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What are the pros and cons of changing your PR job in the current market?

17th January 2013

As the economy is so rocky, deciding to switch jobs or go freelance may seem rash. But the beginning of a year is probably as good as time as any to move, as it is a key time for PR companies to look for new talent.

Kelly Hopkins, recruitment consultant within the PR and communications division at Handle Recruitment, outlines some of the opportunities and threats of early 2013: “With recent redundancies at the likes of Honda and, there is still an air of uncertainty. However, there are a high number of opportunities coming our way, albeit very specific briefs resulting in limited opportunities for each candidate. Saying that, the PR job market is the strongest I’ve seen it since 2008.”

Before you make the move, Hopkins advises working out future prospects: “You need to understand why you want to move and if the timing is right. What would you gain from a move and what might the longer term implications be? Don’t just move for the sake of moving – the more consideration you give this, the more likely you are to make the right decisions.”

It is a shame that PROs in agencies have a tendency to move on so quickly says Scott McLean, managing director of PR agency Speed: “There is an unfortunate and misconceived trend, especially among those in the early years of the PR careers, to think it is advantageous to stay with one agency for no longer than two years.”

McLean suggests that you should appreciate the benefits of staying put, rather than assuming your career will benefit from a change of employer: “PR consultants should carefully consider the opportunities their agency offers before jumping ship quickly. There are always new opportunities to take if you speak to the agency; winning new business and working cross-sector to name a few. My advice would be to think about your reasons for moving on. It has to benefit your career development rather than just ensure a promotion.”

What are the risks?

Tamara Lewis, staffing partner EMEAI at PR firm Waggener Edstrom, suggests seven considerations before deciding to leave for pastures new:

1. Is the new position full-time or part-time?

2. What do development opportunities look like in your next role?

3. Will this be a step up? Will it be a new challenge?

4. How long have you been in your current role? If less than a year, think about how this will be perceived by potential employers. If you are determined to leave then be prepared to answer why you were so quick to move.

5. Which clients will you be working on? Working across a strong client roster will ensure that even if an agency loses business, there will be other accounts to work on as well as new business development.

6. If you are considering freelancing, gauge the market first and remember that you will have less opportunities to develop new skills. People hire you for the skills you have already, not your potential to develop. Do you have enough credentials to market yourself well? Freelancing is well-paid, but can be sporadic.

7. How are you planning on looking for your next role? If you do choose to use a third party, then carefully select who represents you. All good recruitment agencies will listen to your needs and pinpoint particular clients they know well and where they know there is a good match.

Should you go freelance?

Two freelancers discuss what it’s like to take the plunge:

Matt Flanders: “Before making the choice to go freelance the first thing you need to consider is whether or not you can afford it. Yes, you can earn good money, but you will also spend time out of work. It is not unusual to spend a month or two without a contract and, when that happens, you need to make sure there's something in the bank to fall back on.

“You then need to decide how you want to manage the money that you do make. There are a number of options including working pro rata, using an umbrella company or setting yourself up as a limited company. My advice is to start with one of the first two options as they require minimal input and paperwork on your part. However, while setting up and managing a limited company does require more work and financial outlay, the financial benefits far outweigh the negatives.

“One of the most important things to consider before you make the leap is whether or not you really want to work as a freelancer. Every job is different, but often clients won’t know you exist and you certainly won’t own relationships. Also, regardless of what you are being paid or the title you are given, you could be doing anything from writing a new business proposal to Googling a long list of contact emails and phone numbers. You need to be willing to get your hands dirty.”

Samantha Howard: “For me, going freelance was the final frontier, after six years in-house and ten years agency-side, I felt I was ready to make the leap. I had enjoyed the entrepreneurial side of things that you learn from working in a big agency, but missed the hands-on client involvement that I had in earlier roles. I wanted more flexibility and control over when and how I worked.

“I set up in the middle of the recession, which was daunting, but tight economic conditions can play well for a good freelancer as long as you price yourself sensibly. Primarily, it’s about mindset, not money. If you see freelancing as a stop gap while you sort yourself out with a ‘proper’ job, and associate your self-worth with your job title, then it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it or make a success of it. But if you are happy to hang up the ego, hurl yourself at it and embrace the vagaries of it, then freelancing can be a rewarding move.” 

Written by Daney Parker

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