Why do people quit PR in their 30s?

When you go to your next PR industry event, count how many people you can see who are past their thirties. Chances are you will find them hard to spot amidst the sea of young, bright things.

Where are the older professionals?

Andy Ross, public relations and policy manager at the CIPR, says that many people leave the profession as they get older because they don‘t consider PR as a long-term career option: “We know there’s a number of people who leave membership in their 30s because they move on to something else. One thing I would say is that public relations definitely isn’t a lifelong career option for most. This is backed up by our State of the Profession data which shows that only 35 per cent of PR professionals say that PR as a career for life.”

However, Ross points out that PR is not a special case, as he believes the same holds true for all media professions.

What makes people decide to quit PR? “Some people – male or female – simply tire of the pressure in their 30s”, says Louise Findlay-Wilson, founder of agency Energy PR. One key issue, says Findlay-Wilson is the problem of balancing family and work life: “In my experience there is a bigger exodus from agencies due to women having families and finding their agencies cannot really accommodate the flexible or reduced-hour working they now require. The agencies may say they can, but in reality, they can’t trust the working mums to still be committed and able to deliver, and so the relationship turns sour.”

“This drives many highly skilled and experienced women, when they have families, to leave PR or go freelance.”

“It’s a real shame to see this happen as we have found it very easy to accommodate women who want to work and have families. I think being a mum of four myself has helped me both understand what flexibility is needed, and have faith in the really good women who work for my agency but also want to have a family life. It’s a tragedy that more agencies don’t master this as there’s a wealth of talent needlessly walking away from PR.”

Pamela Lyddon, CEO of digital agency Bright Star Digital, agrees that people burn out or find it difficult to cope with juggling families and their careers: “Many people are leaving in their 30s as they believe that PR is a young person’s game and that it’s difficult to keep up with the younger ones who are happy to work all hours. In your 30s it’s about work-life balance, and some agencies don’t support people with families. I see so many women go back to work and they end up unhappy due to lack of support and leave PR or go freelance.”

However, Lyddon says that the PR industry is evolving: “In the next few years I believe there will be a massive shift in the way PR works and supports its staff (it’s starting to happen now) but it needs to start in the bigger agencies as it’s easier for some of the small and medium-sized agencies. I believe the senior people are very important – we all need role models in our work life.”


Why you should stick to PR

Kerri Moore, senior consultant at PR firm Grayling, corporate and financial, believes that PR can be a career for life:

“One of the real benefits of a career in PR is its flexibility. A communications role can mean different things to different people, and as you progress in the industry the sheer diversity of skills – from basic media relations through to board level strategic advisory, and of course the convergence of traditional and social platforms – means that a PR career can evolve in innumerable directions and across multiple specialisms.”

“The idea that PR is a young person’s game is a fundamental misconception. However the role, and the demands of that role, will naturally change. In your 20s, your focus is very much on the frontline. It is about building a network, and developing the media relations skills that are the bread-and-butter of our industry. It is the visible side of PR.

“Beyond that, senior roles demand something very different. It becomes about running a business, mentoring and managing a team and developing an awareness of cash-flow. Whether working in-house, at an agency or on your own, the need to be business-savvy, strategically aware and empower those coming up behind you to take the reins becomes key.”