Career Development Series: Tips for Finding the Firm That’s Right For You

Having a job is important, but having the right job is equally important. The PR industry is filled with firms large, small, and everywhere in between. Moreover, they’re working with different clients, are staffed with people that have varying priorities, and have created a unique style that makes finding the right firm kind of like finding the right boyfriend or girlfriend. Do you have things in common? Are you heading in the same direction? Do you both like watching Bravo reality shows and sports?

Oh… yeah… right. PR jobs. Gotta find the right firm. How do you do that? Start at the start.

“Looking for a job should be a job,” says Margarita Miranda-Abate, SVP of the consumer lifestyle practice at Kaplow. “Why are you not happy where you are? What’s not fulfilling you? You should know why you’re making the switch.” In other words, take some time for introspection to determine what you’d like to do. Having a good grasp of what the goal is will make achieving it possible.

“If you’re just starting out, look at your personality, your position, what you’ll be doing. Research what an entry-level person will be doing, which is a lot of admin work,” Miranda-Abate continues. She also suggests tons of informational interviews, internships, and reading the trades (subscribe to PRNewser’s daily newsletter or RSS here).

Once you’ve got that, candidates should start seeking out the “personality traits” of the firm they’d like to work for. Some people want a “mentorship approach” and a true sense of collegiality among staffers, something Miranda says is part of the Kaplow landscape.

Others think bigger is better. According to Claudia Patton, global chief talent officer at Edelman, this probably isn’t the best reason to come knocking on their door.

“We’re looking for people who are never satisfied. People who push the envelope to the edge. We are all entrepreneurs,” says Patton, who says that anyone coming to the firm because its status sets off an “alarm.”

“We are going to look at each individual to ensure that they have an appetite for taking a calculated risk. It’s not a place for being under the radar,” she says.

She described the structure at Edelman as a “matrix organization,” one in which you map your own path to success. That could mean working in a particular geographical location, with a practice or specialty group like Matter, or pursuing a path as a global client relationship manager that will make you exclusively available to one client.

Speaking of global, having an international mindset is also something that Edelman is looking for. Any firm that has international locations or is seeking international growth will also mesh well with someone who has this experience or is seeking it.

“We have 63 different offices, but culturally we’re all under the same roof and very collaborative, sharing intellectual property and our best collective self,” says Patton.

Or perhaps you know the area you want to get into and you’re looking for the right firm to match your specialized interests.

“Health care PR is a special breed,” says Wendy Lund, CEO of GCI Health. If you need further proof of that, check out the SCOTUS health care ruling prep story we published today.

“At the root base, there’s the professional piece where you have to be strategic, creative, and able to deal with heavy duty regulatory issues and understand them,” says Lund. “At the same time we want to make sure people do what they love to do.”

A health care specialty requires not just PR prowess, but also knowledge of regulatory rules and the science behind the issues, diseases, and drugs that you’ll be working with. Moreover, Lund says health care pros take what they do very personally.

“People’s lives are at stake. We’re helping to shape health care education, getting people to take action… like take their medicine, and people take that personally,” she says.

At GCI Health, they operate with a “flat structure” that maximizes “cross collaboration from senior to junior and office to office,” says Lund. It’s also a mid-sized firm, which she says allows for optimum information-sharing.

Because the work is intense, GCI Health takes measures to help with the work-life balance, something that those with families or special outside interests should keep in mind.

“How do we actively create ways to have that balance, to make it fun, to not do extraneous things for no reason?” Lund asks. “This isn’t a 9 to 5 business. But there is a way to control the work day.”

To that end, it comes back to having a good culture where people are getting things done, having fun, and leaving at 6 if they need to. Also, as Kaplow’s Miranda-Abate says, it helps when people genuinely like each other, as she says they do at Kaplow. So also, come to work ready to be friendly because no one likes a grumpy goose.

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