One of the things that we often have candidates asking us about, is how to move into a different sector within the PR industry. On the face of it, you’d think this would be a relatively simple feat. After all, the core skills you develop in PR are extremely transferrable and so working on Food brands instead of Fashion brands, shouldn’t be too different. Right?
Well, unfortunately, that doesn’t tend to be the case. More often than not, agencies in particular, will hire people based on 3 core elements – skills (of course), personality, and sector knowledge. Bear in mind that as you progress within your career and climb the ranks, you are essentially accruing expertise and in depth knowledge of the markets in which you operate. So, working with brands in the consumer finance sector, enables you to understand the market, the competition, the media landscape, the ins and outs of the industry and how best to communicate information within the sector. Unfortunately, this is why so many agencies do place an emphasis on finding talent with specific industry or client expertise.
This is not to say that there aren’t those businesses out there who are more open and flexible to different client experiences. A number of the agencies we work with are keen to bring in skills and expertise outside of their usual industry areas – they find that bringing in a range of knowledge helps diversify their team, and therefore what they can offer to their clients. But frustratingly for many job seekers, the majority do look for PR’s with rather specific brand experience.
We find candidates do try to avoid pigeon holing themselves into niche sectors of PR early on. Having the opportunity to work on a diverse range of clients in any role is very appealing to the majority of candidates we represent, as it enables them to gain experience in different industries and therefore keep their options open further down the line when it comes to moving into their next position and progressing their career.
We also often find that moving sectors from say, corporate communications to B2B technology, can be much simpler than those looking to move from a heavily trade focused role into something more focused in the consumer space. Equally, the earlier in your career you decide to make the transition, the less difficult you may find it. Sometimes a little compromise is required, whether that be a slight drop in level or salary, but it pays off in the end.
The best advice we can give to those who are looking to change direction is to persevere. Freelance roles can be a fantastic way to gain some more experience in a range of industries and agencies tend to be a little more open minded on client/sector experience when it comes to taking on a freelancer as there is less of a long-term commitment from their side. It also means you can try out a number of different areas without having to immediately decide on the exact route you’d like to take, and avoid getting stuck working in another industry that isn’t where you see yourself progressing long term.
We’re always happy to offer friendly advice to any PRs looking to make the move across sectors, so do get in touch if you’d like to chat!