Think Big (City) When Starting Your Career

Think Big

During my class visit last night to Chicago internal communications firm Gagen MacDonald, founder and CEO Maril MacDonald underscored my long-standing point of view on where to start your career–in the biggest city possible.

“The bigger the city, the more opportunities to move around without eventually having to move to another part of the country,” Maril confirmed as she explained how her career began in Cleveland before she moved to Pittsburgh and eventually Chicago where she’s spent the past 24 years. Proving her point, Maril switched corporate jobs twice before opening her own highly successful agency — all without requiring her to move from the Windy City.

Depending on your relationship status, Maril also said it is easier to meet more people in larger cities, plus if you meet your Mr. or Ms. Right, he/she has a greater chance of job opportunities, too, thus not forcing tough career choice decisions down the road.

My career path followed a similar path as Marl’s. While I was enjoying one of the best PR jobs in Indianapolis, one of my mentors was a New York-based corporate boutique agency veteran named Jack Raymond. Jack pulled me aside one day and said, “If you’re going to really succeed in this business, you need to move to New York or Chicago.” Within six months, I moved to the East Coast and then two years later I ended up in Chicago. After landing in Chicago 28 years ago, I was lucky to move from one great job to another–five times–without ever having to uproot my family.

Some aspiring public relations pros are eager to leave their comfort zones, but many others fear the potential magnitude of the change. Go for it. Long term, you and your career won’t regret it.

In the Chicago area, there are thousands of public relations, marketing and advertising agencies of all shapes and sizes. Within 10 blocks of the DePaul Loop campus, we counted over 100 agencies. New York has even more. So be sure to check out the vibrancy of the PR market in any city you’re considering.

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