I spent a decade of my professional career working hard to climb the ranks in the traditional PR agency world. I was fortunate to work with and learn from many of the brightest PR professionals in Canada, and had the opportunity to work on some of the biggest brands in the world. My decision to leave my full-time role in a traditional agency was a tough one, but I craved more flexibility and time to spend with my young children. Becoming a consultant was a great decision, but one that also required a lot of planning. I planned out my mornings to make sure I could get writing work done when I felt most alert. I planned my afternoon conference calls with a one hour break to ensure I could pick up my children from school. I planned. A lot. What I didn’t plan on, however, was how much professional development I’d get from extra time with my children. I’m not talking about improved spatial skills from block-building or the incredible mom-art of multi-tasking. I’m talking about good, old-fashioned life lessons that needed to be at the forefront, but had fallen by the wayside. And, the fact is, by applying these lessons to my work, I’ve actually become a better PR professional.
Now I have to warn you – there is nothing earth-shattering here. But, if you’re like me, I needed to be reminded of these three important lessons.
- Stay Curious. My son is a ‘why’ guy. Providing an explanation of every explanation can be exhausting as a parent, but it’s a great reminder to dig deeper and always ask questions. In a world where we tend to value efficiency as much as efficacy, we sometimes don’t spend as much time as we need understanding the full picture before we start working. Next time your client presents you with a challenge, give yourself time to really think about it. Write down your questions, take a break and then write down some more. And don’t be afraid to push to get the answers you need to fully understand the issues and opportunities at hand.
- Be Optimistic. I love coming up with creative ideas. But, when I noticed in a brainstorm that I was coming up with more reasons why an idea wouldn’t work vs. how to make it work, I knew I had to change my mindset. Insert my children. Kids believe that anything in life is possible and as parents we wholeheartedly encourage this. I consciously decided to apply this same thinking to my work and be more optimistic about the programs I was planning. Instead of worrying how I was going to pull off an idea, I wrote down potential ways to make it happen. Despite many of these ideas not making it past the drawing board, this new way of working got me excited about what could be and reminded me that anything is possible.
- Bring it. Every. Damn. Time. Woody Allen once said that 80% of success in life is just showing up. Kids don’t operate this way, and neither should you. When my daughter does gymnastics, she gives it her all every time. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t improve her skills. The same is true as a communications professional. Just ‘showing up’ doesn’t impress your clients, generate new business, and it certainly won’t help improve your PR skills. Every day I sit down at my desk, I think of my daughter at the gym and I ‘bring it’. While I may never be able to do a back handspring like my 10 year old, I put all my effort into every project and it’s amazing to see how much stronger my PR skills — and the results achieved for clients — have become as a result.
Although my team at home are not PR specialists, I haven’t stopped learning. In fact, looking back at the last five years of working flexibly I can confidently say my skills have improved and I credit this to learning from the brightest and most creative young minds on the planet.
How have your children helped you become better at your job? Share you lessons in the comments below.