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Job Hunting in the Public Relations Industry

While the job market may be in turmoil at the moment, not all public relations jobs are created equal. Every situation is unique and the expectations of public relations departments differ depending on the organization. When job hunting in the world of public relations, it’s important that you find a comfortable situation where your work is valued and where the environment is conducive to success. With the help of some friends currently looking for public relations jobs, I’ve come up with some ideas that I feel will be helpful for public relations professionals when they are on the prowl for a new gig.

1. It’s not just your experience that counts.

I was floored recently to learn that a major company had picked someone with no public relations experience to head a new public relations department. A friend who interviewed for a job in the department expressed grave doubts about working for someone who, as an executive, is just now learning the public relations ropes. He was worried about how the decision-making process would work. He also wondered why–with over fifteen years of public relations experience–he should be subordinate to someone who is green.

Personally, this is not a situation I would want to walk into, mostly because I’ve been dealt this hand before, at a dot-com company where I worked in Business Development. When my new manager walked in the door carrying the book Internet for Dummies and sporting a salesman’s experience in the cosmetics industry, I knew I was in trouble. Within three months, the Business Development department was extinct, Mr. Internet for Dummies was looking for a job selling lipstick, and my new department was busy trying to sell the company.

2. Make sure public relations is a priority.

One job hunting friend was excited about an opportunity to interview for a position heading the U.S. public relations efforts of a foreign manufacturer. During the interview, he was mortified to find out that the job paid less than half of what the typical VP of Public Relations would make at a comparably sized U.S. company. More horrifying was the fact that the public relations department was to consist of one person.

Not every company believes that public relations is an important part of its business, which is one reason why the big agencies continue to flourish. When job hunting, you want to avoid companies unwilling to put the resources, both human and financial, into a public relations department, expecting you to work for little money while carrying the entire public relations weight. Piecemeal public relations efforts rarely pay off, and employees often find themselves expendable.

3. An organization should be, well, organized.

Some companies underfund their PR departments. Some overfund their public relations departments, breaking them into too many specialty divisions, as one friend encountered when she interviewed at a Fortune 500 company:

“When [the company] offered me the job, they actually sent over a flowchart of the public relations organization. There was no central public relations organ; the offices were spread out over so many facilities that I couldn’t figure out who my department reported to, or even what office I was supposed to be working out of; and, each department was so pigeonholed that I felt like you would need eight PR people in a room to make a simple decision. I passed on the job because it seemed like they had a bureaucracy that wasn’t going to work with my style.”

A cohesive public relations unit is as important as a cohesive public relations strategy. If you think of public relations as war, it’s important to remember that some of the biggest military failures in history were due to the stretching of an army’s supply chain and miscommunication.

4. Fresh air is important.

Another friend of mine seeking a public relations job was appalled when an interviewer told him the following: “We do things a certain way here, and you’re expected to lean that way and apply it.” In other words, my friend was told that the company didn’t want to hear his ideas.

This sounds like an awful and stagnant work environment, one where creativity is ignored and change is cumbersome. The scary thing is that public relations evolves at a faster pace than most service-based industries; to hear a company admit to being adverse to an influx of new ideas is rather sad. Unless you  want to be a public relations robot, move on.

5. Work is educational.

If you want to see an industry floundering due to a lack of on-the-job mentoring, look no further than the newspaper industry. The public relations industry may not be far behind, so when you’re out looking for a job, find an organization where experienced public relations professionals are willing to pass on their knowledge. Without this type of interaction, companies do not evolve, and workers do not increase their value.

Job hunting can be an exciting and scary process. What’s important is that you try to find a job that not only suits your financial needs, but your emotional, professional, and educational ones as well. It’s not always easy, and oftentimes you’ll have to make sacrifices, but passing up a job due to an untenable situation is better than looking for a new job all over again in a matter of months.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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