Editor’s note: In recognition of the industry ideals reflected in the PRSA 2014 International Conference theme “Leading the Way: Fearless Future for PR,” we’ve invited industry-leading female CEOs to share their inspiration, tips and advice on how to grow, succeed and advance to the highest levels in the profession. Follow the “Leading the Way: Lessons from Female CEOs” series using the hashtag #PRLessonsInLeadership.
I am flattered to have been asked to contribute to this important topic. Inspiring one another, no matter our career stage, is vitally important.
As the title of the Conference suggests, the future is fearless for our profession – the opportunity to traverse new territory as we experiment and innovate in our rapidly changing, 24/7, hyper-connected world. Where everyone is a publisher and a pundit and the role of public relations takes on new strategic importance in the C-suite. PR – and in turn all of us – has the opportunity to lead communications and marketing, to prove the power of PR to drive business and effect change.
These fearless times require fearless moves. Fearless is fuel. It revs up the engine to accelerate change and pull ahead of the rest. And it is in within all of our reach. But like anything in life it takes practice. Training of our fearless muscles so we can make the moves we want when we want.
Twice in my career I have taken on roles that I frankly was simply not sure how to do. Five years ago when I accepted the role of Zeno Group CEO I did so without really knowing how to be a CEO. My husband who has been enormously supportive of my career said – do you know how to do this job? I said no but I would figure it out. I thought about reading books – and there are hundreds of them – but I did not read even one book. Rather, I decided to find and shape my own CEO style by being true to who I am.
No matter how far you get in your career, don’t compromise your personal brand. Much earlier in my career, I interviewed at a very large, global PR firm. In a follow up call, the HR person told me that the team liked me, but thought I wore too much make-up. I knew right then and there that this was not the place for me – no matter how good the opportunity. While we all need to be flexible, think about who you are and the lines you are unwilling to cross.
Five more fearless moves to consider as you build and nurture your career:
- Say yes more than you say no. Be open to new opportunities especially those that push you out of the proverbial box and make you uncomfortable
- Ask for new assignments and responsibilities. As my mother taught me from a very young age – God gave you a mouth, use it. If you see something that interests you, say so. Don’t expect your manager to read your mind.
- Re-locate to another country. Challenge yourself in a different culture. Global experience is among the most valuable career currency.
- Fail. It is ok to make mistakes. I much rather someone on my team take a chance and fail than not try at all. When you do fall down – and we all do – pull yourself up and keep going.
Finally, find your passion. Find a career or life pursuit you love waking up to in the morning. What a gift that is. Find it and you will unlock your full leadership and fearless potential. You may not find it in your first job or even your second. Don’t settle for anything less. Keep looking.
Embrace the fear of the unknown to go forward.
Barby K. Siegel is chief executive officer of Zeneo Group.