How to Make Your Mark as a Junior Team Member

Bateman Group’s junior team has grown quickly in the last few months, with summer interns becoming full-time employees and new faces joining our crew. I spoke with two long-time Bateman Group employees, Vice President Sarah Spitz and Senior Media Associate Kwabena Stefan, about the characteristics that make a junior staffer stand out to their peers and to senior leadership. Here’s what they had to say.

Alexis-Brianna Felix: What advice do you have for someone just getting started in PR?

Sarah Spitz: The most valuable thing you can do at any level (but especially at the junior level) is to understand your client’s business better than anyone else. Having a deep sense of their business priorities helps you work smarter and makes it easier to come up with the best suggestions.

You don’t need any specialized skills to gain this sense. Just read, learn – and don’t be afraid to ask questions! I’ve noticed that as people get more senior, they may feel the need to hide their questions because they feel like they should already know the answers. No one should ever be embarrassed to ask questions.

Kwabena Stefan: Don’t be afraid to manage up. This can be very hard when you’re first starting because you can feel like you need to just be quiet and do what you’re told. When I first started as an account coordinator, I wouldn’t have talked to Sarah the way I would have talked to a fellow AC. When you’ve been here for a while, you’ll feel like you can speak out more. Always feel empowered to clarify directions you’re given.

I also think time management sets junior employees apart. This can be really tough, especially if this is your first agency job. It took me a long time to develop a good process for time management, so be open to trying different methods. Some people like sticky notes or notepads, others like online tools. Find something that works for you and run with it.

Don’t be afraid to manage up. Always feel empowered to clarify directions you’re given.

AF: What do you personally look for in a junior team member?

SS I always look for someone who can find a way to get excited. The work you do isn’t always going to be riveting, but you should try to find at least one thing that drives you on each account. That could mean getting excited about client technologies or about a project like building a media list. Rather than thinking about it as just another task, use it as an opportunity to get a better understanding of the media landscape.

KS: I’d agree with that. Essentially, I’m looking for someone who understands everything they do is valuable. Even if a task feels like busy work, remember that it’s all for a bigger purpose.

AF: What do you remember about your own internship or junior staff experience?

SS: I was nervous all the time, both about speaking in front of clients and in front of my managers. I was afraid I was going to say something that wasn’t smart, and it felt like I could never even imagine being a VP! The most important thing I learned from that experience was that it’s OK to throw out ideas even if they aren’t always fully baked. I wish I had stood up and shared more of my ideas and not been so self-conscious about how they would come across.

I’d also say I learned to work smarter, not harder. There can be so many little tasks on your plate at that level, so it’s important to learn to prioritize. At any level, nobody is perfect. Sometimes VPs mess up too, and I don’t always know the answer to every question I’m asked.

Read, learn – and don’t be afraid to ask questions! …It’s OK to throw out ideas even if they aren’t always fully baked.

KS: I definitely agree. When I first started, I remember thinking I had to respond to every client email within five minutes. I had to learn that it was OK to say, “We’ll look into this and get back to you,” because I’m not expected to immediately have the answer every time.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you were in college, you were working on your own schedule with your own workflow. In an agency setting, everything is team-based, and you’ll often have input from multiple people. You’ll have to learn to accommodate different work styles, and this can take several months or even up to a year as you meet and work with new people.

I remember when I started I would send Sarah deliverables for review via email because that was easiest for me. Eventually, she asked me to switch to using Google Docs since that made the review process easier for her. She wasn’t just trying to make my life difficult – everything you do as a junior staffer is going to be reviewed before it goes to a client. Things move much more smoothly if you know how people prefer to work.

AF: How important is writing?

SS: The crux of our job is writing pitches, press releases or bylines. The way to get better is to have experience — the more you offer to write pitches, the more you take a stab at creating content and getting feedback, the better you will become.

Are you looking for a great place to work and grow? We’re hiring at all levels in Brooklyn and San Francisco.