Switching PR Hats Possible, Recommended


Q.  Reading Brad Culp’s post confirms what I’ve heard about journalists switching to public relations, but do a lot of PR professionals switch around to different industries within PR?  

One of the major challenges I’m finding as I near graduation is deciding which industry I want to land my post-grad internship or job with. It seems like most PR professionals either work at agencies and choose an industry to delve into after their agency years, or go directly into a specific industry and remain in that industry for a good portion of their careers. Of course, there must be others who delve into one industry and switch to another, but I’m wondering if that switch and transition can easily be done.   -JK

A.  Your assessment of the current state of affairs is accurate, but I don’t feel specialization is necessarily the best way to ensure career success. 

Too many young professionals zero in on a segment of the PR discipline that is most comfortable for them and their skill set–and stay.  As a result, they pigeon hole themselves as specialists.  That works fine in high-demand areas of the profession, but it hinders their growth as generalists–still the predominant leaders of most PR functions and agencies. 

I’ve always let the needs of the corporation or agency drive my career moves.  I didn’t realize until Richard Edelman observed some time ago that I switched industries five times before joining the agency world, thus giving me experience in government, pharmaceuticals, office equipment, consumer products and retailing.  And I held a variety of roles ranging from internal communications to media relations to financial communications and management.  As you’ll find in Career Capsules, a large number of senior PR pros have followed similar paths. 

Today, career goals are sometimes too rigid and don’t allow for fate, which is my preferred career path for those willing to work hard and have fun.  My recommendation:  Stay flexible, seek out a wide variety of experiences and enthusiastically embrace change that allows you to stretch your experience and talent base. 

2 comments on this post.
  1. monicauk:

    Nice and informative post. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Danielle Kessler:

    This was extremely informative. As a soon-to-be graduate it is helpful to know that specializing can pigeon hole a professional. I have always thought that it is good to specialize, but the reality is that in this job market, you have to be flexible. Thanks for the insightful post!

Leave a comment