I recently posed the question to the Obsidian team about what exactly I can and can’t do when it comes to offering help and advice to friends, small business owners and organizations I’m involved in personally, in regards to my noncompete agreement with our firm. Like most people in the PR industry, I’m usually full of ideas and helpful advice, and when it comes to those I know personally, of course I want to do what I can to help them succeed in their dreams and aspirations. At the same time, though, I don’t want to create any conflicts of interest that might hurt my career.
The general consensus from our veteran team members was that talking, providing ideas, giving feedback, etc. was all kosher, up to the point of actually creating, drafting or doing something, which is where the line is drawn. Talk is fine, but doing something is a whole other ball game.
Then, Thomas came back with some even better advice. True, these are people and causes that I’m invested in and want to help, but we’re also talking about giving away my skills, my work, my knowledge and what I get paid to do — for free. I went to school, worked hard, pushed for experience and built my network to get the job, degree and pile of student loans I can now call my own. Do I really want to give it all away for free?
The takeaways I got from this discussion, which can apply to most any field of business, is (1) don’t sell yourself short, and (2) know your limits.
Yes, I might be new to the PR industry, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know anything. Between my time in school and my growth here at Obsidian, my skills have grown substantially, and while I’m certainly not at the level of a five-year vet in the industry, I’m slowly getting there. My skills may be new and developing, but they’re still valuable; otherwise, I wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing. If I’m managing social media for established companies at work, why should I handle social media for the next door neighbor’s landscaping business just because they’ve known me since I was in diapers?
As for the second point, yes, I want to help my friends, but everyone has to have their limits. A friend who does home repairs may happily paint a small room or fix your sink for free, but are they going to reroof your whole house free of charge? A friend who practices law may give you some advice, but are they going to represent you in court without reimbursement? Most likely not. It’s all a matter of knowing what your limits are and sticking to them. So, give your support, give your advice, give your help to a point, but ultimately, be scrupulous with your skills.