Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 7, 2011

PR Career Survival and Growth Advice from Three Executive Recruiters

PRSA Jobcenter asked three top human resources professionals who specialize in public relations recruitment their thoughts on job growth, surviving 2010 and the skill sets job seekers will need to succeed in 2011 and beyond.

Dennis Spring (President and Founder, Spring Associates)

What is next for 2011 for job seeker recession survivors?
2010 recession survivors should be asking themselves whether their survival over the last two years has advanced their current and long-term career goals. If “yes”, they should stay in their current situation if it offers growth, challenge and expanded responsibilities. If “no”, they should update their resume and start looking.

What to do now?
Get your resume and portfolio in order. Contact your headhunter, check out the job boards, hit all the appropriate social media outlets, meet with colleagues and other professionals and discuss possible leads. Research the firms that are of interest to you and quietly put out feelers.

In what way are things improving?
We are working on more search assignments for a more senior management type which usually precedes the searches for members of the middle management teams.

How can job seekers reinvent themselves?
Candidates need to craft the best resume possible to reflect the most accurate and concise picture of their background and experience. Job seekers should also perfect their own personal presentation and organize their supporting materials in a professional manner.

How can job seekers empower themselves in their job search? What skills should they update? What types of skills should they learn?
Senior managers need to understand how social media works and how it can fit within a larger integrated marketing communications strategy. Mid and junior level executives need hands-on knowledge of the various social media tools available.

The most important skill is to write well. Take writing courses, attend seminars, practice your writing daily and study the writing of top journalists.

Public relations people are expected to be strategic thinkers, and should expand their knowledge of advertising, sales promotion and marketing. The trend today is to incorporate as many different disciplines into the PR plan as possible.

George Jamison (Consultant, Spencer Stuart Associates)

What is next for 2011 for job seeker recession survivors?
Our business focus is on top level positions. We had a very robust year in 2010, with a strong beginning in 2011. Employee communications, digital/social media expertise and reputation management are in very high demand. We are also seeing increased interest in Corporate Social Responsibility. Industry expertise is still a strong differentiator but people with strong executive presence and interpersonal skills, combined with the skills above, will see good opportunities.

What to do now?
Job seekers should expand their network every week. Research companies you’d like to work for, find out who’s there, call and meet them. Do some volunteer work in the not-for-profit world, as they all have boards of business people with their own networks. Not-for-profits have also suffered in this economy, and can use your talent and skill. This can also help with my second point, which is to keep your skill set sharp and current.

Don Spetner (Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Korn/Ferry International Inc.)

What is next for 2011 for job seeker recession survivors?
The last two years represented one of the worst job markets for professionals since the Great Depression. Even for those who were able to keep their jobs, it was a difficult time. Salaries were reduced, bonuses were eliminated, and internal staff and budgets were severely diminished. The good news is that the overall job market appears to be recovering, and the demand for communications professionals in particular is strongly rebounding.

What to do now?
As we enter 2011, it is an appropriate time for public relations professionals to reassess their current job as well as their long term career path. There are a number of critical trends to keep in mind as you undertake this review; such as

  • Digital media offers enormous opportunity
    The big action in the communications job market is, and will continue to be, around the changes being wrought by the Web 2.0 world. Social networking is a real and prevalent phenomenon, and corporations are just beginning to understand the rules of this new world and how it impacts their business. The more you can apply the lessons of your experience within the parameters of this new paradigm, the more valuable a candidate you will be for a new role.
  • Media relations is no longer our raison d’être
    For a long time, the core competency for a public relations professional revolved around media relations. While it is still a critical and important role, media relations is becoming a specialty within the communications department, and not its main reason for being.
  • Companies are moving back into growth mode
    The last two years have been mostly about cost reduction and improving productivity. As corporate profits endure, companies will return to an aggressive growth mode which creates a different kind of demand on the communications staff.

2011 will be a good year to look at new opportunities either within your current organization, or externally in the marketplace.

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