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How future PR pros are weighing careers amid the ‘Great Resignation’

May 27, 2022

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Through November, an average of more than 3.9 million people left their job each month in 2021, making last year the highest average on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In May 2022, a new group of recently graduated communications students, including myself, will be joining the labor force to pursue career dreams. On their behalf, I’d like to ask our future employers: What does balance look like in the midst of a 24/7 news cycle and a hybrid workplace?

While I recognize and appreciate the companies that have implemented, and are currently implementing, flexible work models, I’m asking those that aren’t: How can we work together for the support of employees and betterment of the industry?

In thinking about the Great Resignation, a recent post on LinkedIn resonated when the writer said: “People are tired. Companies are still trying to return to pre-pandemic practices that weren’t even working prior to 2020. If anything, let’s call this ‘Career Revitalization.’”

Here’s what new grads and young professionals are thinking, feeling and hoping for while navigating an evolving post-pandemic job market.

When I asked new grad and young-pro peers what aspects of the work environment are most important to them, I received similar responses: mentoring, room for growth/opportunity to explore interests within a company and schedule flexibility. That might contrast with assumptions that younger workers in particular are missing out by not being in the office.

Zoe White, a senior at SUNY Oswego, explains the dichotomy of thought. “During the COVID-19 pandemic when employees were given the freedom to work from home and companies had to come up with entirely new business plans in order to remain profitable, employees were given so much freedom and creativity within their positions. Now some companies are attempting to function in the same way that they did before the pandemic, and employees are no longer willing to accept that work environment.”

The freelance market is growing and one way to offset the decline of employee retention within a company or agency is by keeping an open mind about what employees are looking for in a career: flexibility and fair compensation. According to UpWork, 44% of freelancers say they earn more freelancing than with a traditional job, 78% of skilled remote freelancers cite ‘schedule flexibility’ as a key reason for freelancing and 56% of non-freelancers say they are likely to freelance in the future.

While other industries can build in schedule flexibility, PR crises and close work with media relations can dictate when a PR pro has to be online. How can we restructure our other time to compensate for the late nights and early mornings of crisis work and the 24-hour news cycle?

As public relations professionals, we are not just pitching media and putting out client fires. We write content for blogs, compile media lists, pull coverage reports, construct pitches, edit websites, write and schedule social media content, draft newsletters — and more. Professionals can complete all of these daily tasks at any time of day! And when it comes to pitching media, many can also draft and schedule emails for pitching media to send when needed as well.

So the question remains…what does balance look like in the midst of a 24/7 news cycle and a hybrid workplace? Considering this question and the possibilities of flexibility within public relations is just a small way we can provide more support for employees within our industry.

Though revitalization sounds like a positive shift, the action might prove to be a difficult one for the public relations industry. In 2019, Gallup conducted a poll that ranked the public relations industry in the bottom four of 25 industries based on general reputation. This poor reputation is not helping our industry grow as a whole.

I would like to see the public relations industry win — and by win, I mean I want public relations to be an industry that makes us Gen Zer’s excited to go to work every day. As new grads, we’re all just looking to be valued and appreciated in our careers. I hope that within the next few months, we’ll continue to see changes to better our industry by keeping an open mind and pivoting when necessary.

Kayla Holley is a recent graduate from the State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego with a B.A. in public relations and a B.S. in business administration. She currently serves as the 2021–2022 vice president of professional development for the PRSSA National Committee. Outside of PRSSA, Kayla is a content coordinator at MarComm agency Tipping Point Communications and chapter president of Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Association’s official honor society. Please connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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