I would have completely missed them had I decided the road was too tough.
In public relations, you can feel the same way. This field is all about building relationships and getting people and companies to trust you and want what you can offer. The tough part about this job is that you can hear one million no’s before you ever get a yes. However, that first yes might be all you need to really get off the ground. If it’s not that first one, maybe it’s the second, but you never want to look back and think, “If I had just tried a little harder…”
To be the best you need to be both a hard and smart worker.
Like in anything, if you don’t put the time in, don’t be mad when someone is more successful than you. I’m not saying you need to be in the gym at 2 a.m. while the world is sleeping… I never was. I am saying that you need to make the absolute most of the time you are putting in. I’ve seen time and time again people who go to the gym for hours, talk with their friends, maybe get in a couple shots, and never forget to leave without taking a good photo for social media to see.
That’s not work.
When you are putting in work, it’s important to ask yourself if you have gotten any better or learned anything new while you were working. In my case, that could just mean an extra 30 minutes of work. That’s only half an episode of Law and Order: SVU (that’s how I judge my time spent). The point is, when you want to get better, not only do you have to work harder, you have to be smarter about how you’re working. Time is too valuable.
In public relations, you can spend hours upon hours doing work and feel like you’re getting nowhere. The key is to be smarter about how you do your work. Know someone who can help you figure something out quicker? Ask. Have experience or notes from a previous project that can help you with your current one? Use them. Use all and any knowledge you can acquire from your boss and coworkers that it took them longer to learn. That way, you can work on growing yourself and your company instead of just trying to catch up.
While I wish I could use my shooting expertise somewhere at work… our trash can is outside of the office… other skills I have acquired over the years can translate to working within public relations. While I still need some time before I can take the reigns in any big PR project, I can thank my background in sports to making me feel as though I’ve got a good foundation under me to hit the ground running.
At the end of the day, one thing I know for sure: No matter what you’re doing or where you’re working… You’re never done learning.