Expert Advice on Climbing the PR Career Ladder

At some point you will come to a stage in your PR career where you want to move on – perhaps you’re not getting that promotion, perhaps you’re not challenged or maybe you just don’t like the choice of cookies in the canteen.

Posted by Alexandra Lewington, PR recruiter, Monday April 7 2014

Blog - Adivce On How To Get Ahead In A Public Relations Career

At some point you will come to a stage in your PR career where you want to move on – perhaps you’re not getting that promotion, perhaps you’re not challenged or maybe you just don’t like the choice of cookies in the canteen.

So where do you go and what are your options?

Here are a few points we would advise all PR candidates beginning their search to consider:

1. Why are you actually leaving?

It may seem curious for a recruitment consultant to try and dissuade a candidate not to leave their current role but the reality at Reuben Sinclair is that we would hate to waste anyone’s time.

As Bob Hoskins said, ‘it’s good to talk’ and the team at Reuben Sinclair are always happy to discuss aspirations and frustrations if it helps provide another view. It’s difficult to step outside of your immediate reality and take a helicopter view of your position in the organisation. That’s what we’re here for – the eye in the sky.

If it’s something that can be changed, have you tried? Have you asked your current employer what you need to do to make this happen? If you can’t change these things then perhaps it is time to move on to new pastures. However, imagine the time you could save yourself if all you need to do is ask for a pay rise. Or some white chocolate chip cookies in the canteen.

2. In-house vs. Agency

The in-house vs. agency dilemma is something PR professionals will debate for all eternity. Both have their positives and negatives. The right choice depends on you as a person and the stage in your career you are at. As recruitment consultants, we can’t tell you which ‘side’ is best for you. We will however advise you on the things to consider to make the right choice.

In-house offers opportunity to focus on one brand and you will have input into wider communications. You will benefit from seeing your team’s vision fulfilled, you get to reach the finishing line and won’t have demanding external stakeholders.
On the other side of the street, agency life generally provides variety and a better collaborative atmosphere (in-house PR teams tend to be small).

Additionally, the in-house path may pigeon-hole you into a specific sector. This can make finding your next role difficult, especially if you’re at an early juncture in your career.

3. Salary expectations

It’s natural to enquire if you’re being paid the going-rate, especially if you haven’t been in the search for a career move for a number of years. To supplement this we run regular salary surveys at Reuben Sinclair so that we can set realistic expectations.

As a general rule, across all industries, we advise our candidates to look for a 5-10% increase on their basic salary. However, if you want to change industry you will have to reduce expectation and perhaps even take a decrease in salary. The reality is that there is always someone willing to perform the same work for less money. It’s up to the employer to then decide where they see the most value…

Adopt an open mind and look at the package as a whole –benefits, promotion opportunities and what will working at each company do for your career? There’s a long list of regretful people who had their heads swayed by the larger salary.

4. What sector should you work in?

The conventional route is to continue in your current sector. However, if you want to change from B2B technology PR into fashion PR, you have to be realistic – you’re unlikely to get a pay rise, and you will probably have to take a drop in seniority as well. Although your skills are transferable, the hiring manager is usually looking for someone that already has the whole package.It can be difficult to transfer sectors later on in your career so pick wisely at the beginning. Consumer PR might mean working on well renowned, glitzy brands, but if you’re in B2B/corporate PR (particularly Tech PR) you’re unlikely to ever struggle to find a job, and you get paid slightly higher as a general rule.

5. What type of company do I want to work for?

Does the size of the agency matter? Some PRs prefer larger agencies as they feel it is more prestigious and will attract better clients. Some PRs prefer smaller as you can create a bigger impact and be more ‘hands-on’. You could join a well-known agency because of its ‘name’, or work for an up-and-coming agency if you relish the chance to build something you’re proud of and have more opportunity for career advancement.

There is no wrong or right answer when it comes to looking for a new role but it is important to consider these points to help you understand what right move for you looks like.

Where do you want to go next?

> Download the 2016 - 2017 PR Salary Survey & Job Market Review here 

> Download our expert guide on getting the PR job you deserve

> Browse our latest PR jobs

> Contact our PR recruitment team for advice on your personal situation

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