Creating Your Own Secret Sauce
Creating Your Own Secret Sauce
by Giana Elenterio
When I began my journey as a Public Relations professional, I had no idea what to expect. After four years of college and a couple of internships, the only certainty I discovered in the industry was the uncertainty of how to get my foot in the door. It seemed like all of the young professionals I came into contact with had the same questions and concerns as I did. "Should I work at an agency? Should I work in-house? Is there even a difference?!" I quickly accepted that the only way to retrieve the answers I so desperately needed was to gain experience. The only thing that I was certain of was that trial and error were about to become my new best friends.
My first career opportunity was working for a boutique PR firm in Midtown, we were a small staff but we threw major parties while supporting and representing several clients across several different mediums. I was thrown into the thick of the business: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Fortunately, it also gave me the opportunity to be involved in every project - from the minor details to the most major, which allowed me to quickly find the aspects of the industry that I loved and the ones that I didn't.
As I reflect on the time I spent there, I recall some lessons were harder learned than others, however, one of the major positive things I did take away from my time there was creating a professional Instagram page for myself. As soon as I started, my boss instructed me to create a separate Instagram account than the one that I currently had for personal use.
"Our clients don't want to see pictures of you and your best friend at your favorite college bar... And neither do I." He was right and I knew it, so I created my professional page. I named it "PRGirl_G" because that's how I wanted to be known, and I made the bio "Putting the Elation in Public Relations," because that's how I wanted to be remembered. It was my first experience in consciously creating the person that I wanted to become. Slowly, and without warning, my professional page became more "Giana" than any of my other social media platforms. It became the outlet that allowed me to create the professional standard that I wanted to hold publicly and personally. That authenticity sparked an interest in new potential clients, colleagues and most importantly, other aspiring professionals.
That was almost 5 years ago, and though it feels like yesterday, I've learned a lot since then. My idea to learn by doing has yet to let me down. Every theory or idea, or opinion that I have, is based on an experience that I've had and to my surprise, my followers have had a lot of questions about that. I receive multiple DM's a week asking the same questions that I wondered myself when I was preparing to graduate, and while I truly enjoy answering every single question, I began to wonder how I could put it all together, whichhas lead me here, to my top three pieces of advice for every young professional that's about to enter, "The Real World."
1. Be Prepared
If you've ever filled out a job application, you probably hate the word "experience" just as much as everyone else. I remember applying for jobs and feeling helpless, how was I supposed to gain experience if no one was willing to hire me without it? It seemed like a neverending and inevitable cycle of rejection.
I decided that I had to switch my focus. My application documents could not be centered around experience, I simply did not have it. Instead, I focused on the things that I did have - like skills. I spoke about my organizational skills and my ability to multitask, but most importantly, I harped on my ability to be prepared for any situation. That meant researching the company that I was applying to and tailoring my message to them accordingly. It meant showing up 15 minutes early to every meeting and interview with my portfolio printed and in-hand. It meant buying industry related magazines on my way out of the door every morning. This was my first lesson on the importance of preparation and I still practice it to this day. You will never over-prepare, in fact, even when you think that you've done enough, you will realize that therewas room for more preparation.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to create your network. My nana used to say, "Show me who your friends are, and I'll show you who you are!" When it comes to your network, this could not be truer. It's imperative that you surround yourself with people that inspire you, people that you admire, that you feel like you can learn from and by doing so, you will see yourself begin to grow as a professional but also as an individual. Stay in contact with the other students at your first internship, or that girl that sat next to you in Comm-101, you never know when your worlds may collide again and trust me, they will.
3. Find Your Secret Sauce
My last semester of college I read a book called, "Pitch Anything" by a businessman named Oren Klaff. My thought process was that if I could learn how to pitch a multimillion-dollar business proposal to investors, I could most certainly learn how to pitch myself to an interviewer that was hiring for a starting salary position... I was half right about that, regardless, the book is worth reading.
There's one section of the book that I still reread to this day, it's called the Secret Sauce. Oren explains it like this... Imagine you walk into a meeting, let's say for this purpose, an interview, and you have your resume with you, but you also have a big sealed envelope. You walk in, put the envelope down on the table face up and it says "Classified." It's likely at that point that your interviewer will ask, "What's in the envelope." To which you should reply, "We'll get to that at the end."
What you've done here is you've created interest, so much so that for the remainder of the session, your audience will be locked into every word you say. They want to know what is in the envelope, they want to listen to your lead up just so that they can find out. You've captivated your audience, even tricked them, into listening to you. The floor is yours. But, what's inside the envelope? Maybe it's your cover letter, maybe it's a thank you note, or maybe it's absolutely nothing at all. The Secret Sauce is not a tangible thing, but a mental state. At first, I found it hard to find the confidence to implicate that idea into my daily life, but slowly, the Secret Sauce theory became my preferred way of doing business. It taught me how to control a conversation and that there's excitement in mystery, and for me, that became my Secret Sauce in and of itself.