When I started at Paragon two and a half years ago, I felt – to put it mildly – out of my element. I’d never worked in public relations before and what I knew about finance was almost exclusively sourced from a high school AP Econ class.

While I still have the occasional, invigorating moment of panic and self-doubt, I’ve come a long way since those early days. As I’ve nurtured confidence in my work, I’ve come to understand that this sense of self-assurance is one of the most vital skills that a young professional can develop.

Recognize your Value

In a service industry, mantras like “the client comes first” and “the customer is always right” are emblematic. While keeping clients happy is a fairly laudable business strategy, this mentality can accentuate the power imbalance often inherent to client-customer relationships.

When a company hires a firm, it’s seeking expertise and strategy beyond what’s available internally. For example, clients hire Paragon because we understand the financial industry, we’re experienced in creating editorial content, and we have existing relationships within the media – and knowledge of how best to leverage those relationships. Clients are paying you for your expertise, your skill set and your ideas – so don’t shy away from asserting them.

Speak Up

It’s easy, particularly when young and dealing with c-suite executives, to instinctively seek to appease, to cave to seniority or a forceful personality. It’s much better in the long-run, however, to stay the course and stand by your ideas. While the client won’t always agree, they will always value thoughtful and strategic input. Take the time to present your opinions with confidence – and be prepared for questions.

If a client wanted to hear someone parrot their opinions back at them, they would simply buy a bird – or perhaps a mirror. Understand that, no matter what stage you are at in your career, you bring something to the table. Respect your work, value your ideas – but know how to concede gracefully. After all, the customer is always right.

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