As PR professionals, we strategize and execute plans every day to advance the interests of our clients and organizations, yet we rarely apply the same focus to our career development or advancement.
It’s an exciting time in the PR profession for practitioners in search of their first position and seasoned professionals seeking new challenges and advancement. Several factors — increased transparency requirements, strong domestic and global competition, and the growing contribution of communications to the attainment of business goals — are driving demand for PR professionals.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of PR specialists will grow 18 percent from 2006 to 2016. What’s more exciting is the expected 17 percent increase in the number of PR managers during the same period.
The anticipated growth in the profession will likely result in stiff competition for these coveted positions. But an abundance of employment opportunities and upward mobility are great news for the motivated professionals who desire career advancement.
The key to success in a competitive environment is differentiating yourself from the competition and charting a career path that leverages your unique talents and experiences.
It’s imperative that you take control of your career today. If your current employer provides them, take advantage of formal career coaching or mentoring. Even without formal development initiatives, you can take control by applying the same strategy and execution skills you perform daily.
What’s your destination?
With so many opportunities and paths available, navigating your next career destination can be challenging and daunting. Whether you’re new to the PR profession or a seasoned practitioner, you’re in charge of your career, but do you know where you want to go?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. carriers operated 9.7 million domestic and international flights during the first 11 months of 2007. The competition for air space requires detailed flight plans to manage the safe travel of aircraft. When the unexpected occurs, the flight plan is often modified to address the situation.
As competition in the profession continues to increase, PR professionals would be well-advised to develop and execute a career flight plan. Developing a flight plan will enable you to identify your talents, leverage your core competencies, and acquire the skills or experiences needed to advance your career.
Preparing for takeoff
A career flight plan will make the journey to your next destination more reliable and likely to succeed. To begin planning, inventory honestly and objectively your talents, experiences and interests. Include your must haves, deal breakers, and professional and personal goals. Be specific. Identify any talent or experience gaps.
Next, recruit your flight crew — mentors, family members, colleagues and friends — to assist, give feedback and support. These people should help you stay motivated, address any talent gaps and identify how to achieve your goals.
As you get started, consistently seek new opportunities and experiences that will broaden your career portfolio. Becoming a well-rounded professional is paramount to career success, so develop competencies in multiple communication disciplines.
“Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from knowing the joy of flight,” says Lane Wallace, West Coast editor of Flying Magazine. You can minimize risk as you take control of your career through careful preparation, planning and the simple tips below.
o Execute your plan.
Secure a mentor and develop your plan. Always be prepared for unexpected challenges and opportunities, and adapt your course as necessary.
o Manage your brand.
Just as corporations invest significant resources into their organizational and product brands, you must carefully manage and continuously evolve your personal brand to effectively differentiate yourself from the competition and to demonstrate your value.
o Avoid being typecast.
Actors are often typecast after a hugely successful performance. To avoid a similar fate, PR professionals should take a chapter from the thespians — reinvent yourself often. Look for opportunities to develop your core competencies through stretch goals and special projects, to broaden your experiences and career portfolio, and to showcase your growth.
o Learn the lingo.
When communicating with executives, it’s important to align your ideas with the organization’s strategic and financial goals. This will enable you to present your ideas in easy, understandable terms and engage the executives in a more in-depth and substantive dialogue.
o Stay active.
Be active and visible in your organization and community to expand your professional and social networks, sharpen your skills and enhance your body of work.
Regardless of where you are in your PR career, opportunities abound for dedicated professionals who continuously hone their talents and take charge of their careers. Your future is now. Expand your capabilities through varied experiences, establish a mentoring relationship with someone you respect, and carefully manage your plan and your brand. Aim high and you will soar.
Renée T. Walker, APR, is manager, corporate public relations for Kelly Services, Inc., a world leader in human resources solutions. Prior to joining Kelly Services, Walker was a City of Detroit official and a human resources administrator for Booth American Company.