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Evaluating Yourself and Moving Up the Ladder

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First the vertical chart. If you're working towards being the editorial coordinator or editor in chief of your company's editorial department, for instance, list all the job rungs you have to climb to reach that goal. If you're an editorial researcher, which puts you pretty close to the bottom of the career ladder, you might have to move ten job slots to reach your goal.

It's best to be as explicit as possible. Clearly outline the path ahead of you, and then list each job slot. This way you know what's ahead of you and what has to be done to achieve your goal. It leaves nothing to chance. Also estimate how long you think it will take to reach each goal step. Again, it is only an approximation and a gauge. Since each goal step is numbered, each time you achieve a goal, cross it off your list. Every six months to a year, take a look at your goal chart and revise it accordingly.

An even simpler goal chart is the horizontal chart which is merely a variation on the vertical chart.

Each time a goal step is reached, cross it off by putting a line through it as shown in the illustration. With the horizontal goal chart, you're not restricting yourself to a set time period. When your goal destination is reached, create another chart for yourself with a new set of goals.

Goals are important in any field, but they're especially important in an enormous profession like public relations, where there are so many career paths at your disposal. Remember, having a goal orientation is important. It roots you to a time and place and structures your career path. It also permits you to analyze your progress and achieve a better understanding of the field you're trying to conquer. By monitoring your goal path, for example, you might discover that there is a more direct path to your goal, or possibly that you've taken the wrong path unknowingly. With a little thought and reflection, you can reorient yourself and proceed along a new career path.

A common question often asked by junior PR workers is "When is the opportune time to make a career move?" This could mean changing jobs within your own firm or moving to a new firm at a higher salary.

Unfortunately, there is no all-purpose answer to this question either. Suffice it to say that it depends solely on you and your career potential within your company. If you're working for a large public relations firm, it makes little sense to move to another firm when you think you're ready to take on more responsibility. If you're content with your company and there is room for growth, stay where you are and make the most out of an opportune situation. As far as when to take the career initiative: personal initiative is important and respected, especially in a field like public relations that rewards "take charge," highly motivated workers.

If your supervisor fails to recognize your talents and doesn't recommend you for a promotion, make your thoughts known. Speak to your supervisor or the assistant vice-president and tell him how you feel. See what they have to say. If they agree with you, you will have succeeded in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, so to speak. If the powers that be don't feel you're ready to take on more responsibility, you're faced with an important decision: Either wait until you're promoted to a new job, or look elsewhere for a new job. Decisions like this will have to be made throughout your career. This involves some serious thought, considering the pros and cons of either leaving or staying, and the possible advantages of obtaining a better job with another firm.

Like advertising, public relations workers tend to change jobs several times throughout their careers. Very often, PR workers are excessed (that's the polite way of saying they've been fired) through no fault of their own. An all-too-common occurrence is when the PR firm you're working for loses the account which you happen to be working on. All of a sudden, you serve no purpose, and the company politely terminates your employment. Or, you might be the victim of reorganization. This means your department was restructured to cut costs and increase efficiency, and in the process, they found you expendable. Again, because of situations beyond your control, you're forced to find a new place to ply your trade.

However, it makes little sense to change jobs for no reason. Before moving to a new position, weigh the advantages and disadvantages carefully. Ask yourself these questions:
  1. What do I stand to benefit from changing jobs?

  2. What are my growth prospects if I remain at my present job?

  3. Will my long-term objectives be met by changing jobs?
If you can find clear-cut answers to the above questions, you'll know exactly what career move to make.

As one placement manager with a New York-based employment agency said: "You can't be shortsighted when it comes to changing jobs. I've seen too many people change jobs for a salary increase alone. Not that money isn't important. It certainly is. But you have to take the long-term view and ask yourself where your greatest growth prospects are.

"I've seen many situations where it pays to take a slight salary cut, in order to reap substantial rewards down the road. It's not easy, but you have to be very objective when it comes to changing jobs. Money should never be the sole reason for changing positions. Ideally, there should be a combination of factors which makes a career move necessary."

As a rough guide, it pays to remain at your first job at least one year before considering changing jobs. And after that, it pays to be safe and weigh the situation carefully before making a move.

Analyzing the Market

Even though you're safe and secure in an established firm, and your growth prospects are assured, don't lose touch with the marketplace. You don't have to be actively looking for another position in your free time, but it's to your advantage to keep an eye on the public relations market. This is important for estimating your own worth. Your value is gauged by the law of supply and demand. And salaries are set by this irrefutable economic law. If your talent is in short supply, you can command a higher price in the market place. On the other hand, if you're one of millions, your bargaining potential is limited.

One agency head referred to the competitive public relations job market as a giant chessboard. ''The smart ones learn never to take their eyes off the board. In other words, know what's out there, who's paying what and where the good jobs are."

In terms of judging your own worth and marketability, make it a point to keep a watchful eye on your field. Who knows, without warning you too might be excessed or become the victim of a departmental reorganization. If one of these events should happen, you'll be able to cope with the news and act accordingly. Having monitored the job market all along, you'll be equipped and ready to move on to an equally lucrative, if not better, job situation.
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