Jobs Aplenty, But Not Necessarily Full Time


Even with growing demand for public relations services, agencies and corporations will resist filing full-time positions while increasing their reliance on interns and contractors.  

Driven by uncertainty over true economic recovery, agency and business leaders will need hard proof that current positive signs for future growth is a reality, not another illusion in the country’s lack-luster four-year recovery. Meanwhile, despite alleged belt tightening, government-related public relations jobs will increase at a more rapid rate than private-sector positions. 

This new reality will require Millennials and other job seekers to make adjustments in their expectations and job-search strategies. 

Most Millennials have come to grips with the fact a full-time job happens only after multiple internships and perhaps a couple of freelance contractor positions. During remarks at a PRSSA conference six years ago, I recall telling aspiring young professionals that the average number of internships before landing a full-time position had just risen to three. Today, it is at least five. And many Millennials convert internship experience into contractor status at organizations that need their services, but full-time jobs too often remain elusive.  

In early December, I visited a mid-size agency and was surprised to see how many people were working there so I asked about headcount. The office director responded, “There are 60 people here, but half are interns and W9s.” W9 is the IRS reporting form employers use to report taxes for non full-time employees, a.k.a contractors. 

“While current assignments suggest we have more work than we can handle, we’re reluctant to make full-time hiring commitments without being dead certain that this isn’t a business surge that fizzles out in 2014,” said the hiring manager who for competitive reasons didn‘t want to be identified. “So we manage ebbs and flows with contractors, some of whom work more than 40 hours a week but at other times its more like 20 hours”.  

Traci Daniels, one of my former students, is a mini-case study representing what many Millennials face today. Traci has had several internships and contractor positions en route to the full-time job she hopes to land in 2014. Her first internship was at United Airlines and at the end of the customary six-month limit in such a position, she was converted to a full-time contractor. But the contractor position was eventually eliminated and she became a temporary media relations contractor in a state agency before moving to another contractor role with an LimeGreen, a Chicago agency. In the agency job, she soon moved to full-time after going above-and-beyond the assignment as she played a leadership role in winning a significant piece of new business for the agency. She’s now looking for the perfect full-time position, but not afraid to return to contractor status.  

When I asked her how she stays motivated, Traci said, “I give myself this advice: Keep pushing! There are definitely times I question myself or the situation but I truly believe everything happens for a reason so there is a reason I have not landed my perfect full-time gig yet. On the bright side, I’ve gained both agency and corporate experience, plus I have been promoted twice in a very short time span (under three years). I’ve had one internship, three contract positions and one full-time job within three entirely different organizations”. 

Traci’s advice to Millennials: “Come in early and stay late if you can, and go beyond expectations at every opportunity. And network nonstop.” Public relations opportunities continue to open in the U.S. and abroad, but you have to be willing to take detours along the way to the gig of your dreams.

I wrote this post for the series of 2014 PR predictions in PRSay, the blog of the Public Relations Society of America.


6 thoughts on “Jobs Aplenty, But Not Necessarily Full Time

  1. I do wonder if this trend is really a modern reality masking as a recent trend. I’m now 33, but it took myself, and most of my friends, until we were close to 30 before we landed full-time work in career-track work. I contracted until 29, and had to serve tables and tend bar off and on
    for most of my 20’s to pay the bills. I don’t disagree that it isn’t a tough job market, and generally, I think the 20-somethings I meet are
    more realistic and aware of market and career conditions than I was at that age. But do people really expect to land full-time career track work at age 25? Seems unrealistic.

  2. I was in a similar situation when I graduated. Sometimes I think professional societies such as PRSA and educational institutions do students a disservice. Plenty of PR opportunities are available but very few are benefited, full-time. For students who come a less than privilege background, it can be impossible to break into PR.

  3. I have many friends who are having a tough time finding full-time jobs after college. But with the expected growth of the PR industry over the next 3-5 years will that change anytime soon?

    1. Yes, the good news is that jobs in public relations are growing faster than in other profession. The bad news is that a growing number of people are attempting to enter the profession. This requires students to set themselves apart from others. Get involved in volunteer organizations, join PRSSA and begin internships sooner than later.

  4. As a current student in college, I fear not having a full-time job soon after graduation. I currently am a sophomore in college and doing a “mini” internship this semester. I hope this will lead to a local internship next year or in the near future. To help guarantee that I will exceed the experience requirements, what can I do in order to receive multiple internships with multiple types of agencies before graduation? Where do I start since I am a young student that is just getting started with my experiences?

    1. You’re doing all the right things, and at the right point in your college experience. Too many students wait until their junior and senior years to pursue internships and other job-relevant experiences. Be a good listener. Your current internship should lead to the next one, and to the next. Try to get internship experiences that provide insights into consumer products, events and business-to-business. These are among the key experiences that jump of your resume.

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