PR and communications is a fantastic industry to work in. It’s creative, strategic, fast-paced, sociable and dynamic. Most of the candidates I meet are doing incredibly well in the industry and will stay in it for all their lives; but there comes a point in some communications professionals’ careers where they stop and think – is this what I want to do forever? If you get to this crossroads it is difficult to know what the next step is and where your career path is headed.
For me, this moment came in February 2016. I had been working in PR agencies in London and Singapore for several years and loved it. I worked mainly on corporate clients across a range of sectors, thriving off the variety of the role – media relations, content development, thought leadership, corporate positioning… it was fantastic. I also worked with wonderful people who I am still friends with to this day.
However, after working in my agency in Singapore for a few years, I had come to a point where I didn’t feel invested in the clients or satisfied with the job I was doing for them. I had a great team, high-profile clients, really challenging but interesting work – and yet I wasn’t enjoying it. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I spoke to VMAGROUP in Asia about getting an in-house role, but I wasn’t sure that would be the answer. I wanted out of PR.
Around the same time this was happening, we made the decision as a family to move back from Singapore to the UK. This was my golden opportunity to start afresh and forge a new career, but what to do? After much soul-searching, I decided to pursue a career in recruitment. I knew VMAGROUP from my time in London and Singapore and knew they had a good reputation. I sent my CV in and the next day had a phone interview. One week later I had signed up!
I’ve now been here for six months and am very happy indeed. As it turns out, I am pretty good at this recruitment thing. There are a lot of synergies and transferable skills between PR and recruitment so the transition has been, whilst not seamless, a lot easier than I thought. This is why:
Anyone in PR will know that working with journalists takes a certain amount of empathy and patience. It’s all about building relationships, gaining trust, being honest and knowing when not to push too far. Equally, you have to be able to work well with your clients (internal or external), build a good working relationship with them and manage expectations. In recruitment, one of the key skills you will transfer is the ability to read people and understand what makes them tick. Matching a candidate to a client or role, is very much like matching a story to the right news platform. At the end of the day it’s all about understanding the people you’re working with.
Being a consultant
One of the things I loved about working in PR agency was acting as a trusted advisor to my clients. I found great satisfaction in presenting them with an idea or managing an issue on their behalf. I worried that when I moved into recruitment I would lose the opportunity to do this on a regular basis. It hasn’t been the case at all. If anything, I am more trusted than ever because I come from a PR and comms background, so clients now take my advice as an “ex-industry” recruiter.
I did not warm to the idea of being in “sales” and it was a huge question mark for me when deciding whether or not to pursue a career in recruitment. Could I be cutthroat enough to succeed? Could I meet the KPIs and would I like working under that sort of pressure? As it turns out, working in a specialist recruitment agency is not a numbers game, it’s about knowing your audience and understanding what will appeal to them. Similar to when you are trying to sell-in a story to a journalist, you have to identify what your client is looking for and “pitch” the candidates in, based on their skillset. In both PR and recruitment, it’s not like you’re selling vacuum cleaners – it’s a complex sales role, where what you are “pitching” is different each time and tailored towards the need of the recipient. Even the best salesperson in the world can’t sell a candidate a role they don’t want, and you wouldn’t want to anyway. You wouldn’t be doing a very good job if you did!
Things that are different and better
I honestly did love PR but there are a few things that are notably better in recruitment:
- The satisfaction – when you have placed a role, you have won. Client is happy, candidate is happy. You can tick something off your to-do list and know you have done a good job
- The rewards – in recruitment, you do the work, you get a financial incentive. Simple! The amount of effort you put in (mostly) matches the rewards
- It’s commercially viable – I am still struggling to get out of that PR agency mind-set where you over-service your client by 300% month on month just to keep them on board. In recruitment, you understand the business case of every deal before you start working on it and if there isn’t one, you can walk away. I find this very liberating!
Obviously recruitment is not always easy, but I don’t regret my move in the slightest. I have quickly been able to adapt my skills to the job and really enjoy the fast-pace and sociability of it. If one of you best assets is talking to people, then recruitment might be the job for you!
Lizzie Johnson – Consultant
To find out more about working for VMAGROUP click here.
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