As pending graduates begin planning for their 2012 job searches, the question I hear most is: “What’s the best starting point for a career–agency or corporate?” I weighed in on a LinkedIn discussion about this topic today, and decided to add some points here.
Although most of my career has been spent in corporate jobs, I have become a firm believer that the best training ground for PR talent is in an agency setting. In most cases, you’ll receive the broadest experience from an agency position. Larger corporations generally assign new hires into specific aspects of PR–media relations, digital, internal communications, etc. While the work can be very fulfilling, the narrower experience doesn’t translate well to an agency setting–unless the agency is searching for a specific expertise.
Agencies also offer more job opportunities as corporations continue to outsource cost center-related functions. Corporate downsizing over the past decade has helped spur the growth of agencies since critical communication activities still need to be performed. When corporations decide to add to their PR teams, they increasingly look to their agencies for talent. They know agencies generally do a good job of training employees, and most agency employees have learned the importance of agility and multi-tasking.
If you’re in a corporate position and think you might eventually want to join an agency, you should make a special point to develop and maintain a network outside your company. This network can help validate you with those who might be skeptical of your ability to move from a corporate to agency position.