Sunday, June 2, 2013

Job hopping: Why crash a promising P.R. career even before it takes off

In the past few weeks, I’ve met many young P.R. professionals who have made two or more job switches in the early years of their career. When I asked them about it, the usual answer is in search of a better opportunity. So, my obvious next question is what they want to achieve from this opportunity and from the career. And that’s where the hollowness of the decision begins to show.

The real problem is that most of them don’t know what they want to achieve in their careers. So money and designation become the obvious baits to lure them into a new job. The new employer, in most cases, has already guessed this weakness and couldn’t care less about their growth. They are thrown into the sea – if they learn to swim, they move ahead else they are left to drown.  As a result, the persons find themselves in the same old state a few months down the line in the new job – frustrated, stressed out and vindictive.  In the end, the once promising practitioner feels disillusioned barely 2-3 years into the profession.
The ways to avoid such an early setback to one’s career are to ask the following questions before deciding to switch:
·         Will I learn any new skills or will I just be doing the same things but for a new set of clients/ stakeholders? The plausible reason to switch a job in the first two years of one’s career is if a significant learning opportunity awaits you at the other end. A candidate with one year’s experience once told me during the interview that she didn’t really have a reason to move and was just exploring any new opportunities with my firm. My response was that if she wasn’t clear about what she wanted to learn in her new role, I saw no reason to hire her. Be very clear about why you need to switch your job. Learning should be the foremost reason.

·         Could there be a problem with my attitude? At college, I asked my professors what they sought in candidates during the entrance interview. The unambiguous response was attitude. Skills can be taught, attitude comes from within. For instance, if one is not able to get along with most teammates in the earlier firm and that is the reason for a change, there is a very high probability of the scenario being repeated in the new firm. It’s better to introspect than to be shown the mirror and thereafter, the door. In such a closely knit industry as public relations, it’s almost impossible to hide one’s behavioural attributes. Many of us have been through situations where a new employee’s attitude is known to teammates even before the person joins the firm. Always keep in mind, wherever you may go, your reputation is likely to precede you.    

·         Am I prepared to start from scratch? In most firms, persons with less than three years of work experience are expected to prove their competence at press office reporting before being assigned client-facing work. I remember having done press office work in addition to other responsibilities even at a manager level. If you switched jobs thinking you’ll be free from reporting tasks, prepare for a rude shock (no matter what you have been promised during the job interview).

·         Am I ready for the role that I’m getting into? This is primarily for those who are moving into corporates at a very early stage in their careers. Corporate culture can be ruthless. So, unlike P.R. firms where seniors are ready to mentor/train employees, in corporates the difference in experience between the senior and subordinate is usually so large (7- 10 years or more) and the corporate communications team is so small, that the senior hardly has the time to spend on bringing someone upto speed. Also, PR & Communications is a support function in a corporate so they would not be too keen to invest in training the PR team. So the subordinate either uses his/her experience gathered at a P.R. firm or learns the tricks on his/her own. If neither of these work, a pink slip is on its way, particularly if the company is not doing well.          

The apt testament is to analyze the career path of most successful P.R. and corporate communications professionals wherein it becomes clear that staying power is a common attribute. For most senior-level positions particularly in corporates, a job hopper is likely to lose out to candidates whose career graph shows stability. So, short-sightedness may seem to be working in the short-term but it is bound to wreck long-term career prospects for any aspiring public relations and communications professional.       

The blogpost was also published on thepromisefoundation blog